Successful Open Public Spaces Cultural Studies Essay

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Spaces support the entire gamut of life and activity between them. They can broadly be classified into built and open spaces, which form a unified entity. Built spaces are shaped up mainly by site and cultural factors. Open spaces could be either designed, or they could be a consequence of building activity. Between them, these spaces generate an entire spectrum of human activities, which combine to make communal spaces in a city, meaningful and attractive.

Open public space is a free space, in most cases at least, and caters to all people of different background. They are a representation of the people's attitude, ideas and beliefs in the city. They play a host to wide array of activities and act as platform where people perform their daily schedules.

"You are in the midst of a crowd of people meandering through lively streets, alleys and open piazzas. On all sides are stores, cinemas and cafes, in vivid there are mime artists and sired performers. It's chaotic, vibrant and loud. Where are vats," You are in public space. - JON JERDE" (Shamkuwar, 2012)

 People are the soul of the city and public spaces serve as nodes in the city, where people gather, and celebrate the goodness of life. They have always been a part of human civilization. It is a road joining two important destinations, a vibrant street developed along a linkage, a temple square or even a heritage site which aspire people. (Shamkuwar, 2012) 

"The Oxford dictionary defines the term 'public' as: of or concerning the people as a whole; representing, done by, or for the people; open to or shared by the people; open to general observation, done or existing in public."

It should be a social space that accessible to all, regardless of gender, age or socio-economic level. Public places become important as they create a visual communication between several persons who visit it. Any public space has three characteristics: physical, social and cultural. To make a successful city, it should provide a sense of place that strengthens community identity and community pride. This improves community relation and reduces feeling of alienation while creating a place for all types of people to congregate. Open public are an improvement part of the city's urban fabric. These spaces are the breathing spaces in a city's urban fabric.


How to describe the open public spaces in urban context and what are the different parameters to make public spaces successful for the city?


Open public spaces not only form the image of city and the way it is perceived but also become places where people interact under a collective identity. With the emergence of constant degradation of the quality of open public spaces emerges the necessity to understand why open public spaces are not able to fulfil its role in our society. The open public spaces aid the betterment of human life in today's hectic life. Thus there is a requirement of studying this topic so as to realize the importance or the need of development of humanity.


This paper has tried to narrow its scope. The study will undertake a critical visual and physical survey of various open public spaces in Delhi to evaluate the various aspect governing their design, function and location.

Initial concern will be based on the studying the open public spaces around the world and compare and contrast it with the open public spaces in the New Delhi.

The understanding of urban open space will need to take in account its Physical, social and symbolic dimension simultaneously.

The study is not limited to one or two case studies, but a number of relevant examples are selected such as public spaces around cinema halls, community centres, landmarks.

The study will also deal with the performance of various functions to be carried out by open public spaces in term of design and location.

The study will also deal with a number of issues related to open public spaces relevant in Indian context like:




Problem faced


This study of dissertation is focus on urban open public spaces in contemporary context only.

The term open public spaces have wide range. Hence it would be essential to narrow down the fields and deal with specific array of open spaces.

Due to complexity of the topic the study will be limited to specific delineation of the examples.

Due to the limitation of the time the case studies are done to extent to explain the related topic in the research.

Author has also depended on secondary and even tertiary sources of information, for research material.

This study based on the personal observations, photographs and literature review.


A sequence of steps has been taken up in order to achieve the objectives.

The first step was to analysis the topic and defines what direction this dissertation takes, and what the author wants to come up with at the end of it, the end result may be documentation, a detailed analysis, or a set of solution.


This involves data collection, reading and understanding literature to the nature of open spaces, the role of open spaces in the cities. Then put the collected data into systematic representation of data.


This involves the opinion of various architects, ideas about what is happening in the world and exposure to other related issues.


Identifying issues to be discussed, discussion on various issues and analysing their opinion.


