Characteristics and Guidelines of Great Public Spaces

 

A public space may be a gathering spot or part of a neighborhood, downtown, special district, waterfront or other area within the public realm that helps promote social interaction and a sense of community. Possible examples may include such spaces as plazas, town squares, parks, marketplaces, public commons and malls, public greens, piers, special areas within convention centers or grounds, sites within public buildings, lobbies, concourses, or public spaces within private buildings.

As with all categories of Great Places, it is important to identify what sets a space apart from others spaces so as to qualify it for a Great Spaces designation. Public Spaces must be at least 10 years old.

Great Public Spaces

2016 Great Public Spaces

Previous Designees

Description of the Public Space

It is important to identify the geographic, demographic, and social characteristics of the public space. Tell us about its location (i.e. urban, suburban, rural, etc.), layout and connectivity; economic, social, and ethnic diversity; and functionality. We also want to know whether a plan or specific planning efforts contributed to or sustained the character of the public space, or if the space formed more organically and not through a formal planning process.

Public Space Features and Elements

How does the public space ...

  • Capitalize on building design, scale, architecture, and proportionality to create interesting visual experiences, vistas, or other qualities?
  • Accommodate multiple uses?
  • Accommodate multiple users? It is accessible via walking, biking, or public transit?
  • Use, protect, and enhance the environment and natural features?

Public Space Activities and Sociability

How does the public space...

  • Reflect the community's local character and personality?
  • Foster social interaction and create a sense of community and neighborliness?
  • Provide a sense of comfort or safety to people gathering and using the space?
  • Encourage use and interaction among a diverse cross section of the public?

Great Public Spaces — Characteristics and Guidelines for Designation

A public space may be a gathering spot or part of a neighborhood, downtown, special district, waterfront, or other area within the public realm that helps promote social interaction and a sense of community. Examples include spaces such as plazas, town squares, parks, marketplaces, public commons and malls, public greens, piers, special areas within convention centers or grounds, sites within public buildings, lobbies, concourses, or public spaces within private buildings. As with all categories of Great Places, it is important to identify what sets a space apart from others spaces to qualify it for a Great Spaces designation. Public Spaces must be at least 10 years old.

Characteristics of a Great Public Space include:

  1. Promotes human contact and social activities.
  2. Is safe, welcoming, and accommodating for all users.
  3. Has design and architectural features that are visually interesting.
  4. Promotes community involvement.
  5. Reflects the local culture or history.
  6. Relates well to bordering uses.
  7. Is well maintained.
  8. Has a unique or special character.


Description of the Public Space

  1. Where is the space located, and what is its setting? (Downtown, neighborhood, waterfront, city center, business or entertainment districts, historic area, parks, etc.)
  2. What role, if any, did plans and planning contribute to the creation of the space? Is there special zoning or ordinances that allowed for the creation of the space?
  3. How large is the area?
  4. When was the space created?


Guidelines for Great Public Spaces

1.0 Features and Elements (not all may apply)

1.1 What landscape and hardscape features are present? How do they contribute to the unique or special nature of the space?

1.2 How does the space accommodate pedestrians or others whose access to the space is by transit, bicycles, or other means? Is the space welcoming to those with physical disabilities or others with special needs?

1.3 Does the space accommodate multiple activities?

1.4 What purpose does it serve for the surrounding community?

1.5 How does the space utilize existing topography, vistas, or geography? Does it provide interesting visual experiences, vistas, or other qualities?

1.6 How are murals or other public art incorporated into the space?

2.0 Activities and Sociability

2.1 What activities make the space attractive to people and encourage social interaction? (Commerce, entertainment or performances, recreational or sporting, cultural, markets or vending, exhibits, fairs, festivals, special events, etc.)

2.2 Does the space provide a sense of comfort and safety to people gathering and using the space? Does the space provide a friendly and welcoming atmosphere?

2.3 How do people interact with one another? Does the space encourage communication or interaction between strangers?

2.4 How does this place encourage use by a diverse cross section of the public?

3.0 Unique Qualities, Traits, and Characteristics

3.1 What makes this public space stand out? What makes it extraordinary or memorable?

3.2 Is there variety, a sense of whimsy, or an atmosphere of discovery or pleasant surprise? 

3.3 Is there commitment to maintain the space and to keep it a usable space over time? Does the public have a sense of ownership about the space? How has it changed over time?

3.4 Is there a sense of importance about the space? What characteristics or qualities contribute to this?

3.5 What is the history of the space, and how is it remembered or passed on from one generation to the next?

3.6 Does the space serve as a place of inspiration or contemplation, or is it considered sacred?

3.7 What is it about the space that contributes to a sense of community?

3.8 What makes this space special and worthy of designation as a Great Space?