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Public Spaces and Making Places

October 19, 2010

When designing a new house, we focus on designing functional spaces that create a balanced interior layout and strong exterior form. Careful attention is given to daylight patterns and window openings are carefully placed to balance heat loss and gains. Inspiration is also taken from houses in the area in order to contribute to the overall streetscape. House design is primarily about creating private spaces but also considers how it contributes to public spaces.

William H. Whyte’s book: The Social life of Small Urban Spaces is about thirty years old but the concepts are still relevant today. Whyte describes how public spaces need to be inviting and support community engagement. Here is a short video clip of his – The Street Corner:

An organization based out of New York called Project for Public Spaces (PPS) is a nonprofit planning, design and educational organization dedicated to helping people create and sustain public spaces that build stronger communities. It talks about the concept of Placemaking and describes how it can be used to bring communities together and revitalize under-performing spaces.

What great public spaces do we have in Vancouver? Granville Island and Stanley Park are two that immediately come to mind. But where else do we have spaces that attract people to linger, engage and enjoy? A local development company called Take Root Properties is redesigning the River Market at the New Westminster Quay. Part of the plan includes a large communal facility to allow for independent growers to have a state of the art kitchen from which to produce their products for sale in the market.

At Architrix we support the principle of having residential homes contribute to creating welcoming neighbourhoods, strong communities as well as they must have optimized private spaces. One of our current projects in design stage is a new home that has a large, inviting front porch that will promote interaction with the neighbourhood through the front yard. An intimate rooftop garden is created to capitalize on the usability of the flat roof.

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