the L P32079
Urban Design Issues II â€œThe L : How can the meeting of building with street create social spaces that can serve high levels of land intensification?â€?
Mawgan Pengelly (Student Number: 11100837)
This document is submitted in response to the Urban Design Issues II Module (P32079), producing refined design models with detailed site application.
“At the conclusion of Issues I each group will have produced the first outline application of their conceptual models to the test site, they will have identified where on the site the particular models may be applied and identified potential refinements needed to both their models and to their site application. In Issues II the generic conceptual models are refined by individual students to become themed site specific applications. The groups will identify part(s) of the test site to be addressed at the 1:500 and 1:200 scales. Each group member will then contribute to the refinement of their group’s models and site application by i) addressing and resolving one of the sub-issues or topics identified as requiring further investigation at the conclusion of Issues I; ii) refining the generic models as necessary in relation to the identified sub-issue or topic at the three scales (block, intermediate and neighbourhood) and iii) by applying their findings to the selected areas of the test site at 1:500 and 1:200 scales to address the three land use intensity scenarios outlined in Issues I” (Urban Design Issues I and II course handbook, September 2012).
“The individual project element in Issues II should develop from material presented in the Issues I report - showing clear links and an ‘audit trail’ of where your individual Issue II topic came from, in addition:
• The report should be a clear statement of the sub-issue to be explored
• Discuss precedents extracted from an in-depth study of existing research and international best practice case studies, as to how and where Urban Designers have previously explored the Issue
• Contain a clear statement of research / design strategy and anticipated outputs that the author expects to achieve in the limited period available
• Show the design ideas applied to the test site, at scale, addressing the block, intermediate and neighbourhood scales
This document will begin with a short Executive Summary of the main findings of this research, before the core of the research is identified, reasoned and applied, in a visually interesting and clear way” (Urban Design Issues I and II course handbook, September 2012).
Shad Thames, Southwark, London
1.0 Preface Methodology
The nominated issue for this Module (Issues II) is:
â€œThe L : How can the meeting of building with street create social spaces that can serve high levels of land intensification?â€?
The methodology for Issues II (shown in Figure 1.01) is similar in structure to that of Group 2â€™s Issues I report, a simple 3 point investigation of: Introduction, Analysis and Application. The introduction to this process begins with the nominated issue from Issues I (including a very brief summary of the Issues I report). The issue or question will be advanced by breaking it down into related topics, which may lead to new avenues of research, particularly from a social perspective. This section will complete with a clear definition of the Issues II question, as well as a vision for what this report will cover, in terms of what will be possible in the given time. The analysis section of the report will include details of the topic being investigated, developing the understanding of the Issue in an urban design sense. This part will also include a literary review of both seminal and more recent books, papers and research that are related to the Issues II question. Once a base understanding of the Issue has been ascertained, the author will review a series of case studies from around the globe, each chosen under a given list of criteria. This will culminate in a breakdown of what makes these spaces work, or not work. The application of the concepts established through the previous 2 sections will begin with a Design Code for Social Space. This will list the spatial implications of each proposal. Finally the design proposals will be applied to the chosen site (in Portsmouth), illustrated at the required scales and density levels, and clearly stating the differences in application for the 200pph and 500pph proposals. Figure 1.01 - Methodology
1.0 Preface Module II Overview and Methodology
7.0 Literary Review
Gehl Architects Case Studies
8.0 Case Studies
Paley Park (pocket park)
Orchard House (street/block)
Vauban / Rieselfeld (neighbourhoods)
9.0 Design Coding for Social Spaces
10. Amending the Master Plan
2.0 Contents 3.0 Executive Summary
04 4.0 Introduction & Issues I Review
5.0 Developing Issues II
Man + Land
Perception of Crime
Defining Issues II Topic
Accordia Living, Cambridge
6.0 Social Streets
The Complicated Act of Walking?
The Third Place
Note: All figures, illustrations, tables and photographs, unless otherwise stated, are by the author of this document.
3.0 Executive Summary Executive summary This report has been written in response to the Issues II module as part of Year 2 of my post-graduate Diploma in urban design at Oxford Brookes University. The topic of this report concerns social streets - and recommends design choices that can help encourage social activity in a space. The social and cultural make-up of the UK and how people tend to respond to suggestions of higher density and apartment living formed the main part of the initial research. Following this several case studies were reviewed for this subject, including Paley Park in New York and neighbourhoods of Freiburg, Germany. A design code for social spaces was written, and then applied to a test site in Portsmouth. The key conclusions of this report are as follows: 500pph model will actually create a better public realm than the 200pph model, therefore higher density does not mean a reduction in environmental quality - quite the opposite The are three key points in the creation of social spaces: 1. Create a space that encourages social activity 2. Mix activities and uses 3. Mix public and private Good quality social spaces is good quality urban design.
Social issues applied to UK culture
These four sub topics have slightly altered the focus of my Issues II proposal. The design of good social space is an urban design fundamental, the way people react to the built environment is an opportunity to create stimulating, fun and responsive places.
The culture of the UK (Figure 5.04) is a rich tapestry, formed through hundreds of years of ideals, pressures and reactions. As a nation we have an obsession with defensible space, requiring clear definitions of public and private space. Yet the opposite must apply when designing truly social spaces.
