MEASURING THE SOCIAL EXPERIENCE OF URBAN SPACES

JEFF SAUSER

MEASURING THE SOCIAL EXPERIENCE OF URBAN SPACES
Introduction and Methodology Literature Review 4 10 12 14 16 18 20 22 24 26 28 32 36 40 41 47 48 6 8

INTEGRATION Bill Hillier, The Social Logic of Space, 1984

ORGANICNESS Christopher Alexander, A New Theory of Urban Design, 1987 SERIAL VISION Gordon Cullen, The Concise Townscape, 1961 MEMORABILITY Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City, 1960 MAGIC Allan Jacobs, Great Streets, 1993 SOFT EDGES Jan Gehl, Life Between Buildings, 1980 High Museum Piazza Centergy Plaza Woodruff Park Summary

EYES ON THE STREET Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961 SITTABILITY William Whyte, The Social Life of Small Public Spaces, 1980 Case Studies MULTIPLICITY Margaret Crawford, Everyday Urbanism, 1999

Policy Implications Bibliography Image Credits

INTRODUCTION AND METHODOLOGY
Contemporary (and historical) urban design lacks an incrementalist sensitivity that has seen many a socially and culturally troubled but infrastructurally promising (and known-quantity) district plowed over by freshly flawed polemical expressions whose problems (rather than qualities) emerge over lifetimes of decreasingly mysterious failure and increasingly mounting regret. There is serious need for strategies that can quantitatively assess and incrementally improve socially inept districts without preemptive architectural decimation. This paper will extract from 50 years of literature a set of concrete urban qualities that are discursively proven and practically measurable to provide the profession a method for piecemeal urban improvement. After applying the set of measures to three case studies, it should become clear that many issues of urban social decline could be assuaged with modest architectural interventions rather than all-out urban renewal. PROBLEM: NEED INCREMENTAL STRATEGIES TO IMPROVE URBAN SOCIAL INTERACTIVITY

Quality urban spaces and districts foster social interaction that generates and sustains meaningful community. The most such successful urbanities emerge over long periods of time, experiencing series of revision and improvement that refine them into rich environments replete with social activity and, thus, healthy communities. It seems, therefore, that if a place lacks or loses infrastructure to accommodate community-building socialization, it should be injected or replaced in bits and pieces as the present inhabitants and users can absorb and inhabit it. Unfortunately, many new urban design projects neglect the notion of incremental development in their vision for the future. Instead of simply medicated, the troubled past is erased – along with all of its potential and uniqueness – and replaced with something untried, untrue, and likely to fail or at least severely stumble for lack of historical authenticity and local conditioning. EXTRACT DESIGN STRATEGIES FROM THE LITERATURE Over the past 50 years, numerous scholars and visionaries have put forth strong arguments for incremental development and an appreciation for accumulated complexity. In many cases, these authors pen entire methodologies not short of manifestos that, in great detail, proffer design approaches to improve the social character and capacity of urban places. Other, less architecturally prescriptive authors supply perspectives that can easily be translated into specific design strategies. This paper shall extract one key tool from each author’s magnum opus to assemble a kit of critically seasoned incrementalist approaches to measuring and improving the socially interactive and, thus,
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community building capacity of urban spaces.

CONVERT DESIGN STRATEGIES INTO TESTABLE METRICS AND IMPLEMENTABLE TOOLS

To make them useful in practice, the rhetorical design strategies and approaches gleaned from the literature review must be converted into measurable quantities, specific observable conditions, and/or concretely implementable tools. Each author’s contribution shall be thusly translated into something that can be directly measured in exiting urban environments and/or inserted therein to improve spaces’ capacity for and quality of social interactivity and subsequent community formation and maintenance. APPLY METRICS TO CASE STUDIES Three local case studies will demonstrate the metrics applicability to a variety of actual urban places. Having applied all metrics to each, the cases importantly become comparable in terms of their capacity to foster social connectivity in the public urban realm. Sites include the piazza in front of the High Museum in midtown, the Centergy Plaza at Tech Square, and the northernmost portion of Woodruff Park downtown. Though each site involves a unique set of specific conditions and concerns, all are of comparable size and urban centrality (they are all on or very near Peachtree Street, Atlanta’s flagship thoroughfare). CONCLUSIONS AND POLICY IMPLICATIONS

Executing the case studies will reveal how the sites’ physical characteristics affect its social and experiential performance. This exercise could inform policy promoting similar study of new urban developments and redevelopments during their design or redesign process to ensure designers account for their projects’ social and experiential dimensions in addition to strictly physical and formal concerns.

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Decades of scholarly urban design research have yielded a number of important treatises full of insights that can directly inform actual urban design work. This literature review shall engage nine of the most prominent works, parsing from their rich texts one key metric or strategy to be measured and/or documented in the case studies. While all of these authors potentially provide many such ideas, this paper will attempt to distill but one readily measurable concept from each – perhaps future work could engage additional metrics from these authors as well as soliciting metrics from others. The metrics are not consistent in scale or objectivity: some apply more to the urban scale, some to the architectural, some to the personal or bodily; some are highly quantifiable, some are directly documentable, and some but subjectively conveyable. The authors are organized in this literature review according to these traits, first by scale (urban, architectural, and then personal) and then, within each scale group, by objectivity (most objective to most subjective).
Bill Hillier The Social Logic of Space 1984 Christopher Alexander The Social Logic of Space 1987 Gordon Cullen The Concise Townscape 1971

LITERATURE REVIEW

ARCHITECTURAL

URBAN

INTEGRATION

ORGANICNESS

SERIAL VISION

EYES ON THE STREET

Jane Jacobs The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961

MEMORABILITY

Kevin Lynch The Image of the City 1960

Allan Jacobs Great Streets 1993

MAGIC

PERSONAL

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William Whyte The Social Life of Small Public Spaces, 1980

SITTABILITY

OBJECTIVE

Jan Gehl Life Between Buildings 1980

SOFT EDGES

Margaret Crawford Everyday Urbanism 1999

MULTIPLICITY

SUBJECTIVE

At the urban scale, Bill Hillier provides an entirely quantifiable measure of integration to explain a site’s position and level of connection (both infrastructural and symbolic) within the overall urban network. Christopher Alexander informs a simple survey of surrounding structures’ vintage to help enrich the perception of historical context. Gordon Cullen offers a way to document the visual and spatial experience of approaching and moving through an urban space to help choreograph a dramatic procession. At the architectural scale, Jane Jacobs indicates a need to gauge a site’s internal visibility spectrum to make sure users feel safely observable from more angles and less likely to feel vulnerably screened or isolated. Kevin Lynch explains the importance of memorable structures or formations that help viscerally position a place within an urban network of landmarks. Allan Jacobs seeks the presence of magic about a site, a highly subjective feature that cannot be measured but should be considered and possibly embedded in a project.

