public space

Information, identity and individuality: affordable ways to enhance public space and boost civic assets

A customisable, ‘ready-to-go’ urban realm wayfinding system named ‘frank’ is bringing established – and affordable – best practice to a wide range of towns and cities

A world class waterfront: design quality in public space

By Rosey Paul

In 2008, Liverpool celebrated its year as European Capital of Culture. Public waterfronts, squares and streets transformed by quality design have helped to attract £1.6 billion of visitor spend to a now thriving city with international appeal

Civic space for an active city: Inverness's new streetscapes boost economy

By Duncan McLean

Duncan McLean is Associate Landscape Architect with Land Use Consultants in Scotland

The landscape-led approach to the refurbishment of Inverness city public realm clearly identified ‘people’ and ‘place’ at the forefront of the design process. The city centre now has growing economic confidence, a new café culture and active, pedestrian-friendly streets.

Inverness is Scotland’s newest city and the centre of Highland culture. As such, it is undergoing rapid transformation through development, environment and cultural initiatives.

Largely in response to Inverness’ new city status in 2000, the concurrent rapid growth and development, it was decided to update the perception of Inverness city centre as an unattractive destination and suffering economically.

To this end, The Highland Council commissioned Land Use Consultants (LUC) in October 2005 to develop, design and administer the contract for a comprehensive refurbishment of city centre streets, public realm, traffic management, a new public art programme and new lighting.

Creativity in placemaking: who can make good spaces happen?

By Juliana O'Rourke

Unlocking creativity in placemaking doesn't need to depend on huge budgets or complex megaplans. Successful places inspire, engage and surprise. Urban environments that make the most of existing place assets and ‘energise’ or activate our places and spaces is what most of us are looking for.

We know that this doesn't need to be rocket science. We've seen popular, creative places emerge before our very eyes – often created on tiny budgets. We like the recent spate of 'pop-up' amenities, from a Lido on the roof of London's Hayward Gallery; an outdoor community living room in a disused rooftop carpark; community gardens in neglected council-owned green spaces; play areas on mothballed development sites; a summertime urban forest on a public riverside walkway and numerous creative galleries and workshop hubs housed in recession-hit empty high street shops.

The Urban Room: Who is responsible for creativity in public space?

In London, says architect Michel Mossessian, it is currently city planners who are responsible for defining (and defending) public spaces, but in reality their role is that of negotiator: they negotiate with property developers to guarantee the requisite contribution to the public realm, which is quantified through categories such as public art, green space and so on. This leaves little margin for creative thinking.

Shouldn't it be the role and responsibility of the architect to think through and define public spaces? he asks.