DESIGNING THE PUBLIC REALM | FALL 2013

URBAN PRACTICE WORKSHOP | DESIGNING THE PUBLIC REALM

 University Place and 10th Street

University Place and 10th Street

The public realm is a defining feature of urban life. While many urban planners, architects, and designers have traditionally focused on the three dimensional form of cities as static objects, the public realm constitutes a “space between buildings” that is in flux through both time and space. It was this “space between buildings” that formed the base of our explorations during a weeklong workshop at Parsons The New School for Design. 

In collaboration with NYC transportation advocacy group Transportation Alternatives, Urban Practice students participated in lectures, discussions, research, and advocacy focusing on street life on University Place, 5th Avenue and 6th Avenue between 14th Street and Washington Square North. 

Some of our work throughout the week included: 

  • Analyzing the history of street design in NYC and the rise of automobile culture in America

  • Applying some observational-based tools to investigate our focus streets 

  • Participating in discussions with key institutional and community stakeholders in addition to other public space experts including: 

    • WayCount creator Ted Ulrich 

    • Village Alliance Executive Director William Kelley 

    • NYC Department of Transportation Assistant Commissioner Andy Wiley-Schwartz 

    • Transportation Alternatives advocates and organizers Miller Nuttle, Thomas Devito, Lindsey Ganson, Noah Budnick, Tom McGinley 

    • Artist, entrepreneur and urban planner Florent Morellet. 

  • Organizing and implementing a Park(ing) Day demonstration, where we temporarily converted a parking space into a mini-park on University Place 

  • Creating a survey about street life and experience that we administered to nearly 500 people on University Place 

  • Analyzing, interpreting, and publicizing research and survey results 

Overall this workshop allowed us to investigate several key questions and themes: How did our streets get this way, and how do they change? How should they change? How is street performance defined and measured, and who decides? What is the advocates’ toolbox? How does the media shape street design? What is the past, present and future of NYC streets and what design strategies will shape our collective urban future? and themes: How did our streets get this way, and how do they change? How should they change? How is street performance defined and measured, and who decides? What is the advocates’ toolbox? How does the media shape street design? What is the past, present and future of NYC streets and what design strategies will shape our collective urban future? 

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Lack of Seating

University Place 

 Looking for a place to sit...

Looking for a place to sit...

Parklet

Theories of Urban Practices graduate students occupy a parking space with plants and greenery to attract the attention of pedestrians and demonstrate alternative uses for the street.

Survey Methods 

A group of 15 students went out to University Place between East 14th Street and Washington Square North on August 21st 2013 between 11am and 4pm. On August 22nd 2013 the group went to the same area between 11am and 1pm. A combination of traditional paper and digital tablet surveys were used. Of the seven questions, four were strictly multiple choice while three were free response. We were seeking to uncover what the public enjoys about the current layout of the street as well as opinions on whether or how to improve University Place. In order to categorize our data we collected information on age, place of residence, mode of transportation and purpose of trip. In seven hours over two days, we conducted 488 individual surveys. Using Microsoft Excel we processed and cross-tabulated the data collected.

  Building to building, most of University Place is currently allotted for cars--driving and parking--rather than for sidewalks and pedestrian space. Do you think…
  Building to building, most of University Place is currently allotted for cars--driving and parking--rather than for sidewalks and pedestrian space. Do you think…

Building to building, most of University Place is currently allotted for cars--driving and parking--rather than for sidewalks and pedestrian space. Do you think…

  What was your main means of transportation to and around University Place today? 

What was your main means of transportation to and around University Place today? 

  What brings you to University Place today?

What brings you to University Place today?

 Our qualitative data expresses that pedestrians are attracted to University Place for reasons including shopping, restaurants, historical architecture and a quiet atmosphere. Many also noted an appreciation for the lack of heavy traffic on this particular street. These preferences point to the assets that University Place offers its pedestrians. Street design currently provides a greater amount of dedicated space for cars than pedestrians, while its many assets attract pedestrians, who tend to walk from the public transportation at either end of this corridor. Reconsidering the allotted public walking space may enable the community along this area to capitalize on the strengths that pedestrians already are drawn to. 

Our qualitative data expresses that pedestrians are attracted to University Place for reasons including shopping, restaurants, historical architecture and a quiet atmosphere. Many also noted an appreciation for the lack of heavy traffic on this particular street. These preferences point to the assets that University Place offers its pedestrians. Street design currently provides a greater amount of dedicated space for cars than pedestrians, while its many assets attract pedestrians, who tend to walk from the public transportation at either end of this corridor. Reconsidering the allotted public walking space may enable the community along this area to capitalize on the strengths that pedestrians already are drawn to. 

Community Board Meeting

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