Public squares in European city centres

Bob Giddings, James Charlton & Margaret Horne

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Giddings, B. , Charlton, J. & Horne, M. (1). Public squares in European city centres. URBAN DESIGN International, 16(3), 202–212.

City Centres , Communities , Pedestrians , Public Realm , Squares

The article concentrates on emerging relationships between physical characteristics of urban open spaces and their uses. It draws on a combination of behaviour mapping and geographic information system (GIS) techniques - as applied to urban squares and parks in two European cities, Edinburgh (UK) and Ljubljana (Slovenia) - to reveal common patterns of behaviour that appear to be correlated with particular layouts and details. It shows actual dimensions of effective environments for one use or more of them and shows how design guidance can be arrived at, based on the particulars of the case study sites and cities. In addition, the value of this article is in exploring GIS, a tool that is currently irreplaceable in spatial analysis and planning processes for urban areas, as a detailed analytical and visualisation tool that helps to describe inner structure of places revealed by behaviour patterns.

Main finding
The research suggests that the loss of the city squares as places for citizens hastened the commodifying of cities and the downgrading of the public realm by privatisation. The research suggests that private sector developments as a means of creating new squares should consider geometric criteria, microclimatic criteria and pedestrian movement and utilize software to predict solar access and thermal comfort, wind speed and movement, noise and pedestrian movement for proposed public squares at design stage. However, the research recognizes that the software is not well developed and the simulation takes considerable computer power.

Description of method used in the article
3D simulation for the analysis and holistic design of public squares using comparative analysis of microclimatic (solar access and thermal comfort, wind analysis, and noise mapping) and pedestrian movement.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Physical types