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.

[1] AGILE CITY, https://agile-city.com/agile-city-research/parking-day/

[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 https://bigbuild.vic.gov.au/projects/metro-tunnel/community/art/creative-program/about

References:

Block P 2018, The structure of belonging. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, Inc. 1333 N.1000. Ockland, CA

Florida, R 2002, The Rise of the Creative Class: And How it’s Transforming Leisure, Community and Everyday Life. New York, Basic Books.

Florida, R 2004 Cities and the creative class, New York, Routledge.

Francis J., Giles-Corti B., Wood, L., Knuiman M., ‘Creating sense of community: The role of public space. Journal of Environmental Psychology 401-409. 10.1016/j.jenvp.2012.07.002.

Hoe, S.F. 2019 ‘The role of the arts in placemaking Singapore’. Social Space, pp. 9-21. Viewed 22 May 2022, <https://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/lien_research/174>

Hoe, S.F. 2021, Creative placemaking in Singapore: A critical reflection,Youth-Topia: Placemaking Somerset Belt. pp. 1-6. Singapore: Singapore University of Technology and Design. Viewed 22 May 2022, <https://ink.library.smu.edu.sg/soss_research/3334>

Jared Greend. ‘Interview with Jan Gehl’, American Society of Architects. viewed 25 May 2022 https://www.asla.org/contentdetail.aspx?id=31346

Landry, C & Bianchini, F 1995, The creative city, Demos in collaboration with Comedia.

Jimenez Medina, , Artal-Tur A, Sanchez-Casado N., 2021, Tourism Business, Place Identity, Sustainable Development, and Urban Resilience: A Focus on the Sociocultural Dimension. International Regional Science Review. Vol 44 (1), pp.170-199. Viwed 25 May 2022, Doi:10.1177/0160017620925130

Landry, C & Hyams, J 2012, The creative city index: measuring the pulse of the city, Comedia.

Landry, C 2019, Advanced Introduction to the Creative City, Edward Elgar Publishing limited.

Landry, C & Murray, C 2017, Psychology & The City: The Hidden Dimension, Comedia

Lund, H. (2002). Pedestrian environments and sense of community. Journal of Planning Education and Research, 21, 301e312

Maslow, A.H 1943, A theory of human motivation. Psychological Review. Vol 50(4), pp. 370–396. Viewed 25 May 2022, <http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/h0054346>

Olmedo-Barchello, S., Cristaldo J., Rodríguez, G., Da Silva, M., Acosta, A., Barrios O. 2009, Creative cities and their contribution to the creation of a new economic, social and cultural development model. A review of the literature. Población y .Desarro. [online]. 2020, vol.26, n.50, pp.53-63. Viewed 12 Otober 2023, <https://doi.org/10.18004/pdfce/2076-054x/2020.026.50.053-063>

Richards, G & Wilson J. (2004). The Impact of Cultural Events on City Image: Rotterdam, Cultural Capital of Europe 2001. Urban Studies, 41(10), 1931–1951. viewed 25 May 2022, <http://www.jstor.org/stable/43197018 >

Richards, G 2017, ‘From Place Branding to Placemaking: The role of events’. International Journal of Event and Festival Management. , Vol. 8 No. 1, pp. 8-23. 25 May 2022, <https://www.emerald.com/insight/content/doi/10.1108/IJEFM-09-2016-0063/full/html>

Richards, G 2015a. ´Events in the Network Society: The Role of Pulsar and Iterative Events’. Event Management. Vol pp. 553-566. viewed- 25 May 2022, Doi: 10.3727/152599515X14465748512849.

Richards, G 2015b, ‘Placemaking and events in the network society’. [Article presentation – Conference]. Cities in Transition Conference, Breda, Netherlands. Viewed 25 May 2022, https://www.academia.edu/11351579/Placemaking_and_events_in_the_network_society

Shabatura, L., Bauer N. & Latsevich O Socio-Cultural Problems of Sustainable Urban Environment. IOP Conference Series: Materials Science and Engineering. 463. 022009. 10.1088/1757-899X/463/2/022009. viewed- 25 May 2022, <https://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1757-899X/463/2/022009>

Victoria’s Big Build. Art of Metro Tunnel. About the creative program, Viewed 22 May 2022 <https://bigbuild.vic.gov.au/projects/metro-tunnel/community/art/creative-program/about>

Wyckoff, M. 2014. “Definitions of placemaking: Four different types.” Planning & Zoning News 32 (3):1-10.

Wyckoff, M. A., Land Policy Institute and the Planning & Zoning Center at Michigan State University, Neumann B., Pape G., Schindler K., 2015. Placemaking as an economic development tool. A Placemaking Guidebook. Retrieved from https://www.canr.msu.edu/resources/pmedtguidebook.

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