Key points: Man + Land • Land can live without man, man cannot live without land • Ownership of the land - but can this be temporary only or shared? • Provision of food (agriculture) and shelter. The “cave” • Our physical form and scale in relation to the land Social Media • New technology, language, and way to communicate • Possibility of truly global interaction, yet locally solitary experience • You can chat to someone 3000 miles away! • But does it reduce real world social skills and interactions? Proximity
Figure 5.04 - UK culture / built environment as abstract graphic
• The UK has no living space legislation, one of the lowest average living space in the First World • Housing policy and developer greed means small homes • We live in closer proximity to one another • But how many people know their neighbour’s name?
The drive towards owner occupation in the UK is another key point, with preference of owning a house rather than apartments (which are seen as “stepping stones”, and in any case most are designed to fulfill the needs of the buy-to-let market. Even the notion of what a house or flat is in the UK, as it is not necessarily a home, rather a short or long term investment prospect.
UK Perception of Crime • Recorded crime has dropped in past 10 years, not perception of it • Media creates fear through sensationalism of news reporting • Reinforces UK obsessions and prejudices • Affects the design of spaces negatively, creating social problems
Why do people prefer houses? It is not always to do with the amount of living space provided. Apart from the reduced boundaries with other people (that is associated with flats), it is the garden, or private open space that surely is a key attraction, especially for families. This raises another challenge of providing public open space, or social space, that can assist with the needs of individuals, couples and families. The issue of ground floor apartments is also
5.0 DEVELOPING ISSUES II
worth noting. Usually these are the hardest to sell in developments, as they can be viewed as exposed, especially from the street. Therefore their connection at this level needs thought. The psyche of the UK when it comes to the built development is swirling mixture of past and present, and mostly negative - images of the 19th Century Slums, the Garden City reaction, the post war boom, the 1960’s tower blocks (Figure 5.05). To embrace high density living (and especially apartments) something has got to give. There is the possibility, through good design, that apartment living could actually increase the living space (and standards) of people, especially when you consider the tiny houses currently being constructed.
Defining the Issues II topic
Issues II scope of report
This process has allowed me to get a clearer vision of the topic I wish to explore for Issues 2. Rather than continue straight on from Issues I, I feel I have focussed the question, which will result in a clearer approach to Issues II.
This report is about the provision of social spaces at high densities, along the street. This is an important distinction to make as the report will not review public squares or recreational facilities, due to time constraints. The provision of social spaces and areas of open space within the street form is key when designing at higher densities as the reduction in private open space (especially gardens) needs be addressed through spaces at street level. Simply placing large parks at given points is not enough - the ideal is to create socially engaging places that people can use as part of their everyday lives. What does “the L” mean in all of this? As this issue has developed, it now concerns both the physical and implied boundaries of the social spaces - whether that is the building line, public/private divide.
Key Words for Issues II Topic • Relationship of GF to street • Ownership of space • Social interaction
• Community • Public / private • High density
The chosen topic for Issues II is:
what affect does the L have on the space? does it provide more than just a boundary or shelter?
ground floor & near ground floor affect the perception of the space
frontages and the street - public realm, rather than internal space or rear gardens
“The L : How can the meeting of building with street create social spaces that can serve high levels of land intensification?” Figure 5.05 - UK reaction to historical events, top left 19th Century slums, top right Garden City Movement (Welwyn Garden City), bottom Gorbals tower blocks (Source: google images)
Do people in the UK need boundaries and some form of ownership of the land or space to feel comfortable? - if so, what if this could be achieved through temporary ownership of a space, or as part of a community? This could promote social interaction as well as the maintenance of the space. The real challenge is to blur the boundaries of public and private, to infer rather than dictate, and to encourage not prevent social interaction.
people spaces, at human scale, interaction, sense of community, ownership of the space?
what are the required uses or activities that people need in the public space? How can these reduce need for private space?
how are 200pph and 500pph proposals different? What happens at neighbourhood, block and street level?
Social streets - life between buildings?
of space and movement that instinctively we can read and adjust to from numerous other people. Such a complex combination of movement, eye contact, body language allows us to walk around without colliding with each other (Figure 6.01). Walking creates the opportunity to explore, appreciate Townscape qualities, and to feel part of a larger collective. We also react to our environment, and potential dangers such as traffic or unsocial elements. So walking is the starting point, and intuitively as we walk we socially interact.
“As a concept, “life between buildings” includes all of the very different activities people engage in when they use common city space: purposeful walks from place to place, promenades, short stops, longer stays, window shopping, conversations and meetings, exercise, dancing, recreation, street trade, children’s play, begging and street Jan Gehl refers to three types of activity in social terms in “Cities for People”: entertainment” Jan Gehl, “Cities for People” (2010)
The complicated act of walking? As Gehl puts it, “walking is the beginning, the starting point” (Cites for People). One of the largest forms of social interaction that people may not even realise they partake in, is the choreography we create as we walk. When was the last time you physically bumped into someone when walking? People weave in and out of each other while walking through a space, creating implied corridors
Old Town, Dubrovnik
1. Necessary Activities: these are the non optional parts of every day, that we have very little or no choice in partaking in - going to work or school, waiting at a bus stop, service industries. 2. Optional Activities: these are activities we choose to do because they may be fun or stimulating - recreational activities, going for a run or walk, sitting down to enjoy the sun or view. These activities often require high quality spaces to be completed.
Figure 6.01 - Illustration of “walking corridors” of pedestrians, one of the most complicated and subconscious forms of social interaction
6.0 Social Streets 3. Social Activities: these include all types of interactions between people, in the city space. For social activities to occur, the first two activities must be present. The connection between the quality of spaces and their activities is illustrated in Figure 6.02. An increase in outdoor qualities especially increases optional activities, and increase that invites a large increase in social activity.