Selection of case studies urban city between the buildings. Each case study will be conducted under following aspects-




Physical form and architectural character

Movement and activity pattern

Activities and users


Security and comfort


Collection of information about case study, basic plan and maps, under following categories -

- Site surrounding areas

- Site boundaries

- Landmarks and contours

- Structure

- Pedestrian and vehicular paths


Places will be identified for case studies based on their support of activities as well as physical forms. They will be studied through personal observations, relevant literature and discussions. The author has researched material on the topic of urban open public spaces with a western context and Indian context. The author has used few case studies and few dissertation books as her primary sources of information.

Analysis of the collected data will result in the identification of architectural variable which define the usability of open spaces and thus will help in identifying means and measures which will help in integrating these open spaces. The case studies include studying maps of the area, surroundings, as well as preparing figure ground diagrams, as well as discussions and interviews with the inhabitants. A correlation has to be made between all this information.

Selection of the case study based on the people's activities. People gather in leisure. Places which are use for hangout normally.


Secondary case study:

Trafalgar Square in London

Quincy market square, Boston

Primary case study:

Priya/PVR cinema complex, Basant lok, Vasant vihar



Open urban public spaces have been host to many political, social and economic activities throughout history. From the early days of the agora in Greece where bustling trade occurred to the Place Royale in Paris where political revolution took place, public space has been at the core of many cities' most important happenings.  The core functions of public space have the capacity to radically change with the passing of time. The squares and streets of cities have historically been closely tied to markets and commerce but worrying trends of serving business instead of community are emerging.  Public space offers elements that embellish a city's character. (

2.1 The story of public spaces historical context:-


. Ancient Greece was the golden age of public participation, where the democratic processes allowed citizen to participate activity in politics and governance. The Agora was at once a market place and a ground for political and intellectual debate. The architecture of the city state then was an expression of community and self-determination that centred on the agora. One major function of focused on democracy. This created a strong bond with the agora as it was the open-air arena for debate and discussion. Political discussions took place through open-air meetings, while during leisure time the local people of a settlement would gather and use the agora to socialise.


The forum was the centre of public life not merely for the city of Rome but for the entire Roman Empire. The forum as a This illustrates similarity to the Greek agorae. The buildings that surrounded the Roman forum included the lacus curtius (law court), tabernae veteres (old shops) and the basilica sempronia (one of the many temples). were raised walkways and the public could pay for positions to view such activities. The number of streets that entered the Roman forum was limited to avoid detracting from the sense of enclosure.

Medieval Europe: town squares and plazas:

Life in early middle ages centred on the church. At a central position in the walled town was the cathedral square, large enough for the townspeople to gather on festival occasions. The square was a stage for religious ritual and drama, comedies and moral plays, public execution and daily markets. The 'squares' in these organic towns were anything but square. They usually occurred at the intersection of streets and were triangular or circular or many sided. Rob Krier in urban space classified them according to their shape and spatial character. The writings of Camillo Sitte, Rob Krier and others led to a revival of interest in the forms and character of medieval urban space. They were modest and human in scale, irregular in shape and enclosed by a continuous edge of built form accentuated by the rich textures of walls and floors cape. Experienced through the twists and turns of the streets that led to them, they provided a rich visual experience. (Krier, 1979) Designers like Gordon Cullen concentrated on the aesthetic character of these squares and their love for the traditional was often imperfectly understood, leading to the recreation of old fashioned town squares in new towns or quaint little piazzas within air conditioned malls that captured the appearance of the place but not its spirit.

Medieval cities grew and proposed due to trade and the town began to establish a sort of civic identity. The Town Square of northern Europe, with the town hall and other municipal buildings, the alms-house and hospital and sometimes the church as well, was the core of the city. The best examples of public place were the piazzas and campos of Italy. Piazzas were meeting places and markets, each the centre of community life for their districts, with schools, libraries, guildhalls, houses and a church. Since the provision of water was collective function of the town council, many of the public squares had fountains. The public fountains were a work of art that looked beautiful as well as quenched thirst. People drew together to collect water, gossip and exchange news.

