Design for the Public Realm

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Over the past decade, there has been a renaissance in the design and construction of the public spaces in many major cities. This renaissance has resulted in the creation of new plazas, parks, pedestrian streets, and waterfront areas in our cities. These public spaces help to enhance the experience of urban social and cultural life. But what are the elements and components of these public spaces that make them successful and provide enticing public spaces for users? Successful places share four qualities: they are accessible, comfortable, present a good image, and provide a place for sociable contact and people to engage in activities. This course will examine key features and characteristics of public spaces and provide insight regarding appropriately sourced materials that can be used in designing these public spaces to enhance user experience and provide designs that enrich the social experience.
Public outdoor spaces can provide experiences in outdoor dining, active outdoor activities such as poolside recreation, or just relaxing and taking in the surrounding landscape. In addition, attractive public spaces can greatly increase the appeal, value, and marketability of nearby commercial and residential properties. Urban areas and large cities do not always have large tracts of land available for public use. Many communities and organizations are moving toward creating small pocket parks and pop-up parks that provide flexible outdoor experiences on smaller tracts of land, thus allowing for more public outdoor spaces to be developed in their neighborhoods.
In designing these pocket parks, pop-up parks, and decks, pedestal systems and other modular products can provide architects and designers with greater design flexibility. Rooftop gardens in particular are a growing trend, as more and more urban areas are passing mandates requiring green roofs on commercial buildings over a certain size. Modular wood tiles and pedestal deck systems are two products that provide design flexibility with respect to location and layout.
Distance Learning
Course Equivalency
Development Trends
Parks & Recreation
Residential Design
Sustainable Development & Design
Health, Safety and Welfare
Learning Outcomes
1. Describe the sustainability criteria (LEED and SITES) that apply to the design of exterior spaces and outdoor rooms.
2. Discuss the various products and systems that are available for designing exterior spaces for the public.
3. Explain some of the key safety considerations in designing public spaces.
4. Describe how lighting can enhance the public’s nighttime experience and also provide safety.
5. List the ways in which exterior spaces meet LEED requirements of human health and well-being.
Elena M. Pascarella, RLA, ASLA
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