The starting point of the social space (or street) is to define the experience that will occur there, is it to shop, relax, view something, play. Following this consideration is given to the kind of spaces required to do this, shops, cafes, amphitheatres and playgrounds. Only after this does the building come into the equation (Figure 6.03).
This is important in relation to the chosen Issue, as defined as “The L”. The boundaries of space that can be either implied or physical, definitely including buildings, and how they can be used to blur these public/private edges. Historically, buildings were the point of social interaction between travellers and sellers in towns, the space in between the buildings becoming the street. The facades of buildings can be transparent, especially in retail, allowing the potential customer to view the shop’s goods and attract them in. The building edge can be blurred by the the extension into the street space, such as greengrocers using street space for display. The ground floor of buildings is very important, as is the near ground floor level (up to around 1.5 storeys, as this area fits within our angle of vision - hence why shop name boardings are placed here, for maximum visibility. The interaction that can occur with buildings is also a physical one - walking alongside, into them, and stopping by them (simply to watch, wait, sit or engage in an activity). This topic is further investigated in a later section.
The “Third Place” In “The Great Good Place” (Oldenburg, R), we are introduced to the concept of the “third place(s)”. Home is considered the “first place”, work is the “second place”, so what of the third? These are the spaces we inhabit during the day between the first two places, and (when properly designed) anchors of community life, allowing wider interaction and greater social cohesion and civic life.
Figure 6.02 - Quality of spaces versus activity (Source: Cities for People, Gehl)
The amount of social life in a place of any scale, a city or a street, is heavily affected by the quality of the space. How do we judge the quality? As used in Issues I, the Gehl 12 point criteria can be utilised.
In turn there are eight characteristics that define The “Third Place”: 1. Neutral Ground - people using the third place have no necessity to be there, they are there from choice. This is interesting from the point of view of the street, as at given points (such as the entrance to a block) people will have a necessity to be there - how this affects their choice of route through the street offers lots of potential for designing smaller “people places”.
The biggest attractions in a community according to Gehl are “people, life and vitality”. People are interested in people, to interact with people, to view people. Yet in the traditional planning process, the space in which people interact is often formed through the left over space around buildings. Perhaps this is due to the blinkered approach of some architects, who do little to relate their vision to their locality:
2. Leveler - the space should not place importance on social rank - whether it is their economic, cultural or religious background. So the space should be free to all people.
“I don’t do context” Frank Gehry
3. Conversation - this should be the main activity in the space Figure 6.03 - Life. Space. Buildings. The Gehl method (Source: Gehl Architects)
although it may not be the only activity that occurs there. For conversation to occur perhaps thought should be given to the ambient noise in the space - or ways to reduce/hide such noise at given moments or places? 4. Accessibility - the spaces must be easy to access for those who use the space, as well as accommodating their needs. The needs in question could be universal ones, spaces to sit, eat, drink, or more specialised based upon the use of the space. 5. Regulars - the third space has a group of regular users, who help form the feel of place. Yet this should not feel like a members-only club, and newcomers must be able to feel comfortable in the space. This could occur at lunchtimes, when office workers and day trippers mingle during their breaks. 6. Low Profile - the space must not be pretentious, much like point 2, there should be no feeling that some people do not belong there. 7. Playful - the space should encourage playful nature, a tone of optimism and embracement of the good things in life - companionship, friendship and play. 8. Second Home - the third place should generate the same feelings that the user has when in their own homes - that a piece of them is part of the place, perhaps a sense of ownership (though temporary), and a pride in the quality of the space. Health benefits Socially active streets, which encourage us to walk or cycle (rather than drive the car), to exercise or play, have clear health benefits at a time of increasing obesity levels. According to 2009 figures, nearly a quarter of all adults in the UK were classified as obese (BMI 30kg/ m2 or over). A study by the National Audit Office estimates that obesity costs the NHS at least £500 million a year, and the wider economy more than £2 billion a year through lost productivity, and the problem is growing (source NHS figures).
Times Square, New York City
This subject has been tackled many times and the link between making people active and reducing these levels is clear. Therefore I wish to look at this aspect from a different angle, one that is often overlooked in society due to cultural taboos and lack of information.
How does the street, the social street, affect our mental health? It is a very complicated issue, one that could form its own report with given time. The links between how we interpret a space in our mind, and how that relates to how we experience the space are fascinating. One of the first points to raise is how spaces can make us feel down, feel lonely and isolated or even threatened. Even our homes can be claustrophobic, especially at the sizes of living space already discussed in this report. People who are feeling like this should be able to go outside and find ways to help lessen their burdens through simple things - to watch people, to relax or play in parks, and to feel connected, not isolated. The space, the street, should help humanize busy cities, and city life. There is a connection between our mental and physical health - a 2011 Australian study found that people who felt lonely on a daily basis recorded substantially higher rates of ill health than those who said they rarely felt lonely (Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute). A similar study by the Grattan Institute (Social Cities, 2011) found that loneliness was equal to more accepted negative influences on life expectancy, such as high blood pressure, lack of exercise, smoking and obesity. Public transport and public spaces are crucial for strong social networks, especially at a time of one-person households - 29% of UK homes are single occupancy (Families and households, O.N.S. 2012). This is crucial at high density levels - there simply must be opportunities for people to interact and feel comfortable. The 29% is part of a demographic shift to living alone, whether that is a city worker starting out, or a widowed partner. Due to restricted mortgage in recent years we are buying homes at a much reduced rate - resulting in more renting, increasingly alone, and in one bed flats. Some of the ideas suggested by the Grattan report include: • Better shared waiting areas for commuters (including where possible “greeters” who could offer humanized real time information on transport statuses) • Improving public transport quality through preference in design / accessibility over cars • provision of parks and sports facilities, especially pocket parks due to their potential to bring more people together on a day-to-day basis (Figure 6.04)
6.0 SOCIAL STREETS
• local events that can bring people together and help form a sense of community
• Engagement with nature - in health care, the term “positive distractions” refers to the provision of comedy, companion animals and music in treatment. The benefits of nature as a positive distraction are supported by research that plants can reduce stress and create positive feelings. It is not just the physical interaction of walking around or through planting, but the separated engagement when viewed from afar or from home through a window, that actively encourage you to move to that space. Allotments and food growth offer both nature and ownership, with similar benefits.
