Public Space Design

A well-functioning public realm serves many important functions. It is a catalyst for social interaction and community. It builds social capital by cementing relations among frequent users. It is a catalyst for civic engagement. It creates a social immune system that protects physical health and reduces social problems. In bringing inhabitants together, public places contribute to a more democratic way of life and encourage all to linger, share observations and understand varied perspectives. At its best, the public realm is an incomparable teacher of social skills and attitudes; children and youth learn through observation, imitation and participation how to relate and interact with a diversity of others (young and old, poor and well-to-do, healthy and disabled).

The specific design of a street or square powerfully influences whether the public realm will fulfill these social functions.

Dr. Crowhurst Lennard has spent more than 30 years studying and consulting on the relationship between design elements of successful public places, and the quality of social life, community and civic engagement generated by these places. She has published numerous articles and chapters on this topic, and a book on Genius of the European Square. She is available to:

  • Prepare guidelines for the design of successful squares, market places and plazas
  • Evaluate existing public places, and make recommendations to improve their ability to generate health, social life, community and civic engagement
  • Review designs for public places to assess how they will impact health, and the quality of social life they are likely to generate, and recommend ways to strengthen their ability to generate good health, community and social capital

Consultation will address the following elements that impact quality of social life and community:

  • Size and form of the public space
  • Scale, articulation and character of surrounding buildings
  • Design and location of entrances to the public place
  • Pattern of land use around the public place and in the vicinity
  • Quality of surrounding urban fabric
  • Streetscape and landscape design features
  • Design for hospitality and comfort
  • Balance of transportation modes in and around the square
  • Public space management

Dr. Crowhurst Lennard will work with clients to establish the appropriate breadth and depth of consultation desired. Consultation on an existing public place requires a minimum of one site visit at the start of consultation. Design review, guidelines and recommendations may involve from one to eight week’s consultation, and are presented in a report and/or PPT presentation on site.

To find out how we can help you, please contact our IMCL Consultants team at Consultation@LivableCities.org.