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Year: 2022

Client: Platform Ruimte Voor Lopen; Municipalities of Den Haag, Groningen, Nijmegen, Rotterdam

Status: in progress

Good Public Space for Walking

Assessing the quality of public areas in four Dutch cities

Every city wishes to prioritise citizens' well-being when planning its public spaces. But do we really know how good our parks and plazas are, and how to make them better? Trying to achieve this with endless numbers, theories, and technological tools can be overwhelming, and it's neither efficient nor human.

In collaboration with Platform Ruimte Voor Lopen–a national network for exchange and collaboration, intended for organisations and professionals who want to create more space for walking–and the Municipalities of Den Haag, Groningen, Nijmegen and Rotterdam, we are using our Good Public Space Analysis to assess the quality and walkability potential of four different locations in each of those Dutch cities. The typology of places is diverse: from city centre squares, to shopping areas, to residential neighbourhoods.

Combining data analyses, spatial design assessments, and behavioral observations carried out by both Humankind and Municipality officials, the objective is to determine customized guidelines and recommendations to create better public spaces for walking that simultaneously  facilitate well-being.

Results from all four cities showed that what public spaces often miss are the opportunities for people to connect and rewind. There are many necessities stemming from our basic human needs that public spaces should provide in order to facilitate well-being in our environments. Being able to relax, meet with others or play safely should be a right accessible to all. It is something that good public spaces should facilitate. Detailed analysis of each location allowed us to come up with tailored solutions. Some suggestions we came up with were improving the quality and access to nature or providing infrastructure for meeting, playing, and relaxing. At first sight it might seem like simple and obvious solutions yet they all come from a true understanding of the users' needs. The most important takeaway is that each space has its unique DNA. This DNA is created by both the design of the spaces and their users who develop a sense of place attachment. It is important to keep those things in mind to create truly human-centric spaces. Only this way will the citizens be able to feel truly at home.

Developed by Humankind between 2021 and 2022, the Good Public Space Analysis is an interdisciplinary, human-centric and flexible methodology for the study of urban public spaces. A classical spatial analysis is superposed on a behavioural one to showcase the gaps between design and actual use, making planning recommendations straightforward and easily understandable. A new, holistic and scalable approach that aims to make it easier for planners, governments and designers alike to create good public spaces for people.

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