• placement of building access points and location of outdoor seating noticeable affects the levels of social interaction This topic can be related back to the Social Media review in section 5.0. Whether social media affects our social skills negatively or not, there is the opportunity for people to become reclusive and isolated if that is their only form of interaction.
• Visibility - when moving through a space, it is important to be able to see the garden, courtyard, pocket park. Secondly, as many apartments need to have visual access to the activities on the street.
Green space health benefits
• Accessibility - spaces should be 24/7, and where possible unlocked. Provision of “Eyes on the street” reduces the need for guarded maintenance.
The impacts of the built environment on our health, and the healing benefits associated with good design, has been researched extensively by Clare Cooper Marcus, particularly in relation to mental health and the provision of green space in the treatment of mental health issues. In her research paper “Gardens and Health” (2000), Cooper Marcus makes the initial connection between health and green nature, sunlight and fresh air (at a time now of grey, dark and shadowed cities, with air conditioning and little greenery). To be clear, this report is written from the standpoint of what psychological institutes can do for their patients, but I feel that the recommendations she makes are equally applicable to the street, especially in high density cities.
• Sense of security - hospital patients often feel psychologically vulnerable. This can apply to many people in the dense city environment too. Therefore it is essential that the needs of both physiological and psychological security are met - but not overstated to the detriment of the space. Those who are elderly or infirm may require resting points/seating, or the reassurance of handrails. Materials used should not cause excessive glare. Eyes on the street can aid the feeling of security, but users should not feel that they are in a “fishbowl”.
Essential design elements and environmental qualities:
• Physiological comfort - some users may wish to stay out of the sun, others will welcome a sunny spot. The space needs to provide a choices of places to sit, protected from sun, wind and rain. Some seats should provide backs and arm rests for longer stays.
• Opportunities to make choices, seek privacy, and experience a sense of control - lack of control can raise stress levels. The opportunity for temporary control can be a motivation to use the space. Involving residents in designing or maintaining the space can also enhance the sense of control.
• Quiet - if a place is to have therapeutic value it needs to be quiet or allow the user to focus through the “masking” of the noise, such as a water feature or fountain.
• Opportunities for people to gather together and experience social support - spending time with friends or family is a key motivation for use of space. Opportunities for social interaction require sub-spaces that allow a variety of seating arrangements. • Opportunities for physical movement and exercise - exercise is associated with a variety of physical and psychological benefits. Simple design features such as a variety of routes to encourage repeated use, or running routes that encourage more active use.
• Familiarity - when feeling stressed, many seek environments that are familiar and comforting. A depressed person may not wish to leave their bed, an anxious person may be wary of the street. The creation of human scale places can help this.
Figure 6.04 - Paley Park, New York City, pocket park
• Unambiguously positive design features - when stressed humans can project this onto nearby objects and people. Art, sculpture, 17 even seating should try and create positive emotions.
Importance of staying grounded The street, the place for people to interact, to go about their daily lives, the meeting of building and pubic realm, must be kept at ground level. As soon as the street is transferred to raised elements, skywalks etc, the design of the GF, where humans feel most comfortable, becomes more about cars and left over spaces than about human scale and people places. The separation of the human element from the ground plain, usually for traffic reasons, was suggested by the Buchanan Report (Traffic in Towns, 1963). Where this has been implemented, even in part, we can see dull, car focussed spaces at the GF, with little or no attractions or safe places for the walking pedestrian. There are notable exceptions, such as The High Line in New York City. However this really is the exception to the rule, and is successful due to its local context, retro-fitting to an abandoned raised railway, and the quality of design. The street, at ground level, is the human space. Management and economy Any public space needs good maintenance to keep it as a quality space. The majority of cities with streets and plazas that are reviewed as best case, especially those in Holland and Scandinavia, have well thought out and thorough management systems in place to maintain the space. In the UK we do not have the culture of using public money to maintain public space to a similar level, so rely on smaller management companies. The opportunity for these to be run partly or fully by the local residents is one that could both maintain the quality and create a real sense of pride and community. Blurring the divide The blurring of the public / private divide in the street would appear nonsensical, as the street is public. Due to a combination of our cultural heritage and much abused health and safety legislation, we can see evidence of divisions becoming apparent even on street level. Cafeâ€™s who spill out onto the street, sometimes have small barriers around them, totally ruining the open invitation to sit there. In the Kensington and Chelsea boroughs of London, there are around 100 spaces and gardens in the public realm that are restricted to resident use only (source: guardian.co.uk). The street needs to be public - with respect given to GF residential units, and with blurred inferred boundaries over private space.
Figure 6.05 - Social Street Matrix - listing key qualities, uses, potential locations and detail features
Summary This section has developed the idea of what makes a social street. In high density cities, the street needs to provide more than just routes from A to B. The street can be much more: a park, a theatre, a urban beach or a meeting place. Figure 6.05 shows a table illustrating the different qualities, uses, locations and detailed features of the social street. These qualities should be applied in a hierarchy approach to the streets. Primary, secondary and tertiary streets will all have differing levels of activities - the first stage is to define the uses or activities (the â€œlifeâ€?) that could occur in those places, apply the hierarchy and then begin to design the space, and finally think of how the building relates to the space.