At the personal scale, William Whyte suggests a practical census of seats and seating types within a site to make sure there are enough sitting opportunities of sufficient variety for passers through. Jan Gehl calls for roughly countable layers along sites’ edges that contain interactive people and provide shades of transparency and social interest. Margaret Crawford advocates the accommodation of various, unforeseen uses and spontaneous activities to ensure a place engenders diverse socialization and supports democratic freedom. The proceeding pages elaborate on these authors’ insights and elucidate how their work translates into variably measurable metrics to be exercised in the case studies that follow.

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Societal organization and urban spatial organization are inextricably linked according to Bill Hillier, who writes, “Society must be described in terms of its intrinsic spatiality; space must be described in terms of its intrinsic sociality.” Less consequences of technology or environmental context, cities are consequences of their society’s social structure and, in return, a society’s social structure is preserved and propagated through its spatial organization. In short, social structure is embedded in architectural and urban structure. Hillier believes that we can understand a society’s culture simply by examining the way they order their built environment. And, likewise, understanding a society’s culture helps clarify its architecture and urbanity. Beyond that, we can compare social and cultural formations from different societies by comparing the way they order space: “spatial order is one of the most striking means by which we recognize the existence of the cultural differences between one social formation and another, that is, differences in the ways in which members of those societies live out and reproduce their social existence.” He suggests that architectural and urban organization (not style but order) might be one of a culture’s most powerful self-expressions. One way to transfer this insight into the study of contemporary urban design involves Hillier’s concept of “integration.” He describes the emergence of main thoroughfares in unplanned cities as an accumulation of social importance along a certain path. As more urbanites use the path and build on it, it gains cultural and social significance. As it gains such significance, it becomes more embedded within the overall urban structure than other, less significant paths. It is no coincidence that Peachtree Street is simultaneously Atlanta’s most important and most connective (aka integrated) street: as it accrued cultural significance it was physical grafted onto with a higher intensity than other, less significant streets in town, thereby becoming more integrated than most other streets around it. Much of Hillier’s work has surrounded quantifying aspects of integration so different cities can be compared in similar terms (thereby comparing social and cultural formations via spatially organizing constructs). In this case, integration will be measured using a GIS application. The more integrated streets should be considered more important culturally and socially, suggesting that structures and activities located along and near them are of high cultural and social significance. By the nature of its measurement, integration also implies accessibility and connectivity. Areas of high integration are highly accessible and highly connected to other parts of the city. In turn, places of exceedingly low integration could be considered of exceedingly low social and cultural import.
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Bill Hillier, The Social Logic of Space, 1984

INTEGRATION

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Part of a city’s social richness involves how it physically develops. Christopher Alexander calls a city’s perceivable development process its “organicness,” or its “specific structural quality.” Places of high organicness “grow as a whole, under their own laws of wholeness, not only at the largest scale, but in every detail.” Places of low organicness are built in big chunks according to discontinuous rules that logically distinguish them and prevent an incorporating “wholeness”. True wholeness pervades at all scales, ordering plats, streets, facades, and details into a coherent gestalt. Built constituents deeply correlate across the landscape and through history, older pieces relating to new pieces through a shared embracement of the particular orders of wholeness which bind the city into an environment that makes sense on all levels. Like a written language, the orders of wholeness provide a common structural framework that accommodates substantial diversity so all pieces can be personally expressive but limits difference to the bounds of linguistic comprehension so no piece destabilizes the system. “The task of creating wholeness can only be dealt with as a process.” As new urban pieces emerge, they must correspond to the existing orders of wholeness to avoid corrupting it. They must also contribute a new and enriching expression of the wholeness to avoid diluting it. Quality “new growth emerges from the specific, peculiar structural nature of its past.” It works with existing structural conditions and adds new but historically coherent complexity. “ “The condition of wholeness is always produced by the same, welldefined process, which works incrementally.” A place that develops in small pieces over time is more likely to support a structural relationship between those pieces. Each emerges in the context of its predecessors and so is more inclined to adhere to their existent ordering principles. A place that develops in larger pieces over shorter periods of time, on the other hand, is less likely to exhibit orders of wholeness because it has steeped less in the existent conditions and overwhelms them in scale anyway, rendering them moot. Alexander suggests there is a strong correlation between intensity of wholeness and historical development incrementality. Thus, assessing a place’s degree of wholeness is as simple as measuring how incrementally it has developed. The more piecemeal the place has emerged, the more wholeness likely pervades.

Christopher Alexander, A New Theory of Urban Design, 1987

ORGANICNESS

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Spatially, a city could be considered an environment of distinct, serially traversable spaces. Emotionally, on the other hand, the city’s spaces are viscerally strung together by a traveler’s specific experience of them as they unfold before and around him/her. The city becomes a continuous chain of dramatic moments leading from one view to the next. Each new view upon rounded bend elicits another emotional event that thickens the plot established by the previous tableaus provided by the city and experienced by the traveler. Gordon Cullen calls this “drama,” an enlivening gestalt that makes the city both interesting and enriching. For the drama to fully develop, the city’s procession of spaces needs to be both diverse and related. A steady diversity between spaces ensures a dynamic experience with more surprises to heighten emotional feedback. Perceivable relationship amongst spaces binds the series of emotional moments into a manifold experience far richer than if they were simply isolated incidents with no interactive bearing. “There is an art of relationship just as there is an art of architecture. Its purpose is to take all the elements that go to create the environment: buildings, trees, nature, water, traffic, advertisements, and so on, and to weave them together in such a way that drama is released. For a city is a dramatic event in the environment.” A city’s dramatic potential can be equated with its potential to attract more players to its stage. The more emotionally visceral a city’s traversal experience, the more people will indulge the drama. Individual spaces and structures seeking users should engage with and relate to the overarching plotline and contribute special “dramatic events” of their own to enhance not only their own but the city’s overall experience. Combining a view-based series of dramatic events with the social interactivity of added people compounds the city’s capacity to engage its users and cause them to engage each other. Cullen’s tool to measure a city’s dramatic effect involves measuring a traveler’s “serial vision” as he/she passes through it. “Although from a scientific or commercial point of view the town may be a unity, from our optical viewpoint, we have split it into two elements: the existing view and the emerging view. In the normal way this is an accidental chain of events and whatever significance may arise out of the linking of views will be fortuitous. Suppose, however, that we take over this linking as a branch of the art of relationship; then we are finding a tool with which human imagination can begin to mold the city into a coherent drama. The process of manipulation has begun to turn the blind facts into a taut emotional situation.” Documenting the city’s scenes becomes storyboarding its drama. Images are made at the threshold of each new view, enabling an assessment of individual dramatic potential. Chronologically juxtaposing the images enables an assessment of the overall experience’s dramatic coherence.
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Gordon Cullen, The Concise Townscape, 1961

SERIAL VISION

“Serial vision: to walk from one end of the plan to another, at a uniform pace, will provide a sequence of revelations which are suggested in the serial drawings, reading from left to right. Each arrow on the plan represents a drawing. The even progress of travel is illuminated by a series of sudden contrasts and so an impact is made on the eye, bringing the plan to life.”

