How can we ensure that public spaces become treasured community places? Start with these basic tenets, be willing to entertain other opinions, and let the process take it from there!
The community is right
If the people who will use the space don’t agree with its use or design, it’s a good bet the space won’t become a destination. When talking to the community, it’s also a good opportunity to look for stand outs who can lead or serve committees to help execute the plan.
This is not a design, this is a place
A design is an idea, rendered on paper. The idea must be executed into a three-dimensional living space. Be sure to listen to what people want to think, be, and do while they are at the space. This may mean shifting the design to accommodate the most beloved ideas.
Shift the NIMBYs
There will always be those that say no, not in my backyard, or this is impossible. These ideas are generally rooted in a fear of the unknown. Dig deeper to discover what the fears and concerns are, and address them.
There are amazing cultures waiting to be shared if a place invites those cultures in. I often think of RV Burgess Park in Toronto, where the park’s willingness to install a Tandoor oven reinvigorated a neglected park and dissolved barriers between the many cultures living near the park.
Revisit the vision
A great public space is never done. Be sure to periodically elicit feedback from users after the space is open to discover what is working, what is missing, and be willing to evolve the space to keep interest and engagement high.
Co-locate for highest use
Consider how to locate amenities that would be used together to increase usage. A splash pad near a restroom so children and families can change out of wet clothes; a trash receptacle, grill, and picnic benches near a shelter to encourage family cookouts; or benches and surface embedded “dance steps” near outdoor music parks to encourage many ways to engage are just a few examples of co-location.
Embrace the art of rest
Even at active destinations, people will want/need to sit. Giving consideration to sitting, resting, and relaxing can maximize the popularity of a place and broaden its appeal. Bleachers, especially the kind that tip and roll, can be moved around to accommodate different events, and can even help inform where more permanent bleachers might make sense!