Quality is key - social streets must be high quality spaces, but what does that mean? It refers to the intrinsic design of the space, the materials used, the feeling that space generates. The space must be comfortable, day and night, and be designed for both sexes, all ages and abilities. The management of the social street, through small gardens and pocket parks run by residents and communities creates the opportunity for temporary ownership of the land very important in maintaining the quality and community pride of a place. Finally the health benefits of social streets, especially when considering mental health first. The psychology of how we interpret spaces is fascinating. Higher density living can increase feelings of isolation and loneliness. Urban design can do something about this, it can offer places to go to that can act literally as therapeutic aids for the hustle and bustle of city life. Social streets can humanize the city.
10.0 Amending the Master Plan Amending the Master plan How will the research undertaken, case studies review and proposed design code affect the Issues I Ravelin Park Master plan at the given scales and densities of the brief? How can these changes be delivered? These are the questions that this section of the report will address. The purpose of this report is to provide spaces and elements that allow people to feel able and comfortable to socialise and interact with others if they want to - not to designate some areas as social zones and others as non-social.
The original Issues I Master plans for both 200pph and 500pph can be seen in Figures 10.01 and 10.02. The block structure is practically identical in terms of the two layouts - with only some typological differences to facilitate the higher density level of 500pph (replacing urban villas and townhouses with super blocks and towers).
Issues I 200pph SWOT
The 200pph plan features low rise typologies were possible, with a loose urban grain. Good quality private amenity space is provided by the typologies along with public areas of open space. The 500pph model uses high rise typologies, with a reduction in private amenity space. Both schemes are street led, and this gives an opportunity to make amends for the reduction in private amenity space in the 500pph model.
This report is not about detail designing a master plan - what will be provided are recommendations that follow on from the research process for Issues II, providing spaces along the street that can address the private/public amenity space balance, and can promote social interaction with the associated health benefits.
200pph 3D model (viewed from east looking west) not to scale
Strengths 1 Provision of plenty of public amenity space
There will be more than double the number of people in the 500pph model than the 200pph. How does the master plan reflect this? At the higher density level, there will be a reduction in the provision of private amenity space - how will the master plan reflect this too? These questions will be answered, under the following chapter structure: Figure 10.01 - Issues I Master plan, 200pph 1:10000 scale
2 Variety in typologies, attracting variety of people 3 Public amenity space placed within residential zones for easy access
Weaknesses 1 Long, low, level facades could create boring / monotonous streetscape 2 Risk of over shadowing along narrow streets
Opportunities • Short introduction • SWOT analysis of both the 200pph and 500pph models • Neighbourhood scale proposals (including street and open space hierarchy) for 200pph and 500pph schemes • Block scale proposals for 200pph and 500pph schemes
1 Central space “circus” could become community hub 2 Public square along key route, potential for market trade? 3 Schools can form community centres outside school time
Threats 1 Schools will require street design that reduces traffic speed 2 Grid layout could become legibly confusing - clear hierarchy required
• Street level proposals for 200pph and 500pph schemes • Putting it all together (with plan, section and 3D illustrations) • Summary of key differences in 200pph and 500pph schemes Figure 10.02 - Issues I Master plan, 500pph 1:10000
Issues I 500pph SWOT
What are the recommendations for providing potential social spaces at a neighbourhood scale? Using the Gehl methodology of life/ space/buildings will mean that the built form of the proposal should feature last, concentrating on the variety of uses and activities that could occur in the scheme.
networks, based primarily upon walking distances of pedestrians (400m radius = 5 minute walk). This overview will create a cohesive urban form with a defined rhythm of activities for people to engage in. Firstly, the kind of public life that could be experienced in each part of the scheme needs to be identified. Following this the spaces are listed that are required to facilitate this vision. Therefore the context to the site becomes very important - what are the local facilities in the area, how does the site relate to the other neighbourhoods of Portsmouth?
The neighbourhood scale will be a strategic vision that will affect the smaller scales of the design (filtering down to both block and street level). At this scale each design element (parks, streets, public transport) needs to be addressed in a series of connecting
Figures 10.03 and 10.04 illustrate local facilities around the proposed site, as well as giving a simple analysis of the surrounding area, the key route (or spine) that cuts through Ravelin Park, as well as the numerous landmark buildings that feature on the northern side of the site.
