Public space is one of the most important things that shapes city’s identity. Its variety, quality, and safety are indicators that make or break the reputation of a place. If the public space is comfortable and full of opportunities, people will be glad to spend their time there. However, if the public space seems unsafe or lacks leisure facilities, people will rather stay at homes or spend their time somewhere else.
Public space directly influences the cohesion in the local community and the society at large. Since the old days, people have the habit of gathering at the marketplace to share news and spend time with their associates. Social cohesion can also be linked to the overall safety of the urban space – the more people there are in the public space and on the streets, the safer it is. And vice versa, the more safe the streets are, the more people will use the public space for spending quality time there.
Factors that influence using public space for spending quality time:
- the existence and variety of squares, rest areas, and green spaces meant for public use
- the overall safety of the public space
- the existence of pavements and tracks for pedestrians and cyclists
- the functionality of the urban furniture
- diverse opportunities for leisure and sports
What kind of opportunities should public space offer to the citizens?
More opportunities to spend time together
The public space must create diverse premises for social interaction, including spending time together and socialising with friends. Park benches in the green areas by the streets or in the parks are traditional solutions, but various active leisure attractions are also ideal for this purpose, which also appeal to the younger generation.
Apparently, we often see young people just sitting around in the malls or hanging in supermarket parking lots, because they can´t find nothing else to do in the public space. There is definitely a lot urban planners and residential developers can do, to change the habits of the youth. For example, they can create opportunities to play different ball games or install weatherproof tables for chess, table tennis, or futtoc around calm traffic areas and parks to provide the young people alternative ways to spend their free time.
The urban communities where such opportunities are provided attract a large number of people and offer value to the residential environment as a whole. The ball courts are crowded in the evenings and you can see both parents and their children as well as young people on their own playing table tennis or futtoc. A compact chess table with benches offers a great way to spend time together with the whole family or a group around the table. Also, in addition to playing chess, you can simply relax there or discuss the news of the day.
Common practice shows that people will gladly come out of their homes and use the attractions and facilities built in the public space if they can do something fun or useful with their friends and loved ones. Many previously dark and bleak corners of streets or parks have started a new life this way, bringing together people of all ages and never suffering from a lack of visitors.
Attractive playgrounds for families with toddlers
Families with toddlers expect from the public space first and foremost various outdoor activity opportunities for the children. They are willing to drive across the city for good attractions and often enough, they choose their home based on this, because young children need outdoor play areas and a safe environment where to grow up.
This is a great opportunity for real estate developers who are primarily responsible for creating new residential environments. Adding playgrounds and attractions for children near apartment buildings from the get-go adds value to the real estate and is attractive to families with children.
There are plenty of variations a public space can offer to families with small children. For a smaller apartment association, installing a swing and a slide in the courtyard is enough. A slightly larger playground suits for parks and residential areas, offering activities for children of all ages, including climbing, sliding, and practicing balance. Popular city playgrounds should be entirely fenced play attraction areas where children could play safely. Such playgrounds should have both flat attractions for the younger children and sets with a climbing wall for the older ones. Playgrounds with rope bridges bring a lot of excitement to children, as they really put their skills to test. Tunnel sets, where the child has to climb through a tunnel to get to the slide, are also exciting.
In the case of playgrounds, special attention must be paid to quality materials and safety. Materials used have to be safe and need to require as little maintenance as possible; they should not have sharp corners and the wood that has been used should not splinter. Playgrounds must also have benches so that the parents could rest while their children are playing and litter bins to keep the playground clean.
Training equipment for athletes and health enthusiasts
Although urban space is man-made and can never be the same as wild nature, it should still provide opportunities for people to practice a healthy lifestyle. One aspect of this is the establishment of the cycle and pedestrian tracks network, mainly used by runners, skaters, and cyclists. Fitness courts are also increasingly popular. They can be installed near fitness centres with a lot of athlete traffic, or near a local area or to a park where people just passing by can also stretch their muscles and work out a little. In the urban settings, all types of stretching machines as well as equipment for abdominal and leg training have proved popular. Fitness courts are often visited with friends or with the whole family. In these cases it is very useful, when health equipment can be used by multiple people, such as the element that relaxes and works out the back muscles, where three people can train at a time. Outdoor gym machines and healthy elements have become good enough these days to successfully compete with indoor exercise equipment. Climber and Eliptic can substitute the elliptical indoor training machine, the rowing element does the job of the ergometer, and the special outdoor bicycle element is as good as an exercise bike. As a bonus, public fitness courts also promote health of those people, who do not work out or attend the gym regularly – thus benefitting the wider population as a whole.
Generally, it is good to see that our architects are inspired by Scandinavia and other developed countries and are increasingly and consciously designing public space with quality leisure activities in mind. While a few decades ago, choices in our public space were sparse, we can already see great developments here – central squares are being renovated, lots of new parks and promenades being built, playgrounds and practical urban furniture being installed, etc. More and more thought is given to promoting spending time in the public space. For this purpose, functional islands and oases are built in residential areas and in the cities themselves to bring people together and provide pleasant leisure activities to both the old and the young ones.
The gathering places in the public space create vitality around us, which is extremely necessary for the city to function as a living organism, not just a set of concrete buildings. If urban space is convenient, the people will gladly spend time in here, which in turn unifies communities and helps to prevent crime. All of this is an important part of the city’s identity – how we perceive the environment, whether we want to live here, and whether we recommend it to others to visit.
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