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Good city streets support a heterogeneous population of locals and strangers, lingerers and passersby, old hats and new arrivals. There are certain morphological characteristics necessary to accommodate that much sociological diversity without engendering disorder. Jane Jacobs suggests these include a clearly defined public domain (as obviously distinct from a clearly defined private domain), “eyes upon the street” to surveil goings on, and enough passersby and other street users to keep things safely active (as opposed to forebodingly lonely). “Eyes upon the street” is perhaps the most famous (and architecturally measurable) of these related concerns. Public urban spaces should promote and support natural surveillance by avoiding visual obfuscations and hiding articulations that create blind spots pedestrians might fear passing. Additionally, Jacobs calls for the buildings to orient themselves towards the street so their occupants are architecturally compelled to observe the outdoors and thereby keep an eye on what’s happening: “There must be eyes upon the street, eyes belonging to those we might call the natural proprietors of the street. The buildings on a street equipped to handle strangers and to insure the safety of both residents and strangers, must be oriented to the street. They cannot turn their backs or blank sides on it and leave it blind.” Ultimately, the issue doesn’t stop at safety. A comprehensively visible public space potentiates a comprehensively utilized public space (as William Whyte writes, people don’t go places they don’t know are there). If the space can be entirely ascertained and evaluated from its edges, it stands a better chance of honest, earnest use (as opposed to a space of ambiguous extents which might be avoided altogether for fear of its hidden mysteries). The more hidden corners and enshrouded edges, the more effort one must expend to simply fathom the space before s/he can even decide if s/he wants to stay. More often than not, when faced with such a task, the passerby passes by. By this measure, the better urban space provides more universal visibility from more vantages within and along its boundaries. The space syntax team originating at University College London provides a powerful tool to evaluate this “eyes on the street” capacity. Depthmap, their flagship utility, calculates isovists (the area of viewable territory from a given point in a built environment) across a grid cast throughout the space and then graphically indicates which regions of the space provide more view (or larger isovists) relative to all others. Areas thusly coded red are directly visible from more positions across the whole space; areas coded blue are largely invisible from other vantages across the space. A space is said to have high “eyes on the street capacity” if it sports few darkly colored, less visible regions and is more uniformly brightly colored and highly visible.
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Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, 1961

EYES ON THE STREET

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To promote navigability and socio-cultural connectivity, a city needs to be visually and structurally legible. Kevin Lynch provides five categories (path, node, edge, district, landmark) into which most urban elements can be sorted to measure a city’s memorability (visually based) and intelligibility (structurally based), two metrics which combine to determine its overall legibility. Paths, nodes, and districts are spatial urban components that primarily operate in a part-to-whole relationship with each other and the overall structure of the city. Paths describe routes and thoroughfares that connect important parts of the city. Nodes are typically either important path intersections or other significant urban centralities. Districts are urban zones that effectively cohere behind a common character of some sort be it visual (such as distinguishable from the rest of the city by a common architectural style) or structural (such as a swatch of uniform grid within a more haphazard overall city plat). Importantly for this study, these three categories might help locate sites within a city but they are rarely malleable from an isolated site. Because they operate in networked concert, the only way to significantly adjust them is to manipulate the whole system at a macro scale well beyond the range of a typical, bounded project site (or study area). Edges and landmarks, on the other hand, can be contained within a single site and still openly participate in the city’s broader concert of edges and landmarks. Edges demarcate boundaries between two things or places or at least two types of things or types of places. Landmarks are memorable articulations in the urban fabric that episodically contribute to an individual’s mental conception of the city. While the designer cannot, without macro influence, establish or substantially adjust a path (because they run well before and beyond a site’s extents), node (because being a node is contingent on occupying a significant location relative to a broader network), or district (because districts tend to define themselves as collections of related sites – unless they are single, uncommonly huge sites), he or she can attempt to create a landmark or edge that memorably defines his or her site. The degree to which a site achieves landmark (memorable in and of itself) or edge (memorable as the articulated introduction to, conclusion of, or otherwise boundary to something coherently notable [the site’s own boundary about itself could achieve edge status by this definition]) could be called its “memorability.” The more the place (or element[s] within or about it) stick in the memory, the more prominently it can elevate in relation to the city’s other landmarks (most directly) and edges (less directly). Measurable components of memorability include contextual distinctiveness (how much does it stand out from or define its surroundings?) and visual or experiential exceptionality (how remarkable does it look or feel?).
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Kevin Lynch, The Image of the City, 1960

MEMORABILITY

PLACEHOLDER IMAGE

PLACEHOLDER IMAGE

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Previous eras in urban design history saw preponderances of heavyhanded approaches to the production of quality public urban spaces. Tabla rasa strategies dominated the city beautiful movement to a moderate extent and the modernist movement to the extreme. Put perhaps over-simply, designers thought the best way to improve a place was to gut it or wipe it clean altogether and then start over from scratch. Allan Jacobs retrospectively protests: “better models than these were in order: ones not so dependent on central power and ownership and design, ones that saw incremental physical change and conservation as more desirable than massive clearance of what existed, ones that were based on not only an acceptance but also a desire for and love of urban life, of encountering people in healthy environments.” He stresses a need to stoke desire for urban life that can only be achieved by preserving, incrementing, and layering within the city, not bulldozing and rebuilding on top of it. Christopher Alexander has already provided a measure for incremental development and the conservation of physical history so Jacobs shall contribute a more difficult but arguably more important measure: the magnitude of “magic” in an urban space. Though Jacobs speaks in terms of streets, his rhetoric seems to generally accommodate other types of public urban spaces too. He contends that a great street (or public urban space) does more than just comfortably transmit passers-through, it elicits a magically transcendent experience. “There is magic on great streets, and presumably in their making. It is more than putting all of the required qualities on a street, and it is more than having a few or many of the physical, desirable things that contribute to them. Sorcery and charm, imagination and inspiration are involved, and may be the most crucial ingredients.” He goes on to discuss great urban spaces’ impact on a social public: “beyond functional purposes of permitting people to get from one place to another and to gain access to property, streets – most assuredly the best streets – can and should help to do other things: bring people together, help build community, cause people to act and interact, to achieve together what they might not alone.” Not only can the space cause one to transcend his or her personal banalities, it seems capable of transporting the collective citizenry into a mood of communal brotherhood. However ultimately utopian Jacobs’ notion may sometimes seem, his core idea is readily transferrable: through their incrementally layered complexity, good places elevate people on both personal and social levels, an effect he calls “magic”. A highly subjective metric, it might be practically defined as what experientially and/or socially emerges from a great space in addition to comfort. If transcendence accompanies utility, the space is more than simply well-designed: it is magical. To whatever extent possible, transcendental cues and triggers shall be documented and speculatively analyzed.
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Allan Jacobs, Great Streets, 1993