200pph 3D model (viewed from east looking west) not to scale
Strengths 1 Provision of plenty of public amenity space 2 Public amenity space placed within residential zones for easy access
Weaknesses 1 Long, low, level facades could create boring / monotonous streetscape 2 Risk of over shadowing along narrow streets, from higher typologies 3 Taller blocks could reduce human scale of scheme
Opportunities 1 Central space â€œcircusâ€? could become community hub 2 Public square along key route, potential for market trade? 3 Taller blocks can aid legibility when placed at prominent spots (corners) 4 Schools can form community centres outside school time
Threats 1 Schools will require street design that reduces traffic speed
Key space / gateway
Offices / light industry
Impermeable space Tall / landmark building Key city spine
Figure 10.03 - Portsmouth facilities plan - not to scale
Figure 10.04 - Ravelin Park analysis (not to scale)
10.0 AMENDING THE MASTER PLAN
Street scale What are the recommendations for providing potential social spaces at a street scale? Using the Gehl methodology of life/space/buildings we now turn our attention to the finer details of what happens at street level. These are the small elements that make big difference to the way we experience the space. By greening the street, by which I mean maximising the amount of planting in the space, Ravelin Park could be transformed. The vegetation softens spaces, edges, and improves the environmental quality of the space. This is not a purely visual benefit. The ecological benefits are great, even simple choices like using porous paving elements that encourage grass to grow will reduce the amount of hard standing required and the associated drainage gulleys. The use of materials needs to be carefully thought - not just in terms of sustainable local materials, but the unit size. Small paving units (such as small setts) can provide an intimate feeling to space, whereas large paving slabs or stones will accentuate the scale of a space. The use of water as both sculpture and functional - SUDS swales for drainage encourage wildlife, and their constructed form can promote play, or provide low walls to sit on. Ground floor flats are never as popular as raised apartments if they face onto a busy street. By raising the GF by up to 1m, it can create the privacy that these units need - it also creates the opportunity to utilise sunken car parking to remove residentâ€™s vehicles from the street. Of all the detailing elements, the provision of seating or elements that can be sat upon is the most important. A range of choices will allow people to place themselves in the environment, encouraging them to stay longer and for others to join.
Applying the design code at street scale (please refer to chapter 9)
Design code element
D2. Building entrances Create meeting spaces, seating, use of steps, wheelchair access - raising the GF (I4) will create the need for steps/ramps - potential issue with Homes for Life
Entrances attract people, provide waiting areas, are social hotspots
Affects both 200pph and 500pph models
F4. Materials to infer public / private / intimacy Differing unit size paving to mark public/private boundary instead of fence where possible, temporary elements can be placed. Can create intimate environments (see figure 10.11)
Reduces physical barriers and encourages integration whilst inferring a blurred boundary
Affects both 200pph and 500pph models
F5. Keep activity at street level Max. 1m above/below street level for parks or plazas etc. The street needs to feel like the place to be, rather than a raised or sunken element in most cases
The street level needs to be the active space or it will become a poorly designed highway
Affects both 200pph and 500pph models
G3. Green the street Use every opportunity to provide planting - vertical elements, raised elements. Blank gable ends, hanging plants across the street (see figure 10.12)
Makes the street more comfortable, can create magical spaces, soft edges, soft feeling
Affects both 200pph and 500pph models, reduction in private amenity space at 500pph places more emphasis on green streets
H4. Public art / play / landmarks Linked to context, installations that provide legibility, play, interactive functions to give a sense of temporary ownership. Part of a network of connecting attractions
Art can be a talking point that brings people together, for or against it
Affects both 200pph and 500pph models
H6. Water / SUDS Use of water features and SUDS as play, sculpture, link to Portsmouth context (Navy). SUDS provision doubles as play space, walls to sit on for informal seating
Play, cooling, interactive, can mask noise of city or traffic
Affects both 200pph and 500pph models
I4. Raised GF In GF apartments, floor raised up to 1m, with suspended floor (to allow future retail use) or parking below. Forms balcony style entrance to buildings (see figure 10.13)
Small height increase reduces risk of people clearly looking in, allows for larger windows, benefits home/street
Affects both 200pph and 500pph models, more apartments in 500pph scheme, so more GF flats.
I5. Transparency Create visual / physical link from street to internal space with glazing, connects activities from the street to the inside of the building. Large windows at night will provide street lighting
Especially for cafes and retail, creates link from one to other. At night can provide lighting to the street
Affects both 200pph and 500pph models
J6. Range of seating types Benches for stopping for short period, backed chairs for longer times, a variety of formal and informal seats allowing choice, and a variety of activities (see figure 10.14)
Differing types of seating for all types of users and uses - not all seats need backs, perching places, low walls etc
Affects both 200pph and 500pph models
L4. Streets are pedestrian priority Cars must feel that they are the guest. In some locations cars are not allowed to travel, further enhancing the feeling that pedestrians and cyclists have priority
Will help pedestrians in the street feel more comfortable, more likely to choose to linger in the space
Affects both 200pph and 500pph models
Applying the design code at Street scale (illustrated)
Figure 10.11 - Use of change in paving materials to infer public/private - perhaps reinforced using placement of temporary items, such as potted plants. Changing from large unit to small unit paving can also create a feeling of intimacy and vice versa
Figure 10.13 - To aid privacy, and to make apartments more desirable at ground floor, GF apartments raised, with car parking beneath, steps/ramp create little balcony, informal seating - activity on street
Figure 10.12 - Green the street - provide as much planting as possible, use wall climbers, plant balconies, hang planting across buildings (use for lighting as well)
Figure 10.14 - Offer a choice of seating, formal and informal. Seats that can be moved, seats that perform other functions (walls, ledges) all contribute to creating a comfortable, adaptable social space, and can also provide a feeling of temporary ownership over the space
10.0 AMENDING THE MASTER PLAN
Bringing it all together 200pph Issues I Selected street detail area
1 200pph Issues I draft 3D model views 200pph Issues I draft Master plan, 1:500 scale
Bringing it all together - 200pph Issues II Selected street detail area
shallow suds feature runs through street
2 shared surface small private front gardens with hedge edge
2 green vines string between building blocks incorporating lighting
3 micro play space with range of seating
1 200pph Issues I draft 3D model views 200pph Issues I draft Master plan, 1:500 scale
11.0 Conclusions Conclusions
“The L : How can the meeting of building with street create social spaces that can serve high levels of land intensification?”