Piazzas San Marco, an open space in front of the church of St. Marks formed the core of the city of Venice. The piazza took form in the 12th century as market stalls set up there. The buildings that enclose it - the Doge's place, pilgrim's hostelry, the procurator's hall, and the library were products of an urban growth that lasted over hundreds of years. Gradually the livestock and meat markets gave way to restaurants, cafes, shops and places. Trading cities like Genoa, dominated by powerful merchant clans had clan piazzas, where members of a family clustered around a family square that was the centre of their community life. Piazzas had clan- sponsored churches, the loggias where the men of the family met.

In old quarters of European cities today, the plazas and piazzas are still charmingly lively places, the scene of many meeting, conversation and filtration. Some cities have pedestrianized this district, in attempt to preserve both their forms and social character.

Medieval India : courtyard and chowks:

Like the church in medieval Europe temple and mosques formed the focus of communal life in Indian cities. The courtyard of main mosque was one of the largest open congregational spaces in the urban fabric. The men of the city would gather here for Friday prayer and wherever a large number of people gathered, daily and weekly markets thrived. The bazaar street formed the main commercial spine. It grew along major movement routes through the city. Many Islamic cities had ground or maidan that were originally at the edge of the town, or even outside the city walls. It served as parade ground and open air gathering space on feast days. Sometimes it was integrated into the main city and served as a forecourt to the palace and mosque.

While the mosque the maidan and the bazaars were the primary open public place of the city; they were not the sort of civic nucleus that characterised the cities of the west. Urban space was largely decentralized, there was no notion of a single 'core' or heart; instead there was a hierarchy of graded open spaces. The city of Lucknow had a distinct urban spaces structure punctuated by 'baghs' or gardens along major routes to the city and on the banks of the river Gomti; 'ganjs' which commercial spines were with houses on the upper level and imambara complexes. The imambara were theatres of mourning of the occasion of muharram in predominantly Shia Luckhnow and were the most significant open public spaces of the city.

People in India traditionally lived together based on their caste, religion and occupation. For example, the Brahmins or priest class would live nearest to the temple, with their houses along a particular street. The untouchable lived in an entirely different section of the town and their paths rarely crossed. Even when they went down to the rivers, different areas were the preserves of different castes. Moreover, there were so many sub castes!

In the wall city of Ahmedabad, the residential streets were called 'pols' (the pol was actually the gate that closed off the street) and often ended in enclosed chowks where children played. The houses lining the street had performs and steps facing the street called otlas where people sat and watched the street scene, so the street itself was a community space. Then there was the neighbourhood well or water tank, where the women could get together and exchange news and gossip. Chowks were formed at intersections of' 'pols' and they had 'chhabutras'or bird feeders to draw nature into the street, since the street itself was very narrow and the chowks too small to have trees. Larger chowks were formed where residential streets intersected with market streets. Shops were on the ground floor and houses on the first. Diversity of use meant chowks were used extensively both for community and commerce.

The largest and most important market squares occurred along the primary movement arteries; adjoining temples, forts and mosques, or at the entrance gates to cities, which were used by surrounding villages to sell livestock and grain and also as a parking place for animals. For cities on the river's edge like Banaras, the waterfront had a unique ritualistic and religious significance. The devout went down to the Ghats at dawn for their morning dip and prayers, so did the sellers of the paraphernalia required for the puja's, the priests, beggars, onlookers.

Open spaces in traditional cities have exuberances and vitality due to the variety of activates sights, sounds and smells that infuse them. At each level of their hierarchy, they responded in physical form and character to the culture and life of the people who used them.

Wide open spaces:

The baroque period was one of glorious urban visions. Baron Haussmann transformed the medieval Paris of narrow twisting streets and enclosed squares, to the Paris of tree lined avenues and boulevards we know today. His grand design of straight and diagonal roads, symmetrically laid out and geometrically shaped squares, vistas and monuments allowed for unimpeded traffic(at that time horses and carriages) and secured the city from civil rebellion- the width of the roads would prevent the formation of barricades.

