The Elements of the Physical Public Realm

Any statement of what constitute the elements of the public realm of built forms is likely to evolve over time. It will depend on a political stance and help to define that stance. In the 1930s, Le Corbusier wrote that the basic elements of urban design are: 'the sun, sky, trees, steel, cement, in that order of importance'

(Le Corbusier, 1934). Certainly the sun and sky are of importance everywhere and have been commodities with which to bargain in recent urban design work. Nevertheless, Le Corbusier's list is not a particularly helpful one in thinking about the nature of the public realm.

A fruitful way of looking at the public realm is to consider it as a set of behaviour settings - a term coined by ecological psychologists in the 1960s (see Lang, 1987). A behaviour setting consists of a standing (or recurring) behaviour pattern, a milieu (pattern of built form) and a time period. The milieu must have the affordances for the behaviour to occur, but because the affordances are there does not mean that a specific behaviour will take place there. What actually occurs depends on the predispositions, motivations, knowledge and competencies of the people involved. Thus the same pattern of built form may afford different patterns of behaviour for different people at different times of the day, week or year. Some of the patterns may be occurring frequently on a daily basis or even throughout the day or year, while others may occur only on special occasions (e.g. the celebration of national days).

The milieu consists of the floor of the ground, the surfaces of buildings and other physical elements, and the objects that both bound it and structure it internally. The variables are diverse and their attributes even more so. Of particular importance in urban design are such concerns as the sequential experiencing of the environment as one moves through it, the ground floor activities, or lack of them, that are housed in the milieu, and the attributes of the enclosing elements of spaces. In the urban scenes shown in Figures 1.1 and 1.2, the physical public realm consists of the elements of the artificial environment around a person. In

Figure 1.2 Orchard Road, Singapore in 2003.

the former it consists of the square, the trees, the façades of buildings, the ground floor uses, and the entrances onto the open spaces. On a more typical street (Figure 1.2) the elements are essentially the same but take on a different form. If, however, urban design is concerned with the whole nature of human experience it has to address the nature of the activities and the people who engage in them as well. It is the set of behaviour settings and how the milieu affords activities and simultaneously acts as an aesthetic display that is important.

In 1748 Giambattista Nolli drew a figure-ground plan of Rome (see Figure 1.3). It shows the public space of the city at the ground level during the time of Pope Benedict XIV. Much interior space (principally of churches) and courtyards was accessible to the public. It also illustrates the amount of open space that existed in cities of that time. Much of it is not discernible from the streets.

As important as the figure-ground relationship is the nature of the façades that form these spaces. What are they made of and how are they fenestrated? What are the uses that face onto the open space? How frequent are entrances along the streets and squares? What is the nature of the pavement, or sidewalk? How tall are the buildings that enclose the spaces? How are the spaces illuminated? What are they like at night? What are the activity patterns that take place in the spaces? Who are the people engaged in them? These are the variables that distinguish one place from another - one city from another, and one precinct, or neighbourhood, in a city from another. The bird's eye perspective of the Banking District of Mumbai and the cut away ground floor plan tell much about the nature of the public realm (see Figure 1.4). They tell little about the life of the place, although

Figure 1.3 The Nolli Map of Rome, 1748.

it is possible to speculate on what it is. The functions afforded by the pattern are very different from that provided by Double Bay in Sydney (see Figure 1.5).

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

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