This is the question that developed through the course of the Issues II project. It evolved from the question asked at the end of Issues I into a question concerning social interaction and the street. The four sub topics that were researched, and their application to UK culture is important to note. The proposed site is UK based, in Portsmouth therefore the state of how people in this culture view proposed developments is integral. In the Uk the majority of housing schemes are house based, with around 25% of units being apartments. Abroad, the opposite is often the case, so why does the UK feel so differently, and are they wrong? The simple answer to this is that they are not wrong, and the rest of the world is not necessarily right. These cultural distinctions are what makes the UK in its own right. It is pointless to try and force a
system upon people when they do not want it. People in the UK want houses, and so the developers provide them, at highest possible cost and lowest possible living space - but people are happy. The reason for this is ingrained in our memory of 19th Century housing slums and 1960s tower blocks. These were not popular ways to live, people do not want to go back to them. There is a interesting paradox in this, and it is very welcome as the British public may well have to accept higher density living in the future, which at the density levels we have been researching (up to 500pph) means apartments. The paradox is that if apartments were designed in a similar way to those in Europe, with a decent living space, people may actually benefit from improved quality of life, when compared with the small houses that people currently inhabit. If people could see the improvement, perhaps they could start to change the way they felt about apartment living and high density. So what of “The L”? As this project has progressed, so I has my understanding of “The L”. It is not just the connection of building with street, the physical junction of vertical with horizontal. There is a relationship between the two elements, one literally supports the other. In the case of higher densities, this refers to the loss of private amenity space, and the hero riding to the rescue is the street. Through this process I investigated how modern ways to communicate, social media, could have a negative effect on real life physical interaction. Perhaps more important is the impact of bad urban design on our interactions, and this point, while obvious, distills the real purpose of urban design: People will react negatively to negative space, and positively to positive space. The importance of the street at any density is huge. At a high density level it becomes critical to creating the place - a collection of “Third Places” that exist between our homes and our work, the social street. So what makes up the social street? It is about many things, all of which could generate long reports on their own. Walking, quality, seating, feeling comfortable, elements of play, performance and places that allow us to relax, converse or think. There are equally as many benefits from good spaces, physical exercise,
making friends, calling somewhere home - but the most important, because it affects all the others, is our mental health. At this stage of the report I used research intended for the provision of green space at psychiatric institutions and applied that theory to social streets. It is a very exaggerated worse case scenario, but the report by Clare Cooper Marcus brought up many issues that had been revealed through the rest of the project - people want to make choices, to gather together to seek social support (even if it is implied only), engagement with nature, and a sense of ownership and security. All of these can be applied to social streets. The two authors researched in the literary section of the report were William Whyte and Jan Gehl. Once again I was surprised how much urban design seminal pieces of work have not dated. Whyte’s book and in particular his film version of “The Social Life of Small Urban Places” is a joy, and just as relevant today as it was 40 years ago. The biggest activity that occurs in the social street, according to Whyte, is people watching. This happens while we are sat, or learning, or stopped. So the social space needs to deliver an environment that we feel comfortable enough to stop in. Whyte details the elements that contribute to creating a successful people place, the biggest of which is providing a variety of seating arrangements, that are usable. The second author investigated was Jan Gehl, and in particular the work of Gehl Architects in producing studies of and recommendations for, cities around the world. Gehl goes into fine detail over how to create people spaces, including dimensions and percentages of units, windows etc. The most useful of his criteria for creating people spaces is the inversion of the traditional planning model for new spaces. Rather than start with the building design, then consider the space and finally work out what it might be like on the street, Gehl champions life / space / building. People are life, the space humanizes the city, and the buildings frame the attraction. The case studies researched were specifically chosen from a handful of schemes from around the world that met the case study criteria list (the additional case studies can be found in the Appendix section of this report). Paley Park in New York is an exemplar pocket park, with some very simple design features that combine, in its setting, to create a wonderful place. I visited the park myself in 2010, on a very cold December afternoon, and it is simply
magical. It fits in with both Whyte’s and Gehl’s list of attributes that make good spaces - its on the street, it has a selection of seating arrangements, it feels safe, it removes the contextual noise so that you feel free from the city, and it does all of this in a box 12x30m. The second case study was not exemplar. It is a street/plaza local to me and my home. The space doesn’t work, but why? It provides no use, no activity, it is empty. Sadly the design for the scheme was affected due to economic conditions, and we can see the result of that on the ground. The public space does not work, does not provide a function, and as a result of this, the apartments for sale above are still not sold. The final study looked at Freiburg in Germany. There are lots of interesting elements at work here, but it must be remembered that this is Germany, not the UK. The cultural values and perceptions are very different, which allow for the creation of spaces that would not be welcomed in the UK - far less emphasis on health and safety, protecting children while they play etc, plus a willingness to move the car out of the street scene and truly embrace public transport. The ways in which Germany funds its infrastructure and maintenance of public spaces, right down to the way land is sold (at a set rate) is also very different from the UK, and that is not going to change. All this research led to the creation of a design code for social space, which was then applied to the Ravelin Park site in Portsmouth. The true usefulness of the design code was that it could be used at a variety of scales, from neighbourhood to block to street, in a chain where one scale would then have an impact on the next. The use of a SWOT assessment of the existing Issues I master plans (at 200pph and 500pph) revealed the opportunity to utilise the schools that were proposed on site. Any school can become a social hub. Parents bring their children to school, or the children make their own way, with a large number of potential social interactions. As schools tend to function weekdays from 8am-4pm, I proposed the integration of community centres within the schools, places that could provide places to exercise, play, eat, and discuss. This would become “the heart” of the scheme. At neighbourhood scale, the proposals for 200pph and 500pph are more strategic - plans with circles and lines rather than details.