MAGIC

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To foster social interactivity, an urban space needs the physical infrastructure necessary to accommodate actors in the first place. Put simply: an urban space cannot become sociable if it doesn’t have the facilities about which to socialize – people won’t sit and talk to each other if there’s nowhere to sit! Informed by a career of first-hand observation and measurement, William Whyte developed strategies for evaluating and improving such interactivityenabling infrastructure. There are three phases to Whyte’s process: assess the visibility, accessibility, and variety of sitting places; measure the dimensional suitability of each seat; and observe the seating ensemble’s actual usage to determine overall interactivity-fostering success. It is most immediately important that sitting places be visible to passersby. As Whyte writes, “if people do not see a space, they will not use it.” Obviously, the seats must not only be in view but also in reach of potential sitters: less accessible facilities find themselves less used. Accessibility also involves the percieved (and actual) publicness of the sitting place - the more private a surface seems (or is), the less welcoming it effectively becomes. Finally, seat types need to vary across the site to provide for the public’s varied wants and needs. Variables include size (big enough for one person, two people, bigger group), climate (sun/shade, windy/calm), aesthetics (shape, style, material), functionality (static, movable/adjustable) and public exposure (along thoroughfare, tucked out of the way). Whyte offers a few dimensional and mathematical rules of thumb to assess sittability amongst seats. People tend to avoid seats shorter than one foot or taller than three. Double-sided seats should be a full “two backsides deep” to ensure both sides are simultaneously usable. There should be about one linear foot of sitting space per thirty square feet of plaza area. In addition to compiling the above quantifications, the space should be observed to ascertain exactly how the public actually uses its seats. Because each space is unique, generalized rules of thumb alone cannot fully predict particular sittability and associated interactivity – locally specific factors also hold a strong hand. In sum, assessing a place’s sittability involves, first, urbanistically characterizing and dimensionally inventorying available seats and, second, observing and documenting how people use the seats and how the seats facilitate social interactivity. Quantifiably, seat plenitude ensures everyone who wants to sit and socialize can; seat-type heterogeneity supports more diverse breeds of seated socialization.
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William Whyte, The Social Life of Small Public Spaces, 1980

SITTABILITY

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Ultimately, urban design is more about the dynamic activities occurring within the public realm that it is about the built quality of the space (buildings, physical amenities, etc.). “Inevitably,” writes Jan Gehl, “life between buildings is richer, more stimulating, and more rewarding than any combination of architectural ideas.” That is not to say architecture cannot contribute to the experiential, cultural, and social value of an urban environment – merely that quality urban life trumps quality urban infrastructure amongst a sensitive designer’s priorities. Of course, there is a relationship between good design and good urban life – in America, this is most commonly demonstrated negatively, such as when bad design engenders bad urbanism (by squandering the potential for good urban life). To ensure an urban space retains the capacity for quality urbanism, Gehl would have the designer take steps to avoid precluding it. His concept of “soft edges” involves providing certain architectural layers and complexities that enable certain types of activities, leading to a desirably active and rich urban environment and society. Specifically, he stresses designing to promote stationary activities that are more prolonged and entrench people deeper into the urban setting (in contrast to coming and going activities, which are more frequent but fleeting in duration). “Of course it is important that conditions for walking to and from buildings are good and comfortable, but for the scope and character of life between buildings, the conditions offered for long-lasting outdoor activities play the decisive role.” “Soft edges” are what really foster public-realm occupation and interaction. These are spaces that flank and/or permeate buildings where people can settle, work, eat, and otherwise sit and meld into the urban place. Ideally, Gehl writes, soft edges “link indoors and outdoors – functionally and psychologically.” He demonstrates this connection with dense, single-story, single-family housing examples (namely by a lucid sociological link between the shrouded innards of the house, the semi-public porch and yard, and the entirely public street) but contends the concept holds true across urban topologies: “everywhere people walk to and from city functions, or where the functions stay outdoors, the establishment of good connections between indoors and outdoors combined with good resting places in front of the buildings must be a matter of course.” Extant soft edges shall be documented and then evaluated according to their frequency (hard edge to soft edge ratio), depth (degree to which inside and outside connect/merge), vitality (observed activation), and flexibility (range of stationary activities and their relationship to adjacent/integrated coming-and-going activities).
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Jan Gehl, Life Between Buildings, 1980

SOFT EDGES

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From a designer’s standpoint, the urban environment’s physical and spatial elements might be discretely and singularly classifiable: each individual element has a sole purpose and a sole use. Observing things in reality over time, however, one quickly understands Margaret Crawford’s contention that most urban spaces exhibit “multiplicity of simultaneous public activities […] that are continually redefining both ‘public’ and ‘space’ through lived experience. Indeed, the true nature of a space is defined by the people that inhabit it and the activities they incite. Once the urban element leaves the drawing board and enters the public realm, its relationship to the people of that real realm constantly changes and contradicts. She nicely describes the phenomenon: “these spaces exist physically somewhere in the junctures between private, commercial, and domestic. Ambiguous and unstable, they blur our established understandings of these categories in often-paradoxical ways. They contain multiple and constantly shifting meanings rather than clarity of function. In the absence of a distinct identity of their own, these spaces can be shaped and redefined by the transitory activities they accommodate. Unrestricted by the dictates of built form, they become venues for the expression of new meanings through the individuals and groups who appropriate the spaces for their own purposes. Apparently empty of meaning, they acquire constantly changing meanings – social, aesthetic, political, economic – as users reorganize and reinterpret them.” Not only does use and activity change in a space overtime, the very meaning of the space shifts and multiplies as more people interpret it, inhabit it, and populate it according to their personal perceptions and understandings of themselves, their relationship to the space, and the space’s relationship to the rest of the city. Many of Crawford’s examples of multiplicity involve informal commerce, such as when street vendors and yard sale proprietors set up shop in spaces not designed for or anticipating such activity. Multiplicity can describe a far broader set of phenomena incited by actors as varied as skateboarders, homeless people, joggers, performers, protesters, animals, and so on seemingly ad infinitum. This study shall, through observation and speculation, subjectively interpret a given space’s potential for multiplicity. The evaluation will consider the following questions: how heterogeneous is the built environment? How well does or might it support activities it wasn’t specifically designed for? How heterogeneous is the user population? How drastically does the population compositionally shift throughout the day, week, or year? How public is the space (as opposed to controlled and/or private)? Is spontaneity or deviation from the norm (if there is a prescribed or officially programmed norm) encouraged, tolerated, or condemned? Ultimately, spaces that support multiplicity are likely socially healthier than spaces that inhibit.
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Margaret Crawford, Everyday Urbanism, 1999

MULTIPLICITY

PLACEHOLDER IMAGE

PLACEHOLDER IMAGE

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The literature review having digested the nine authors and translated their work into singular concepts, three case studies will now test the resultant metrics’ measurability and applicability to the design and evaluation of existing urban sites.

