Mar 26, 2008

Talking Point (#21) Risk in Public Space

The perceived risk of PARK(ing) from traffic managers is mostly the close proximity of people to cars.

It is a reminder how risk and safety is a constant influence in urban design (in both good and bad ways). Take something like the Queen St Mall and you might start to see where ideas of risks and safety are influencing design-
  • The separation of pedestrians and vehicles movements (location of services, shared zones, removal of skateboards/bikes)
  • Equal access ramps and tactile tiles
  • Material Use (flat surfaces that minimise trip hazards)
  • Warning Signage
  • Bollards
  • Handrails
  • Placement of art (suspended away from ground plane)
  • Raised water features (to stop people falling in)
Being safe in a public space is a powerful and respected principle in all urban design, yet designers might also argue that safety concerns are affecting the quality of our streets and spaces (that liability, regulation and risk-averse decision making is making design innovation and risk-taking harder) .

The UK's Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) has a fantastic collection of research including on this topic -
1. Living with risk: promoting better public space design
2. What are we scared of? The value of risk in designing public space

CABE supports a risk-aware approach and so does Brisbane PARK(ing) Day.

"The design of public space exists in a world of uncertainty.... These uncertainties do not inevitably lead to a culture that purposely avoids risk in public space design. Safety is achieved through active use, citizen surveillance and an engendered sense of personal and social responsibility and ownership. A safe place can still be physically challenging and exciting, and push the boundaries of accepted design" (CABE)

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