Exploding The Edge Urban Open Spaces Cultural Studies Essay

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With the booming technique and culture's development, the urban open space is opener than it has ever been. The edge became a conflict area between the open area and the crowed city. The boundary is not only a red line on master plan or a wall as a partition but also sometime blurred into an area arising from needs and usages. It can be shaped by visual and territorial perception.

1 what is urban open spaces

The answer is assumed as simple as the name suggests, urban open spaces are open spaces in urban area. Then the question follows, what is open space? A range of definitions relating to open space have been given by a variety of different authors and thinkers. Open space can be defined as land and water in city that is not cover by cars or buildings (Gold, 1980). Some of them also hold the opinion that the open space is not only the land but the space and light above them as well. (Tankel, 1963) These theories give a concept of urban open space from the area identification. Walzer (1986) suggests that the definition can be more from the aspect of function and usage. Public space is space where we share with stranger, people who aren't our relatives, friends or work associates.

The urban open space can be classified as Neighborhood Park, Mini Park, Urban plaza, Campus outdoor space, Elderly housing outdoor space, Child care open space, Hospital outdoor space. (Marcus, Francis, 1998)

2 How to define the edge and why it is important

The edge is the space between the urban open space and the city and always existed as a part of the urban open space.

The edge is area that distinct the urban open space and the city. a variety of outdoor social spaces can be addressed here, including those that are publicly owned and accessible to the public, those privately owned and managed but publicly accessible, and those privately owned and only a particular group of users can use it. These kind of distinguish of characters can be showed by the design of edge to avoid some unnecessary misunderstandings.

The edge's design can affect the number and the type of the users. The edge is the first impression of the place, and sometime determines the fact that whether people want to go into the place or not. It can either encourage or discourage the place's use. Even if the heart of the space is perfectly designed, with a terrible designed edge, people still have a bad first impression of the place and choose to go to somewhere else. On the other hand, the number of passerby who enter and use a place can be considerable reduced by even a minor barrier or level change (Pushkarev, Boris. 1975). If the place's edge is designed with steps, the disabled people cannot enter and people sit almost on the sidewalk; users are most likely to be men than women and are likely to include more blue-collar workers than at other types of plazas.

3 what makes a good edge between urban spaces and the city

With the booming technique and culture's development, the urban open space is opener than it has ever been. The citizens are not satisfied by just a fence and a sign to tell them there is an urban open space to use which makes the design of the edge even more complicated. Because of the high cost of the land, every inch of the land must be well used contribute to the boundary is not only a red line on master plan or a wall as a partition but also sometime blurred into an area arising from needs and usages. It can be shaped by visual and territorial perception.

An urban open space must be perceived as a distinct place. Except unifying with the spirit of the space, the edge has its own character. From the users' point, it should accessible and can be seen by potential users, clearly convey the message that the place is available for use and is meant to be use, be good looking and engaging on both the outside and the inside, and provide a feeling of security and safety to would be users. All of these can be simplified to 2 groups: avoiding and guiding. When it comes to form, it can be divided by facing: inside, outside, and both side. A design review checklist can be used.



Types of urban open space



Neighborhood Park, Pocket Park, campus outdoor space, elderly care, child care, hospital care



Urban plaza(street plaza), neighborhood park(between high level buildings)

Both sides


Urban plaza, campus outdoor space

Design Review Checklist

Is the edge suit for the space spirit?

Do boundaries such as paving changes or planting define the space as a space distinct from the city?

Is the edge's facing appropriate for the place?

Have the visual and functional transitions between the urban open space and the city been considered? Has the personal space of either the space users or the others in the city been violated by placing seating, tables, or desks too close on either side of paths or doors?

Have the edge success in attracting the target population and avoiding the others?

Does the design of the entrance taking the needs and comforts of who might not necessarily want to enter the place into consideration?

Does the edge of the open space provide a sense of enclosure and security for the potential users who need it?

If there is a fence, is it designed to be visually permeable but not climbable?

3.1 Inside

The edge facing inside of the urban open space is the most common way of urban open space meeting the city. Because of this kind of facing is easily to provide a place with a sense of enclosure and avoiding the distractions around it, it is a good way to claim an urban open space's ownership. Which makes it can be seen in many cases such as Neighborhood Park, pocket park, elderly care, child care, hospital care and so on. But there is one thing must be taken into consideration is the fact that a good edge design can functionally facing one side, but at least the entrance or the street side should have something that provide some facilities to the people that might not necessarily available.