CASE STUDIES

The three sites are similar in many ways to maintain comparability but different in enough ways to ensure different results for each. All three are smaller than a block and immediately bordered on at least one side by building facades. Located within a few blocks of Peachtree Street, they are all centrally and importantly located with the potential heavy usage. The High Museum plaza is unique in that it does not directly front a street and its surrounding institutions largely determine its activity. Centergy Plaza exists at the mixeduse threshold between Georgia Tech and the rest of the city but does not itself contain any particularly important civic or cultural institutions or landmarks. Woodruff Park sits in the city’s physical and symbolic heart, surrounded by the region’s most significant skyscrapers and filled with representatives from its top and bottom socioeconomic classes.

INTEGRATION
Metric reach Directional reach

ORGANICNESS
Average age Age Range

SERIAL VISION
Qualitative Assessment

EYES ON THE STREET
Visibility

MEMORABILITY
Key feature

MAGIC
Qualitative Assessment

SITTABILITY
Area per seat # Seat types

SOFT EDGES
Depth

MULTIPLICITY
Qualitative Assessment

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Like the literature review, the case studies’ metrics are organized by scale (urban to personal) on the first order and objectivity (most to least) on the second.

At the urban scale, integration is quantified by space syntax GIS software (red lines indicate the most integrated streets and street segments, dark blue lines are the least). Measuring organicness involves mapping the sites’ neighboring buildings and coloring them according to their age (light grays indicate younger buildings, darker grays indicate older). Serial vision is represented by a series of views from a path mapped on the site plan. At the architectural scale, eyes on the street is quantified by space syntax Depthmap software (areas of red are visible from the most points on the plan, areas of blue are visible from the least [relatively]). Memorability involves representing the site’s most distinctive and place-orienting feature. Magic is represented by photo details supporting a subjective account.

At the personal scale, sittability is quantified by counting the seats and calculating how many square feet the site contains per seat provided. Soft edges involves roughly counting the occupiable layers between street or plaza and building interior (or wall face). Multiplicity involves reporting observed or speculated spontaneity and documenting the spatial features that enabled and/or accommodated it.

The following case studies demonstrate how these metrics might be measured and/or observed. This paper’s subsequent and final section considers how this work might inform policy.

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HIGH MUSEUM PIAZZA

Located within the northern half of the city’s midtown neighorhood, the site is well served by transit, a few blocks east of I-75/85, adjacent to Peachtree Street (the city’s flagship thorougfare), and surrounded by highrise office buildings and condos. Part of a recent addition to the Woodruff Arts complex, the plaza in front of the High Museum of Art’s newest annex sits in the middle of Atlanta’s premier cultural campus. In addition to the museum, the complex includes symphony hall, a theater, an art college, a bar, and an outdoor cafe. The plaza is most populated when new exhibits open at the museum, but people also pass through and congregate in conjunction with visits to the other adjacent institutions. Often dressed to advertise or celebrate current exhibitions, the plaza sometimes supports banners, sculptures, or performers in and about its bounds.

CASE STUDY 1

Metric reach = 33.8 Directional reach = 2.25

INTEGRATION

ORGANICNESS

Average age = 21 Age Range = 34

SERIAL VISION

Spatially dynamic

EYES ON THE STREET

Avg/max visibility = 75%

Public art installation(s)

MEMORABILITY

Transparency

MAGIC

Area per seat = 442 ft2 Seat types = 2

SITTABILITY

Average edge = 2 layers

SOFT EDGES

MULTIPLICITY

Scant

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INTEGRATION: The plaza resides in a dense urban district of high integration (relative to the rest of the city). The 1-mile metric reach of its bounding streets (left) is very high (33.8 miles) but, like much of the city, directional reach (right) is low (2.25). Note: this plaza is blocked from street view by museum buildings, potentially imparing actual integration values.

URBAN 1

ORGANICNESS: Though surrounded by a single institution (or family of institutions), the plaza enjoys moderate organicness by virtue of the institutions’ relatively longstanding history in this place. Over the years, buildings, often of architectural notoriety, have been added to the campus in an increasingly varied assembly of structures and styles. A. Symphony Hall, 1968 B. High Museum, 1983 C. High Addition, 2002 D. Table 1280, 2002

Average building age = 21 years Building age range = 34 years SERIAL VISION: Especially when entering via the narrow, ivy-lined stair corridor, this plaza’s serial experience is very spatially dynamic. The stair’s space is constricted but ends facing the glassy cafe and opens into the exposed plaza. From there, the space extends across grass, along the Meier wing’s blocky facade, and past diverse sculptures, terminating at Peachtree Street.

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EYES ON THE STREET: Though hardly visible from the street (especially because of intervening topography not captured by the map on the right), once inside the plaza itself, visibility levels are moderately high. With the exception of some corners and corridors, the plaza is geometrically quite rectilinear and without significant blind spots.

ARCHITECTURAL 1

MEMORABILITY: The architecture surrounding the plaza is monochromatic and formally subdued, giving memorable attention over to the artworks displayed on the grounds within. This Lichenstein house a permanent installation and probably most vividly characterizes the space. Occassionally the plaza contains other works that temporarily distinguish its experience.

Visibility range = 23 - 563 Average visibility = 425 Avg/Max = 75%

MAGIC: The plaza’s most poignant sense of magic comes from the new museum’s almost totally transparent first floor along the plaza’s west and north edges. The effect is masked by reflective glare from the plaza’s center, creating a feeling of containment. But approaching the facade reveals uncannily clear views across the museum floor and to the city beyond, juxtaposing art and skyline.

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SITTABILITY: All seats in the plaza are chairs around tables (4 chairs around each table). The cafe tables are set with silverware and roped off from the rest of the plaza - they are for restaurant patrons only. The plaza tables are grouped under trees but can be rearranged more freely. The plaza’s adjacent lawn provides the only other potential sitting option. 88 total seats 38,900 ft2 442 ft2/seat 2 seat types

PERSONAL 1

SOFT EDGES: If not for its generously glazed groundfloor walls and externally visible internal exhibits (plus the western view through the building to the city beyond), the plaza’s edges would be quite hard. The only other softening elements include seating areas, entry queues, and spare, covered walkways.

13 cafe tables 4 chairs/table 52 seats

9 plaza tables 4 chairs/table 36 seats

MULTIPLICITY: School groups appropriate an otherwise relatively unused lawn; the plaza often hosts temporary art installations and outdoor events; clearly visible from the plaza, activity in the museum lobby is only varies from normal docility when exhibits first open or during private events. Overall, the plaza does not foster much usage multiplicity.

Cafe seating Walkway Storefront 3 layers

Covered walkway Storefront 2 layers

Queue Entry 2 layers

Storefront 1 layer

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CENTERGY PLAZA

Located just across I-75/85 from Georgia Tech’s main campus in midtown Atlanta, Centergy plaza comprises a central position within the relatively new Tech Square redevelopment district. Surrounded by high-tech offices, restaurants, university functions, and other services, the area is heavily trafficked by a diverse population most days. Since the recent completion of the widened 5th Street bridge, Tech Square has become the university’s front door, with Centergy plaza providing the district’s largest open space apart from the fields on the bridge itself. The plaza’s 5th street frontage supports the most use and population diversity, with a Tech Trolley stop, a heavily used east-west sidewalk, and a number of restarants and cafes. The plaza’s north side is predominantly populated by office workers walking in and out of the office buildings. The future calls for more high-tech office development in the vacant lots just north of the site which would likely affect how the plaza functions.

