Public space is what connects our cities and places together. Whether we walk, drive, take the bus or bicycle, we encounter an element of public space daily. Streets and sidewalks are 80% of urban open space, but typically this space is designated for moving traffic, not social life. They are underused resources that can be repurposed and designed to reflect the local contexts surrounding them and become places for social interaction and information exchange. We consider lively and widely used public space areas to be important keys to engagement with fellow citizens and to overall wellbeing. Public spaces also assist in making healthier choices easier choices by creating ways for people to integrate physical activity into their everyday routines by walking, biking or taking transit. Public spaces are never ‘finished’ and evolve over time.
The Gehl Studio Public Space Public Life Survey (PSPL) uses empirical survey and mapping methodologies pioneered by Jan Gehl to develop a comprehensive understanding of how people actually move to, through and use the public realm, and the character, quality and programming of the spaces that make up that system. Using these methods, Gehl Studio has studied the performance of streets and spaces all over the world, how buildings and uses impact user experiences, and the interaction of streets, spaces, and experiences within a public space network. The survey creates quantitative and qualitative benchmarks for the public realm, illuminates cultural, historical, institutional and economic assets to build on, and reveals potential challenge areas that impair urban quality and inhibit public life.
John Bela and Matthew Lister from Gehl Studio will focus on public space quality and guide participants through an assessment of downtown Austin public spaces using the Gehl Public Space Quality Criteria Matrix.