The Public Space Dictionary


This page is dedicated to the de-mystification of spatial and urban language through the written and graphic explanations of terms used in relation to Public Space. Like the rest of the site, this list is a work in progress and regularly updated as applicable terms arise in the exploration of Public Space in Fort Pienc.

PLACE TERMS

Urban Form

Spatial Characteristics

Node

Sphere of Influence

Transportation

Access

Destination

Links

USE TERMS

Uses

Civic Uses

Time of Use

Program

PEOPLE TERMS

Users

Stakeholders

Organizations

IDENTITY TERMS

History

Creation

Program Support

Image of Place

Espacio / Place

Urban Form

Themes: path, expansion of a path, infill lot, interior court, corner lot, block

Expansion of a Path

A Public Space that is an expansion of a path includes the city element of a sidewalk, street or similar element of movement. Along this path of movement a new activity or availability of space can create an area used as Public Space. Examples of activities that activate a sidewalk as a Public Space are sidewalk dining, sidewalk vendors, sidewalk art or simply a group of people that stop to talk and, by default, activate the sidewalk as a destination and not just a space along which to move. Examples of space that begin as a path of movement and develop into Public Space are plazas, opportunities of window shopping and other ways the buildings engage the sidewalk or street, sidewalk dining or an empty lot. More can be learned from sidewalk scholar Anastasia Loukaitou-Sideris.

Interior Court

An interior court can be surrounded by private property and buildings, but it is Public Space. In order for it to function as a Public Space, there needs to be public access from the sidewalk to the interior court that does not go through a private building or property. The issue of accessibility is the reason many interior courts in Barcelona’s Eixample area were technically “public,” but in reality impossible to use as Public Space. The public society ProEixample has worked over the years to either convert private courts into public courts, or to open up access to the Public Space within. More information: Michael Dennis, Court and Garden

Spatial Characteristics

Themes: area, enclosure, enclosure height, permeable surface, number of trees, elevation change, places to sit, noise level

Area: The area of a space represents the total square meters of the space, whether all of this space is accessible or not. For instance, a fence may block direct access or a sign may proclaim “Don’t step on the grass!” preventing access in theory.

Enclosure: The enclosure of a space signifies the amount of buildings that border the edges of a space. The enclosure helps determine the urban form of a space and the access into a space. The highest level of enclosure creates a space that is an interior court, while minimal enclosure results in a block surrounded by streets.

Enclosure height: The enclosure height is measured in the number of stories of the buildings around the public space.

Permeable surface:The permeable surface is the percentage of ground covering that allows water to percolate into the ground, which aids in the minimization of stormwater runoff as well as the replenishing of aquifers (although the later point is more rare in highly built up urban areas with complex levels of infrastructure below street level).

Number of trees: Part of the characteristic of a space is the amount and variety of trees.

Elevation change: Elevation change is the difference in level from the sidewalk, or another point of access, and a Public Space. Some Public Spaces are a few feet above street level on a plinth, while others are submerged into the ground; these changes in elevation provide an implied separation in the experience of space and can help mitigate external noise level, provide shade or designated areas for different types of activities. Elevation change can also impede or complicate access to a Public Space.

Number of entrances: The number of entrances into a public space helps determine the access to the space. Easy access into Public Spaces is one of the primary determinants of the popular use of a space.

Places  to sit: Places to sit encouraged extended use of a Public Space.

Noise level: The noise level of a Public Space refers to the external noise from traffic and other activities. The noise generated within the space, by users of the public space is not measured here.

Node

Themes: pedestrian, transit, auto

Pedestrian Node

A Public Place that is a pedestrian node facilitates a high level of social interaction for extended periods of time and for a large cross-section of the resident population. This space may attract people outside the neighborhood catchment area, or it may be successful only on a local level, that is within walking distance, especially if it is situated in a dense urban area.

Sphere of Influence / Catchment Area

Themes: local, metropolitan, regional, national, international

Transportation

Themes: walk, bike, public transport (metro, bus, other), private automobile, parking

Access

Themes: pedestrian, auto, natural (light, air, water, flora, fauna)

Destination / Transition

Themes: public space as a destination, public space as transition

Links

Themes: connections to other public spaces, connections to access points

Uso / Use

[image]

Uses

Themes: social interaction, passive recreation (solitary, group), active recreation (solitary, group), habitat, resource production, resource remediation

Civic Uses

Themes: participation, protest

Time of Use

Themes: daily, weekday, weekend, seasonal, event

Program

Themes: commercial (food, drink, goods, services, sights), institutional (school, library, church), natural (passive, productive)

Gente / People

Users

Themes: children, adolescents, adults, seniors, dogs, other species

Other species

Animal species in urban public spaces often include birds. According to a 2003 study:

results suggest that both local- and landscape-scale resources were important in determining the distribution of birds in urban areas. Parks, reserves, and the surrounding residential areas should be integrated into urban planning and development designs to maintain resident avifauna and overall species diversity in urban environments.(Urban Bird Diversity and Landscape Complexity: Species–environment Associations Along a Multiscale Habitat Gradient)

Stakeholders

Themes: residents, tenants, shop owners, community organizations, politicians / administrators

Organizations

Themes: local, community, non-governmental organizations, governmental organizations, educational, city-planning, non-profit, volunteer, grass-roots

Identidad / Identity

History

Themes: hidden, memorialized

Creation

Themes: who, how, why / intention

Program Support

Themes: public, private, nonprofit, combo

Image of Place

Themes: imageability, memory, identity

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