CASE STUDY 2

Metric reach = 24.5 Directional reach = 44.5

INTEGRATION

ORGANICNESS

Average age = 6.8 Age Range = 2

SERIAL VISION

Visually dynamic

EYES ON THE STREET

Avg/max visibility = 89%

MEMORABILITY

“You are here” map

Extensive groves

MAGIC

Area per seat = 270 ft2 Seat types = 3

SITTABILITY

Average edge = 3.5 layers

SOFT EDGES

MULTIPLICITY

Controlled

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INTEGRATION: Located amidst midtown Atlanta’s street grid, Centergy plaza is very integrated into the urban fabric infrastructurally. While its 1-mile metric reach is high (44.5), its directional reach is exceptionally high relative to the rest of the city (an effect of the grid). If 5th Street did not dead end at West Peachtree Street two blocks to the east, this value would be even higher.

URBAN 2

ORGANICNESS: Built all at once, Tech Square is highly inorganic. The buildings around the plaza share the same style and materials, though there is some scalar variation. Because the plaza is entirely surrounded by structures of a common vintage, it is unlikely this place will accrue organicness (unless part of the block is replaced or drastically changed in the future.) A. Centergy Office Buildings, 2003 B. Global Learning Center, GT, 2003 C. GT School of Management, 2003 D. Midcity Lofts, 2002 Average building age = 6.8 years Building age range = 2 years

SERIAL VISION: Varied shading conditions promote a diverse visual palette as one passes from covered arcade to tree-lined bench rows to bright open plaza center. Moving to the northwest corner, a constricting view down a staircase toward the parking deck affords a narrow vista of Midtown towers and vacant lots - a sharp contrast to Tech Square’s mid-rise built-out persona.

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EYES ON THE STREET: Highly open to the street and geometrically uncomplicated, the plaza contains no blind spots except along the northern stairs leading down to the rear driveway. If a wider view-shed penetrated the office building along the plaza’s northern edge, the space would become much redder relative to nearby intersections and corridors (see area map at right).

ARCHITECTURAL 2

MEMORABILITY: A visually generic and uninspiring physical environment, the place must provide a map to position itself within the city - little memorarbly stands out here. Part of an arbitrarily detailed urban system, the map’s “you are here” marker orients the passerthrough in relation to a prescribed collection of civic and corporate landmarks in place of a personal set.

Visibility range = 147 - 477 Average visibility = 423 Avg/Max = 89%

MAGIC: Though not particularly powerful, the extensive tree plantings inspire a somewhat magical ambience, especially on a sunny day when the open plaza is oppressively exposed and vacant but the shady grove is pleasantly cool and well-populated. People seem unusually pleasant and happy in this generously shrouded condition.

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SITTABILITY: Benches line the plaza’s interior and a cafes and fastfood eateries line its front corners with tables and chairs. Overall, there is a good variety of seats, especially among the benches, which provide various shade conditions and are thus used heavily. Office workers mingle during cigarette breaks and students congregate while eating or waiting for the Trolley. 115 total seats 31,100 ft2 270 ft2/seat 3 seat types

PERSONAL 2

SOFT EDGES: The edges around Centergy Plaza are very thick and complex. The central plaza is rung with benches, landscaping, arcades, and storefronts. Bike parking and cafes also intersperse at places. At midday, the trees within the landscape layer generate a shade gradient from bright at plaza center to dark along the storefronts, emphasizing the edges’ deep softness.

1 picnic table 2 chairs/table 2 seats

11 benches 3 seats/bench 33 seats

20 cafe tables 4 chairs/table 80 seats

MULTIPLICITY: The wine bar hosts live jazz outdoors occassionally, along with periodic events of other sorts; landscaping also educates the passerby and improves the owning corporation’s image; a multi-modal, mixed-use tableau ensures activity variety. While the plaza often bustles with diverse activities and uses, they are very controlled and rarely sponteneous.

Covered walkway Lobby entrance 2 layers

Benches Landscape Arcade Storefront 4 layers

Benches Landscape Cafe Storefront 4 layers

Storefront Arcade Bike parking Landscape 4 layers

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WOODRUFF PARK

Located in the heart of downtown Atlanta, this northern portion of Woodruff Park is surrounded by some of the city’s most important corporate offices and historic architecture. This particular stretch of Peachtree Street is one of the corridor’s most active and dynamic, including major hotels, tourist venues, and countless eateries (many mainly open only for lunch). Centered just south of the site, the growing Georgia State University adds increasing student volumes to an area characterized by white collar workers, tourists, street vendors, and the homeless. During the day, the park is full of lunching office workers, resting pedestrians, and congregating homeless people. At night the park is all but empty, save a wandering tourist, passing police officer, or sleeping homeless person. A long waterfall wall flanks the park’s east side and a shady grid of trees and benches fills most of its north half. The space is auditorily characterized by the mix of traffic noise with the waterfall’s steady roar.

CASE STUDY 3

Metric reach = 57.5 Directional reach = 19.3

INTEGRATION

ORGANICNESS

Average age = 56 Age Range = 105

Varied views against constant feature

SERIAL VISION

EYES ON THE STREET

Avg/max visibility = 98%

MEMORABILITY

Vast waterfall wall

Cooling water’s roar

MAGIC

Area per seat = 202 ft2 Seat types = 1

SITTABILITY

Average edge = 2.5 layers

SOFT EDGES

MULTIPLICITY

Liberal

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INTEGRATION: Centrally located within the city’s most integrated district, Woodruff Park achieves a very high 1-mile metric reach value (57.5). Its directional reach (19.3) probably registers lower than it should: the westerly blocks’ apparent angularity on these maps suggests the GIS data used for the analysis was inaccurate (blocks are much more square in reality).

URBAN 3

ORGANICNESS: Located at the city’s center, the plaza is surrounded by some of the region’s most significant urban edifaces, from the 19th century Flatiron Building to the modernist Equitable Building to contemporary Georgia State additions. This might be one of Atlanta’s most architecturally rich and organic environments. A. Candler Building, 1906 B. Georgia-Pacific Plaza, 1983 C. Suntrust Bank Building, 1971 D. Flatiron Building, 1897 E. Aderhold Learning Center, GSU, 2002 F. Equitable Building, 1968 Average building age = 55.5 years Building age range = 105 years

SERIAL VISION: Set in the city’s heart, every view from this section of Woodruff Park includes a different part of Atlanta’s diverse skyline. Each vista, however, cannot avoid including the plaza’s primary feature, a long waterfall wall. Starting from the southeast corner, move along the water’s edge in the open sun until the shady gridded grove where diverse people rest.

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EYES ON THE STREET: Geometrically simple, almost totally flat, and without tall visual obstructions, the plaza can be completely observed from almost every vantage except around its northern and southern corners. The tree grove might be the only section potentially containing blind spots.

