Thursday, January 12, 2012

Here's O'Neal Plaza

In 1969, William H. Whyte was helping the City of New York with urban planning by studying human behavior in urban settings. Over a span of 16 years he conducted the Street Life Project to understand how people use city spaces. As unobtrusively as possible, he watched people and used time-lapse photography to chart the meanderings of pedestrians. What emerged through his intuitive analysis is an extremely human, view of what is staggeringly obvious about people’s behavior in public spaces, but seemingly invisible to the unobservant.

Regarding his observations Whyte said, “If there’s a lesson in street watching it is that people do like basics–and as environments go, a street that is open to the sky and filled with people and life is a splendid place to be.” Whyte began to advocate for a new way to design public spaces that focused more on answering questions involving how the space would be used rather than the attitude, “Here it is. Use it.”
Whyte advised in order for humans to actually use an urban setting the space has to provide for civic engagement and community interaction. I’d like to add another “C” word–charm. Therefore, the space should be easy to get to, easy to use, attract all types of citizens and drip with charm.
Douglasville is fortunate to have a space like that–O’Neal Plaza.
You can finish reading this column over at Douglasville Patch.

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