Experiential public spaces to succeed require a variety of different activities throughout the day. Bike-able and walk-able activities within the space should be a priority. Neighborhood coffee shops, restaurants and retail shops can provide a catalyst for walkable traffic. Bistro seating and curbside parklets with tables, chairs and planters will enhance the streetscape experience and expand the seating capacity of any eating or drinking establishment.
One word about parklets. Many communities are spending large sums of money for custom designed and engineered parkets. Parklets have become popular enough that many companies are now offering prefabricated parklet kits. These prefabricated parkets kits contain pedestal supports for the deck surfaces, corner post, planters screens; rectangular planters, horizontal stainless aircraft cable or decorative laser cut fence panels. These parklet cost substantially less than the custom versions and are designed to be seasonally assembled and disassembled for snow removal during the winter.
Create pedestrian and bike-able destinations with streetscape parklets. Add umbrellas to the parklets and combine multiple stall bike corrals or bike racks, decorative planters and safety bollards to the space near and around the parklet to build public vibrant gathering places with public amenities. multiple stall bike racks will encourage bike riding to the destination and reduce the stress on local parking.
Bike shelters are still relatively rare in mixed use or streetscape environments largely because they don’t match local architectural styles. However contemporary bike structures entering the market are challenging the old bike shelter norms. High density two level bike parking or offset bike parking systems combined with bike shelters can provide massive amounts of bike parking in a small foot print. Bike shelters can remove the visual clutter associated large unruly randomly parked bikes
The experiential public also demands shade in the form of natural trees, shelters, windscreens or umbrellas. Shade is often overlooked in public spaces but places without shade usually don’t contain many people. Umbrellas perfectly suited to public spaces are the large cantilever or side-post surface mounted umbrellas. Large rotating or pivoting umbrellas can provide a large amount of shade throughout the day since the shade canopy can be rotated to maximize the amount of shade relative to the location of the sun. The large umbrellas that are available with surface mounted or embedded installation options are preferable since they won’t blow away and they eliminate the small table inserted umbrellas that impact direct visual contact with everyone at the table.
Do you have additional ideas that should be incorporated into experiential public spaces. If so, we’d like to hear from you.
Imaginative Play Elements for Kids
Old shopping centers, empty big box building and other adaptive reuse projects are being re-purposed as mixed use projects. The public spaces like these newly repurposed buildings could also gain a new focus as well. In the past, the public commons would have become passive space with benches for waiting, flower pots to add a mix of color and a couple of new trash cans to keep the space litter free. In today’s experience happy environment, our expectations about public spaces are changing. What does that look like from a walkable and experience oriented view point. Here are some thoughts to run through your mind.
Mobile device are now an important part of our daily lives and as a result, we can work from almost anywhere. So it seems logical that one should be able to charge their mobile phones, pda’s and computers in public spaces. Solar charging stations are an economical way to provide that type of connectivity.
These renovated public spaces will still need to have benches and other places to sit. But the seating should be more flexible and casual than the typical street bench found in most public spaces. A mix of seat wall benches for people watching, folding chairs for easy reconfiguration and relaxed Adirondack chairs and sunloungers for stress reduction could definitely increase lingering time.
In the experience environment, entertainment is paramount. So interactive games and experiences should be incorporated into the remodeled public space. Portable stage areas for entertainment, giant board game sets (checkers and chess) table tennis and foosball tables would be one angle to take. Stationary musical instruments are an inviting engagement tool for a diverse range of ages, musical skills and available time. Large scale interactive electronic games could be an additional option in the right environment.
In re-purposed public spaces, previously hidden bike racks belong at the nexus of all entry and exit points. Up-scaled bike parking locations with artistic bike racks will add a new dimension and an inviting element to cyclist using bikes as a standard form of transportation. A bike repair station and an air pump could also bring additional goodwill.
An experiential public space is a magnet for activities and engagement. Stay tuned for part 2.
Photo courtesy of NCHNAPD
The National Center on Health, Physical Activity and Disability (NCHPAD) has begun a new campaign which seeks to rebrand the word “pedestrian” to “people walking.” The new campaign also seeks to use the term “walking” to be an inclusive term for all kinds of human powered mobility involving people of all abilities.
The new campaign makes perfect sense given that “pedestrian” in it’s original meaning alluded to drab or dull or plain. Traveling by foot or walking these days are anything but pedestrian. In a complete street environment, there are wide sidewalks, street furniture, cycle tracks, parklets and shade trees to create pleasant walking experiences.
As cities and development teams move towards more housing density with mixed use projects and walkable destinations, the walking experience should be further enhanced with outdoor fitness trails, community gathering spaces and more nature. We’ve already seen an explosion of bike sharing programs, bike parking and cycle tracks because of renewed interest in mobility and health.
With neighborhoods becoming attached to bus and rail connections and retail district filled with sidewalk café’s and parklets, walking has become a lot more fashionable. And a lot healthier for everyone and anyone regardless of age and ability interested in physical activity.
This new campaign also seeks to redefine walking since movement may be propelled by any combination of arms, legs, feet and hands along with other support devices like canes, sticks, walkers, and skateboards.
Moving forward, we should experience more people walking since walking is good for us in so many ways.
Interlude Passenger Shelter
Join public transportation officials, transit operators, public space and mixed use development companies at the TOD Institute conference scheduled for September 27 -29 in Washington DC. Be sure to stop by the Streetscapes Inc display space to talk with us about bus and transit shelter, public seating, streetcape furniture and amenities for all types of public spaces.
A friend and I are in the process of outlining a presentation for an association meeting in September. Our target audience contains city manager, main street executive directors, economic development managers; chamber event planners and business improvement districts. We’ve both attended conferences where speakers told us what we should be doing, but few offered details on how to do what they were telling us we should be doing. So we’d like to take a different approach and offer a hands-on presentation where attendee bring specific public space activation challenges that need resolution.
We know that fundraising or lack of budget is always an issue, but there are better people qualified to discuss those issues. We’d like to focus on the streetscape and public spaces – How to improve their appearance. How to populate public spaces with people. How to activate public spaces during different periods during the day. How to create public spaces that are multi-generational. How to generate enthusiasm and support for capital programs to improve public spaces and how to create public spaces that are unique and different than the neighboring communities.
We have some ideas on how we might structure such a presentation but we’re interested in other ideas and opinions. What are some of the challenges you’re facing regarding streetscapes and public spaces that could use attention. Send us your comments on the issue and provide a photo or video of the space in question. Also tell us what you’d like as an end result.
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