ARCHITECTURAL 3

MEMORABILITY: Easily the plaza’s defining feature, the long waterfall along the back edge frames and characterizes the entire space. The sparkling, roaring wall foregrounds the city’s impressive skyline, provides a unique backdrop to passing figures, and creates a memorable atmosphere in which to pause and socialize.

Visibility range = 78 - 393 Average visibility = 386 Avg/Max = 98%

MAGIC: Dominated by the waterfall’s roar, the plaza is both isolating and democratizing in magical simultaneity. Because of its wide openness, one can always see almost everyone occupying the plaza but can never hear anyone unless very near them. Thus, a diverse population can “silently” share the same, cool space in peace and relaxation.

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SITTABILITY: The only seat type in this section of Woodruff Park is the well-dimensioned linear bench system that runs along the waterfall and amongst the trees. Wide enough to sit, eat, or sleep on, the seating accommodates enough different sorts of activities to transcend its formal homogeneity. 125 total seats 25,300 ft2 202 ft2/seat 1 seat type

PERSONAL 3

SOFT EDGES: The plaza’s edges are characterized by water on one side, landscaping flanked by sidewalk on the other, and a continuous bench/ledge all around. Located at a key intersection downtown, the entire plaza could be considered a large-scale urban edge, layered as follows: street, sidewalk, landscaping, benches, trees, open, benches, water.

Uniform benches along pool and amongst trees ~125 seats

MULTIPLICITY: The water’s edge accomodates small scale meetings and snacks; the southern expanse hosts civic gatherings, including the monthly Critical Mass bike ride starting line; and the heavily shaded, well-benched interior accommodates congenial homeless congregations. Centrally located and accommodatingly designed, this plaza enables much multiplicity.

Tree line Bench Pool 3 layers

Sidewalk Bench Landscaping 3 layers

Sidewalk Bench Landscaping 3 layers

Pool 1 layer

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The three preceding case studies demonstrate how the literature review’s metrics apply and result in real places. By connecting perceived social and experiential phenomena with the physical space that produces, enables, inhibits, or otherwise accommodates it, the urban designer learns in transferrable detail how design decisions affect the life of a space.

CASE STUDY SUMMARY

One word of caution: though similarly studied, these sites are not necessarily directly comparable nor should one be deemed better than another simply because it scored more favorably according to a particular metric. The case studies are meant to help elucidate the sites on their own terms, not in relation to each other. Furthermore, the same score for a metric might prove favorable for one site but not for another. Each metric’s measurement depends on so many variously contingent factors that a comparison based on these metrics alone – especially a judgmental comparison – would hardly be tenable.

Instead, the metrics should be used to clarify current conditions or gauge the effects of potential changes to the current given condition. A designer could run the analysis, make (or propose) a change, and then re-run the analysis to see how the change affects the social and experiential nature of the site. This utilization method informs the study’s potential policy implications as outlined in the following pages.

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This study has potentially powerful policy implications: if the mapping and analysis process demonstrated by these three case studies was required of all designers and developers at the outset of their project’s planning phase, it is likely their projects would consequentially incur more favorable social and experiential characteristics. The Environmental Impact Statement process mandated by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) operates in this way: by forcing designers to engage with certain issues at the design’s first phase ensures the final design will satisfactorily respond to the issues after implementation. The urban design field needs a similar regulatory evaluation system to ensure designers adequately accommodate the city’s social and experiential needs and wants – call it an Experiential Impact Statement. If, at the beginning of a development project (or maybe, more aptly, at the beginning of a redevelopment project), a designer was required to consider and document the metrics described here (and more), s/he would more than likely incorporate what that process illuminated about the site’s social and experiential conditions and potentials into subsequent design phases and into the final, built product. CURRENT BUILDING REGULATION AGENCIES AND PROCESSES At a project’s planning outset, the EPA requires that the lead development party prepare an Environmental Impact Statement. Preparing this document requires the developers to outline the project’s environmental consequences and confront these realities well before the project is built or even very extensively planned (to move forward with the planning process, a project’s early-stage Environmental Impact Statement must be meticulously assembled, publicly vetted, and federally approved). Having outlined and evaluated their project’s environmental impact early in the design process, the developer becomes compelled to adjust their later design concepts to avoid potential negative impacts uncovered by the Environmental Impact Statement process. Had the developers been spared this process, environmental consequences might never have crossed their minds and the project might have ended up an ecological blight. Other regulating agencies also require such preliminary project studies to ensure their particular concerns are accommodated before construction begins. Engineering bodies regulate structural and topographical issues to ensure the building sits in the ground and stands up properly; fire departments verify plans on the drawing boards support fire safety; ADA requirements govern accessibility; banks confirm financing solvency; and so on.
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POLICY IMPLICATIONS

But who regulates urban design? More specifically, who regulates the social experience of urban design projects? CURRENT URBAN DESIGN REGULATION AGENCIES AND PROCESSES Zoning controls land uses, setbacks, buildable area, and other general development aspects, but while zoning is one of the first limiters checked during the early design phase, conforming to zoning does not require engaging with the project’s potential experiential or social impact.

Form based codes and other building codes more formal than basic zoning laws come closer to governing a project’s experience and influencing its design accordingly at early concept development stages, but again, all the designer must do is follow the code to comply – s/he is never compelled to actively engage with the project’s impact on the social and experiential phenomena, even if the code was written to protect or promote a certain experience or social agenda. Design review boards are highly project-specific and contextual in their evaluation. They consider whether a proposal conforms to their vision of the place it is slated to inhabit and, in their deliberations, they likely consider the project’s possible social and experiential consequences in addition to its physical and formal impact. But, again, their ruling only indirectly influences the project’s actual design process – they are not on the team that conceives the project in the first place so their often highly valid and applicably informed concerns are therefore not embedded in the project’s design.

There doesn’t seem to be an agency or process that ensures urban designers are taking social and experiential issues into account during their project’s initial design phases – the most critical time to influence a development process. Perhaps it is time for an Environmental Impact Statement of sorts tailored to address these urban design concerns. EXPERIENTIAL IMPACT STATEMENT Just as developers of large enough projects are required by the EPA to complete an Environmental Impact Statement early in the design process, urban designers could be required to complete an Experiential Impact Statement at or near the beginning of their schematic design stage. The procedure would involve mapping and analyzing the project’s site and its surroundings with various quantitative and qualitative methods to ensure the designers are cognizant of the myriad social and experiential consequences of their work. The resultant document would resemble something like an extended version
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of one of this paper’s case studies and would help guide the designers as they develop their project, ensuring they keep social and experiential issues at their attentions’ fore.

