Street Experiments Taking Urban Design beyond Functionality and Practicality: the Key to Strengthen Communities and Fulfill the Next Basic Human Needs.

Street experiments, which are intended as light interventions with the special quality of being temporary as part of initial urban improvement strategies, include important features such as community participation, physical urban interventions, and programming; implemented to ignite positive change in the urban environment or reactivation of public space, specifically streets. These experiments have been showing positive sense of acceptance within the community and have the potential to help improve the quality of life, according to the literature reviewed.

In the past, cities have not been designed for the full-fledged comfortable life of people (Jared Green , n.d., para.5) and nowadays, the development of the cities requires certain features linked with the sociocultural field, sustainability, participatory practices and creativity according to many studies (Richards, 2004, 2017; Florida, 2002, 2004; Landry, 1995;, Landry and Hyams 2012; Landry and Murray, 2017; Selva Olmedo-Barchello et al., 2019; Shabatura et al 2018; Jimenez-Medina et al. 2021).

Shabatura L. Et al (2018) argue that one of the greatest challenges for creating a sustainable urban environment is to create the enabling conditions of life for the people: creating comfort, a favourable microclimate, and aesthetically impressive urban open space. When talking about a favourable microclimate, indicators such as how people feel in certain places, such as public spaces, must be included.

The authors mention that among the areas of improving the quality of the urban environment by means of modern trends of landscape design, it is worth noticing the following ones:

  • The transition to a holistic interpretation of the urban space
  • consideration of human needs to ensure the necessary level of comfort
  • Improvement of the urban spaces’ environment
  • Formation of awareness of the urban space
  • Improvement of individual culture

Exploring the second point, according to the Hierarchy of Needs Pyramid of Abraham Maslow (1943), the sense of safety is one of the basic human needs. This need, as highlighted by Lund (2002) and Francis J. Et al. (2012), fosters a strong sense of community; which is a crucial component alongside the category of belonging, together with association and acceptance (See figure 1).

Furthermore, Block P (2018) emphasizes the direct relationship between belonging and community. His work demonstrates that the need for safety and belonging are intertwined, creating a proper atmosphere for each other to thrive together. In simpler terms, when people feel safe, the next motivation is the achievement of the sense of community (Maslow, 1943) and belonging. Conversely, building a community becomes a powerful tool to promote safety in the streets (Block, 2018).

Figure 1.  Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Based on Maslow, 1943; 1968; 1970.

The PARK(ing) Day, which is “an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks[1]”, is a good example of how street experiments show positive results concerning framing and transforming everyday practices that contribute to placemaking[2]. The success of this kind of practices is evident, as this example mentioned began in San Francisco USA in the year 2005 in just one parking lot, and by 2011 the project has been replicated among 128 cities in almost 100 sites.

The Metro Tunnel Creative Program (n.d)[3] argued that temporary pop-up spaces, such as the ones that can be planned and implemented through tactical interventions or even creative placemaking (Wyckoff 2014; Wyckoff Et al 2015), together with landscaping and lighting, public art and events, can help to experience the city in new and inspired ways.

The deepening sense of belonging is exemplified by the generative potential in the growing tendency of creative placemaking projects by artists and art organizations, enabling immersion and exposure in the arts even in unexpected places and moments within the cities (Hoe 2021) and as she notices (2019), “This need to cultivate a sense of place and belonging has been increasingly recognised by the Singapore government. Since the mid-2000s”. Even Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong shared his vision to rejuvenate Singapore emphasising the importance of a vibrant street life and arts activities, which would generate a sense of belonging, identity and social cohesion (Ibid).

A bench in San Diego, California. Art project collab created by the ESI Comminity Arts and the Children Museum of San Diego, pic taken in June 2024

Quality places are human-centered, aesthetic, distinct and walkable; which leads to a place that provides comfort and sociability while opening up for civic participation thanks to the safety and a welcoming, to the connected, authentic and accessible environment created (Wyckoff, 2014).

Street experiments have become, then, an assertive way to revitalize communities, and are even fulfilling human needs such as a sense of belonging and a sense of safety.


[2] The idea and concept of this term “placemaking” is the development from Whyte’s (1980) research about the use (and miss-use or even non-existent use) of public plazas and in New York, USA; coming to terms involving the imperative participation of the community and stakeholders (not just the government) when doing positive spatial planning (Strydom et al., 2018).

[3] Victoria’s Big Build. Art of Metro Tunnel. About the creative program, [Искусство туннеля метро. О творческой программе]  Дата обращения – 25.05.2022 от


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