Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Lessons from Bryant Park and How People Interact in Public Spaces

Carousel brings families

Bryant Park  in Manhattan is one of my favourite places.
 It used to be a scary and unsafe. Then it was transformed. The first People for Public Spaces project is now one of the most enjoyable places in all of New York to just sit and watch people go by.

Want to know more about how people connected then and now?  Read this fascinating article.

Full version here -  Lessons to be learned from Bryant Park
Movable tables and chairs allow visitors to customize interaction

 an excerpt....

"Based on visits to parks and plazas in New York, Los Angeles, Seattle, Boston, Minneapolis, Montreal and Venice, Whyte and his acolytes formulated conclusions that were, for their time, counterintuitive. For example, he discovered that city people don’t actually like wide-open, uncluttered spaces. Despite the Modernist assumption that what harried urban people need are oases of nature in the city, if you bother to watch people, you see that they tend to prefer narrow streets, hustle and bustle, crowdedness. Build a high-rise with an acre of empty plaza around it, and the plaza may seem desolate, even dangerous. People will avoid it. If you want people to linger, he wrote, give them seating — but not just benches, which make it impossible for people to face one another. Movable chairs can be better. Also: Never cordon off a fountain. “It’s not right to put water before people and then keep them away from it,” Whyte wrote in his 1980 book, “The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces.” People want to splash, dip their toes, throw coins. He believed that dense greenery can make places feel less safe, that people find the fishbowl effect of sunken plazas disconcerting and, presciently, that food trucks draw crowds. Whyte’s insights were incorporated into 1975 revisions of New York’s zoning code, and the Bryant Park Corporation — credited with turning around the once-squalid park — bases its work on many of his principles."