The Experiential Impact Statement could be mandated by the city, solicited by a request for proposal, and/or demanded by a client. However ultimately implemented, the document and its production process is not intended to strictly regulate urban design outcomes – instead it simply needs to be part of the design and development process to ensure the issues it exposes are addressed by designers, recognized by clients and even, in some cases, presented to the general public. More educational tool than regulating device, the Experiential Impact statement process could positively influence urban design projects’ social and experiential qualities in the following ways: INTEGRATION

One of the more straightforward metrics, the designers of a project subject to the Experiential Impact Statement would run the GIS analysis on their site and its environs as demonstrated by this paper’s case studies. This process would help them understand where their site resides within the city’s network of integrated and not-so-integrated mobility channels. They would learn sociospatial importance of the streets binding their site and the streets connecting their site to the rest of the city. Perhaps this knowledge would inform their building’s footprint or orientation. It might also inform how they perforate their site with public open space and passages – they could knowingly capitalize on potentially important routes alongside and/or through their project (or at least avoid disrupting them). With an idea how their project’s vicinity has developed over time, designers would become equipped to engage their surrounding historical context. Having researched the origins and histories of neighboring sites and structures, they might feel more compelled to engage that built heritage (whereas they might have otherwise ignored it). They might see their project as another piece of the longstanding urban puzzle instead of a discrete investment manifestation in a vacuum. This would contribute to the overall urban experience by encouraging symbolic relationships between structures old and new about the city.
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ORGANICNESS

Instead of generating a single money-shot perspective to promote their projects, designers would have to represent their sites and proposals with series of images that emphasize the dynamic experience incurred by passing through and/or past it. Whereas the money-shot represents a single moment from a single vantage that isn’t always honestly portrayed, the image series more faithfully expresses the multi-angled reality of a space as seen moving through space and time. This helps the designer consider the users’ extended experience of the project (rather than just a single view at a single moment) and it helps stakeholders realize more precisely what effect the project will have on its part of their city. Required to run the Depth Map isovist analysis on their sites and proposals as demonstrated in this paper’s case studies, designers may quickly quantify and visualize the visual range from all points and ascertain where people might or might not feel exposed or secluded, safe or vulnerable. This tool makes it easy to see exactly where troublesome corners might exist and it helps the city specifically recommend where design adjustments should be made. On one hand, if, while preliminarily surveying and scouting their site, designers were required to acknowledge and document the particularly memorable and distinctive aspects in and surrounding it, they might be more inclined to preserve existing points of heritage. On the other hand, if asked to report exactly how they plan to memorably mark their project before too many plans are drawn, stakeholders and citizens can more directly vet their attention-grabbing strategy to be sure it contributes to the city’s overall system of landmarks and icons. Perhaps the designer would even be asked to place their site and their proposal within that system to prove it participates appropriately in the monumental dialogue. A difficult metric to measure, perhaps the designers would simply be asked
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SERIAL VISION

EYES ON THE STREET

MEMORABILITY

MAGIC

to reflect in a statement about the potential for magic around the site and comment on how they might work to enhance (or at least not detract from) it. It is unreasonable to require every building to create magic (or memorability for that matter), but the designers should at least be made aware of its presence and/or possibility. Another very straightforward and practical device, seating studies would ensure designers are providing adequate sitting conditions for the people inhabiting the space. By comparing the number of users (or expected users) to the space’s area, designers can pragmatically ensure they are including enough seats to fill demand. Providing a planned seating schedule would help ensure the space will include an adequate variety of seat types (benches, chairs, tables, ledges, etc.) in enough environmental conditions (shade, sun, water, loud, quiet, etc.) to satisfy typical, heterogeneous demand. If asked to explain their approach to and/or understanding of the site’s building edges, designers will be forced to engage the visual and physical boundaries of their structures. By providing schematic sections documenting the layers they intend to introduce early in the design process, the authorities can confirm that the project will be sufficiently porous and epidermally activated given surrounding conditions and precedent. While this metric might not be directly measurable, it helpfully encourages the designers to consider all hours of the day, week, and year as they imagine how their project will be occupied. Perhaps the designers would be required to execute a documentary study of the site and its environs during the early design phases to observe and report the complete variety of activity the area contains and supports around the clock. Recognizing or at least acknowledging the potential for spontaneity and dynamism might help expand the designers’ imagination about what all their project might be able to accommodate. ANALYITICAL GESTALT OR CATCH 22 In a perfect world, designers subject to the above gauntlet would, in turn, produce projects that embody the best of what each metric seeks to ascertain. MULTIPLICITY SOFT EDGES SITTABILITY

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Realistically, however, after running the analytical gamut, it might become clear that few sites and/or designers can positively deliver on all fronts. Perhaps, in a particular case, excelling according to one metric directly entails floundering according to another. For example, certain labyrinthine site conditions might promote “serial vision” but inhibit “eyes on the street”. It is not this study’s purpose to make sure all sites pass all tests. Instead, the study and its metrics simply hope to expand the ways and means by which designers analyze their site and anticipate their proposals’ effects. REDEVELOPMENT VERSUS NEW DEVELOPMENT The spectrum of urban design project types runs from minimal redevelopment within mature urban fabric (such as revising a downtown plaza) to entirely new developments separate from existing urban structure (such as a new city or district built from scratch). In the former case, this study should be used to evaluate preexisting social and experiential conditions and then measure how proposed redevelopments will influence and interact with what surrounds and came before them. In the latter case, this study should be used to expand the design imagination and help ensure the new project fosters social and experiential richness. HOW TO USE, DEVELOP, AND ADVANCE THIS STUDY

This study should be used as a model to inform a more sophisticated and comprehensive process of urban design analysis and evaluation. There are always more authors’ perspectives to include and more ways to measure and/or document the expandable set of quantitative and qualitative metrics. Recommended next steps include further vetting the study by applying it to more places elsewhere in the world and expanding it into a policy initiative intent on positively influencing urban design development and enriching the public evaluation process of urban project proposals (akin to the Experiential Impact Statement concept introduced above).

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Alexander, Christopher. A New Theory of Urban Design. New York: Oxford University Press, 1987.

Crawford, Margaret. Everyday Urbanism. New York: Monacelli Press, 1999. Cullen, Gordon. The Concise Townscape. New York: Van Nostrand Reinhold Co., 1971. Hillier, Bill, and Julienne Hanson. The Social Logic of Space. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1984. Jacobs, Allan. Great Streets. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1993. Gehl, Jan. Life Between Buildings. Denmark: Bianco Lunos Bogtrykkeri, 1980.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Lynch, Kevin. The Image of the City. Cambridge, MA: Technology Press, 1960. Whyte, William. The Social Life of Small Public Spaces. Washington DC: Conservation Foundation, 1980.

Jacobs, Jane. The Death and Life of Great American Cities. New York: Random House, 1961.

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All images on pages 9-25 scanned from associated texts except the following: Page 9 Top and bottom: courtesy of Dr. John Peponis, Georgia Tech

IMAGE CREDITS

Page 15 Top: http://www.flickr.com/photos/christianmontone/3843460642/ Bottom: http://www.peripheralfocus.net/images/Eindhoven_Syntax_Map.jpg Page 17: Top: http://www.flickr.com/photos/8511649@N03/3084877212/ All other images produced by the author.

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