3.1.1 Beetsplein

Beetsplein, a neighborhood square in the city of Dordrecht in Netherlands, is designed by NL Architects in 2003. Around it , are dwelling, front gardens, sidewalk, a strip of perpendicular parking mixed with hedges, the road, an informal area with benches and trees. The center court is used as a playground which contains three superimposed playgrounds and surrounded by a warped concrete ring with 3D lawn which makes a very interesting and energetic inside-facing edge. Three grassy hills form behind pulling up the warped concrete ring which can be used as jogging track. The ring is divided into three segments. Each of them is programmed in a different way, a play wall; a large stair functions as a grandstand facing southwest to enjoy afternoon sun; a lengthy bench and bike slide. All of these let most of the activities are concentrated at the edge and make the design as a success one.

The edge is suit for the space spirit and gives an impression of relaxing place. Relative a flat meadow the hills introduce an intensified experience of 'greenery'. With the transition of the grassy islands, the gloomy concrete blocks give way to green grass, light shape, and bright color. The edge facing inside provides a place of safe and enclose place to play. The number 3 is the magic number here. The center court has 3 superimposed playgrounds and the lighting poles are 3 standard issue road side lights. When looking the edge, the warping shape is work in connection with the form of 3 playgrounds get together. The edge has 3 hills, 3 entrances, 3founction zones. From the outside, the first catches the eye is the green hills, the orange wall is partly hidden and partly visible behind the wrapped ring. The color and texture's contract can easily attract children or teenagers or adults with childishness and announcing this place belongs to the young and energetic people. For the parents and the babysitters and other residents, the long bench is a great place to have a rest and the little hills are also great places to enjoy the sunshine when the weather is lovely. The level changing here is not for just doing some gimmicky thing but quite reasonable to be here. It is a bound, a playing facility, a closer, and an attraction spot at the same time.

3.2 Outside

The edge facing outside of the urban open space is rarest of all kinds of edges because these kinds of design is easily shrimp the size of the center part of the urban open space and ignore the site's use. But it also can be an interesting thing to look at. It can be seen in some of the street plazas and some neighborhood parks especially the ones in the middle of high level buildings. Because the street plaza some time have a narrow space to develop and some the street plaza need to provide a good street view, the street plazas' edge always facing outside, especially facing the main street side. For those parks between the high level buildings, the heart place of the park is easily seen by the people living in the buildings. When staying in the middle of the place, people will feel exposed. In this situation, the edge gives more enclosures than the centre of the space because it cannot be seen by the people living in the high level buildings and near to the entrance of the buildings which makes it the first choice to stay when waiting or meeting someone. At same time, there is one more thing that should be taken into consideration is facing outside is not only for the edge around the space, but the view above the space need to be nice and beautiful.

3.2.1 Charlotte Garden

Charlotte garden, lies in Copenhagen, Denmark, is designed by SLA in 2004. The garden is located in the middle of a typical community patio and surrounded by housing blocks on all four sides. There are about two hundred units around it which makes the use of this space is primarily neighborhood-related, a local population that uses the space for socializing, meeting, rest and play.

Because bicycle is one of the most important transportation in Copenhagen, the edge provides a shelter for park the bicycle at each entrance of the building. At the sunny side of the edge, the main open space step back a little and leaves an outside-facing edge which gives opportunities for people's outdoor recreation. In this project, the designers brought nature straight into the city, so that the neighbors could see it and breathe it each time they looked out their windows. From above, the garden appears to be a dynamic drawing composed of different patches joined by the layout of pedestrian walkways. The garden of vegetable dunes recalls the coastal countryside: the vegetation is primarily composed of perennial greens, like the blue fescue, seslevia and molinia caerulea. These species go from green and blue in the summer to red and yellow tones in the winter. They offer a colorful spectacle that is rare in these latitudes.

3.3 Both sides

The edge facing both side of the urban open space is common in many urban plazas and some of the campus outdoor spaces. The more people perceive the open space as being an extension of that right-of-way, the more likely they feel invited into this; thus, an extension of space planting onto the sidewalk may imply to passersby that they are already in the place. The places, barely distinct from the adjacent sidewalk, are popular because they provide easy access, a passing parade of people to watch, and a sense of surveillance and security

3.3.1 Manchester Exchange Square

Manchester exchange square was designed by Martha Swartz after the 1996 IRA bombing.

4 conclusions

Urban space for pedestrians : a report of the Regional Plan Association, New York.

Bibliographic Record Display

Main Author:

Pushkarev, Boris.


Urban space for pedestrians : a report of the Regional Plan Association, New York.


MIT Press, 1975.