Preliminary study, guidelines, design criteria and urban equipments: these are the elements of a public space design project analyzed with a practical example and technical descriptions
The term “public space design” primarily refers to the study and planning of urban public areas through elements used for shaping the physical features of cities and the way public places are experienced and used.
Public or green spaces design is subject to study and research by designers, who frequently have to face the need for interventions requested by both public administrations and citizens. Long-term choices are, therefore, critical for sustainable neighbourhoods and are necessary to respond to a specific project idea and city image in terms of buildings and urban design.
In this guide we will explore the concept of public space design and analyse requirements and typical elements that identify the individual phases of design.
Finally, we will illustrate a public space project implemented in a real context that will be available for download together with DWG resources and the project 3D model in EDF format.
Public space design, characteristis and elements
Urban design projects aim to address aspects relating to:
- the design of public green areas
- urban lighting
- road signs
- all the other elements of urban planning.
In addition to aesthetics, space planning and organization are equally important project aspects, for example through the creation of pedestrian paths, rest or non-transit areas, along with road signs giving orders or indications. Moreover, installation of outdoor planters for squares, streets and paved areas as alternative to flower beds and, finally, positioning street lighting to ensure safety and security in urban areas at night, also need to be considered for proper design.
All these aspects determine the use of urban spaces by citizens and shape the image of the city.
Let’s see in detail the different elements that characterize public space design and their functions.
Road signs showing street names are fundamental to contextualise the environment, to give indications and to facilitate the work of emergency personnel and postmen.
Until a few decades ago, telephone booths were very common in public areas, while today bicycle rack installations are spreading. Even benches are common elements in public areas, being a social resource and allowing people to take a break or to relax.
Lamp posts are typically positioned at the edges of streets but also on sidewalks or on some buildings’ facades.
In a public space project, usually involving interventions on squares, such as cycle and pedestrian paths, parks, equipped green areas, etc., the main elements are represented by waste containers and playgrounds, fixed and retractable bollards, pedestrian barriers and benches.
Recently, we have seen also a significant rise of “Advertising installations” in various forms, such as those integrated into bus shelters, billboards or those supported by posts. These panels stand out for their considerable size and for the fact that they are often lighted both day and night.
Urban design guidelines
Many architects and designers are now engaging into this specific branch of design and according to recent trends they are specially focusing their attention on the relationship between people and the surrounding environment.
The intervention must always be contextualised to the physical, cultural and social environment in which they are carried out.
Urban design project phases
Urban equipment for public spaces outline and personalize our cities: design elements or purely functional furnishings are essential and without them the public space would be poorer, bare and less livable.
The project phases to follow are different: the designer, after inspection with a site survey, analyzes the issues relating to the area and suggests improvements that can be made according to the problems detected.
- inspection and site survey
- problems analysis and priorities
- design development
First of all, it is fundamental to guarantee general accessibility and, consequently, the elimination of architectural barriers.
Safety should also be ensured through:
- road signs
- adequate public lighting
- transit bollards for pedestrian areas
- barriers delimiting specific areas
- graphic communication.
Waste and recycling bins are necessary to guarantee clean areas.
Additional elements can be:
- outddor display signs
- outdoor notice boards
that can be provided both for delimiting perimeters of different areas and for integrating advertising messages and / or information for citizens.
Finally, public spaces should represent an adaquate area where people could meet up and spend their free time. They should be equipped with:
- benches or seats in general, protected by trees shade or other outdoor structures
- playgrounds for children, with green areas regularly maintained.
Public space design: tradition or innovation?
There is a heated debate going on among specialists with regard to the divergence between tradition and innovation. Cities that have a “historic center” are characterized by a historical and cultural stratification that determines a strong urban identity.
Interventions in such contexts are complex and generally follow two lines:
- proposing specifically designed furniture with certain models and types of old materials. Typical examples are antique lampposts and cast-iron benches
- proposing modern design and materials such as steel, plastic and cement and leaving the freedom to be creative to the designer and mix old and new.
The intervention must, in ay case, be contextualised to the physical, cultural and social environment where it must be implemented.
A third way can also be addressed: designing something new while keeping elements of continuity from the past in terms of materials, colours, etc. so to safeguard even the possibility for certain architecture and design movement continuity.
Public space design: 3D blocks ready for download
To complete a public space project with outstanding furnishing elements, you can download archive blocks, such as trees, signs, benches, lampposts, etc., from the numerous catalogues and BIM object libraries available.
Here is an example.
A public area project: the square
The project approach derives from the study of the urban context where it is inserted.
All roads, visual alignments with surrounding landmarks have been traced (monuments, relevant buildings, architectural references, etc.), in order to identify the accesses to the site, the prospects to be privileged and the areas layout to equip. The goal is to create a connection between the new project space and the stratified city space. Furnishing an urban space, therefore, necessarily involves the in-depth study of the place, its history, its character and the way it is perceived by users.
The project geometries must be consistent with the preliminary analyses carried out.
The idea pursued was to create a space that invites people to stop and socialize. Therefore, it was created an equipped space for children’s entertainment, a space with seats between flowerbeds and trees that favour shading and pools of water that provide some cooling.
Particular attention was dedicated to the lighting design. In fact, together with the classical street lamps, a pavement with led strips was added to the project creating a scenic night lighting.
The study of the materials to be used represents another relevant project aspect. The aim was to to create continuity with the surrounding environment, therefore, local materials have been selected and adapted to the climatic conditions of the place, thus ensuring good durability over time and that would comply with the certifications required by national standards.
Finally, we have completed the square design with a coordinated series of urban furnishing: benches, various types of seat, lampposts, waste bins, signs with informative signs, racks for bicycles and bollards to delimit the pedestrian area from the driveway.
Urban and public area furnishing: project drawings in DWG
The square project drawings and 3D models of the public space design are below available for download.