The obvious difference in the two scales is the number of people, and therefore the additional number of potential spaces (or increases in size to potential spaces) for social interaction. At the higher density level there will be a reduction in personal amenity space, and this is where the street can help - providing a variety of spaces for people to interact in, on a daily basis, whether it is the walk to work via a pocket park where you eat your lunch, or waiting in a comfortable, safe bus shelter for your transport to arrive. At neighbourhood scale, networks and hierarchy are very important, as they filter down to the smallest detail at street level - green networks, street hierarchy etc. The starting point though, according to Gehl, is to consider the uses or activities that might occur in a place - think about the person on the street. What are they doing? Are they walking home? Are they sitting in a cafe watching the street life? At block scale I began to assess the physical size of the space - the dimensions of the street, the horizontal or vertical elements along the street. The size and structure of the street links directly with the concept of “The L” - the importance of the building, or built elements that alter our perception of the space. Some of these elements may be perforated, temporary, or transparent, such as the glazing of buildings. One interesting aspect of social streets is that objects can be multi-purpose, low walls and SUDs features can become play spaces for adventurous children, community parks and spaces can become street market and galleries, and GF windows can become lighting at night. We all make objects in the built environment our own, we move a chair 2cm to the left even though it makes no conceivable difference to its location. We like to put our own “stamp” on things, to personalise them and take a temporary ownership. At street scale I looked into the detailed elements of the space - the materials, the small design choices that fundamentally affect how we perceive the space. Of these choices, the two that have the most positive effect on the perception of the space are: greening the street, and provision of seating. The case studies from Freiburg showed how the absolute maximum level of vegetation was utilised in the street scene, from the tracks the trams run and their support structures, to gable ends, balconies and bicycle / car storage. It is ridiculous in the UK when you see waste bins with stickers on the front and side of hedges! We need to re-think our preconceptions on planting - it does not need to be pristine and purely visual. The ecological impact is far greater, the reduction in hard standing usage is far greater, and the impression on the street scene is far
greater. Key difference in 200pph and 500pph models Clearly numerically, the 500pph model will have a greater number of people per hectare, which will mean a greater number of people will be available to partake in possible social interaction. This point, that social interaction can only be encouraged, rather than designed is very important. All the designer can do is create a space that encourages social activity. There are many forces at work that will govern if the space is successful, socially - from economic, to cultural to fashion. Returning to Issues I and the idea of the quality of the public realm, ironically, I believe that the 500pph model will actually create a better public realm than the 200pph model. This is because if people have their own private amenity space they are less likely to use public amenity space, and if they have less private amenity space they are more likely to use public amenity space. Therefore higher density does not mean a reduction in environmental quality - quite the opposite. When you consider the possibility of improved living standards through legislation for minimum living spaces in new homes, suddenly the future is much brighter, not only will the quality of our homes improve, but so will the public realm. When you consider the health and environmental benefits of this possible improvement in quality, then you would perhaps be more willing to consider changing the way houses are made in this country, starting with the appropriate planning legislation. It is unlikely that the UK, culturally, will ever want to match the amount of money spent maintaining the public realm that can be seen in Holland or Germany. Perhaps this is the point at which community run maintenance groups could step in, managing their street or space or park, becoming fully involved with the day-to-day running of the space, and creating a true sense of local civic pride in their community. Good quality social spaces is good quality urban design.
The L : How can the meeting of building with street create social spaces that can serve high levels of land intensification? - Three key points 1. Create a space that encourages social activity There can only be social activity if there is a space for it. The tendency is to design these spaces too large, so they either never reach capacity because there are simply not enough people in a given area, or because they always appear half empty, they never attract more people or more uses. Designing to the human scale is most important. Spaces that encourage social activity have a range of seating options, protection from climate, planting to soften edges and provide shelter, places to eat and drink, a direct relationship with the street and tangible, touchable objects that bring people together - sculpture, water, performance.
Is “The L” really a “L”? This Issues II report began with a question concerning the letter “L”. Through the research undertaken, the boundaries encountered, both physical and perceived, I now believe that the “L” is probably not an accurate term for the social street. Therefore, the amended form is as follows:
weather / rain / season / random sun / light
2. Mix activities and uses The provision of activities or uses in a space is only partly down to the designer. The users will always be able to adapt a good space to their own needs, and this should be encouraged. What the designer can do is provide a broad range of activities and uses that attract a wide range of people from all backgrounds. It is in this mix that the magic happens.
implied boundaries public and private planting transparent
vertical emphasis building height legibility respond to human scale
3. Mix public and private Around their homes people want clear boundaries of public and private space. In public amenity space, these boundaries need to be blurred, in order to invite or attract people to use the space. If people feel uncomfortable they will not stay long. There are many tools that can be utilised to help blur this boundary. Replacing physical barriers with permeated or implied edges is one - the use of paving material, planting and transparent materials can all help with this. The aim is to make people feel comfortable enough to stop, take a look around, perhaps sit.
the land / horizontal / solid / broken fluid / concourse / open Suggested additional research topics With additional time I would have liked to have researched more into the balance of public and private amenity space for both 200pph and 500pph - is there a clear percentage in each case? For example would 200pph provide 70% private and 30£ public amenity space? This would require hands on research at the given scales to address the question, but this would place an importance and a definition on the quality of the public realm at 200pph and 500pph.
12.0 References Note: All figures, illustrations, tables and photos, unless otherwise stated, are by the authors of this document. All other illustrations give source information
Bibliography / References
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