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Public Space

The average person spends 90% of his life indoors! As designers, it is our job to create appealing outdoor spaces. Think about the time you spend outdoors. For most of us, the only time we spend outdoors each day is to get from one place to another, and then we end up back inside.

Before modern society, streets were used for horses, buggies and pedestrian activities. Markets were in booths that lined the city streets. Kids could run freely throughout the roads. Today, major cities are looking back to those designs as inspirations for revamping public life. Leftover industrial areas are being redesigned into favorable and desirable locations. Many major cities in Europe are turning boulevards into pedestrian walkways. These public spaces are key to creating a healthy, sustainable environment. They encourage meeting, gathering, communicating and collaborating. Here, anyone can share moments, experiences, and create interactions. They also can create community identity. Millennium Park in Chicago and Central Park in New York City give character to their cities.

Public spaces make cities livable!

Activity 1 Mapping Green Space

Public spaces encourage events such as festivals, exhibitions, town meetings and markets. In return, these public activities unite the community and create a lively environment. How much space does your community allow for public gathering? Print a map of your community or neighborhood in black and white. Color all the solid buildings in black. Look at the remaining voided spaces. Are there a lot of voided spaces or not enough? Color these green. Take some time to explore…see if these green spaces are actual parks, public spaces, vacant lots or privately-used. Research other cities and see how many voided areas pop out to you. Is your city a lot more dense with solids than others?

Try and raise awareness to your local community about the importance of public space by showing them your maps of other cities.

Activity 2 Find the Best Public Space

From the first activity, notice if you were able to find any successful public spaces within your community. Were there many people occupying the space? Or was it lifeless?

Research successful public spaces and take note of their qualities. Are there places to sit? Is it near a popular building or area? Is it near public transportation?

Print out a picture or sketch an image of this space in your journal . Mark the areas of success as well as the negative areas of the space. Would you spend a lot of your time there? What makes a good public space?

Evaluate all kinds of spaces!

Activity 3 Goodbye, Parking Garage!

Ever notice how many parking garages are in an urban city? Check out the map of Chicago's parking facilities.

How does it compare to the public spaces throughout the entire city? Go around your community, and take some photographs of a parking garage or a parking lot that would serve as a perfect opportunity for an outdoor public space. Now collage, paint or draw over these photos (it may be easiest to print in black and white). What kind of public space can you create? Think back to the previous activity of what makes a successful public space. Make sure to include plenty of creative seating opportunities and furniture (like fountains!)

Tear down a parking lot! Put up paradise!


  1. Public spaces are designed for the gathering of all people, cultures and generations.

  2. Only 10% of our lives are spent outdoors.

  3. Parking garages are more important than public spaces.

  4. Public spaces are sustainable and bring life to an urban environment.

  5. Before cars were invented, much of urban life took place on the streets.


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