Baroque and classical design principles inspired the design of L'Enfants' Washington and Lutyen's New Delhi. The designers of these elegant cities tended to subordinate urban functions to form, human interaction to traffic flow. Over time, many of these spaces in spite of their vastness of scale, their straightness and uncompromising geometry allowed a variety of activities to humanise them. On summer days you can see groups of people spend time, play in the India gate lawns and on pleasant evening the India gate lawns are full of ice-cream vendors, balloons, and picnickers.

In the first half of the 20TH century, extravagantly scaled for military display were designed for the fascist of Germany and Italy. In Rome, a huge open space was carved out from the piazza Venezia right down to the coliseum.

Communist countries too needed spaces for mass assembly, since ritual gatherings of the people in the centre of the city were thought to be essential to a 'peoples' government. Huge voids were carved out of the historic cores of cities like St. Petersburg and Berlin. Moscow's Red Square was the prime model of the socialist square, recreated in communist countries all over the world. Beijing's Tiananmen Square, for examples in front of the old Imperial City, was where Mao proclaimed to the people the establishment of the People's Republic.

(Revolution cannot really be called a function of open public arenas, but most popular revolts were sparked of in the open public spaces of the city. Public Demonstration consisted of bringing to the notice of people who passes through streets and public places the issues that they might otherwise be unaware of or avoid. Ideally, public place is a forum where anyone can speak and someone will listen.)

Colonial India:

. There was even a interaction point where ladies exchanged gossip and interact after the church. (S., 1999)

There were provisions for social and recreational places in the bigger cities like Bombay and Kolkata. Both cities have a large central maidan, a green spaces for hangout, sports and recreation. Bombay has a wonderful network of public buildings and open public spaces. Even Delhi, a city designed as a statement of imperial power and grandeur, with more ceremonial spaces than public ones, had the central lawns of Connaught place where a band used to play and people could get together.

Modernism and the erosion of public spaces:

Most urban development in the 20th century was inspired by the tenest of modernism. Corbusier detested untidy, cluttered organic cities and his vision for the new city- the Radiant City did away with their streets and squares in favour of vehicular roads and tower block, with green strips for open spaces. He provided Chandigarh with a civic centre.

The advent of the automobile, symbol of the modern age, was the chief reason for the decline of the public realm. The parking lot was the new function of the open spaces, or it consisted of left over bits of land and unusable green patches. The absence of places for human activity, made the city sterile and lacking in character and vitality. Modern communication techniques meant that they lost many of their earlier functions. One no longer was required to go down to the neighbourhood market or square for news and options. In the 60's, writers like Jane Jacobs made a case for, the lively cultural and social life that streets and public places could offer. In the book death and life of great American places author described the "intricate ballet" that was created out of encounters and activities on city streets. William H. Whyte observed "the social life in small urban spaces" the corporate plazas that had become important public places in New York. A development in the 20th century American city the 'corporate plaza' was given public use by private corporations. The city of New York offers incentives to builders who provide plazas. While a few of them are good social places, used by office workers and pedestrians many are cold hard-edges spaces with no sitting space.

The writings of Jacob and Whyte focused attention on the pleasures of urban life, of sharing spaces with strangers, of chance encounter and meetings.

The significance of public spaces:

The brief outline of public spaces through history shows that not just piazzas but all public spaces are very good indicators of the social structure of the city. The fact that Agora's were closed to women was an indication of their status in Greek society. A public places is the best place to observe the relations between the different classes, races, religions and age groups that make up the present day urban community. Their architecture, function and most of all the activities varied with the culture, society and political situation of the period.



Relation between open public spaces and cities

Looking at cities can give a special pleasure, however common place the sight may be. Like a piece of architecture, the city is a construction in space, but one of a vast scale, a thing perceived only in course of long spans of time. It is an amalgamation of different people with different aims, ideas, preferences, likes and dislikes. It is one of the most extremely flexible places, where anyone can do almost anything - an equalizer. (reshma, 2006)

A city is capable of portraying this transition by virtue of its spaces. It is the open spaces in the city that are the best representation of the city and what is all about. The open space is the focus of the entire settlement and is responsible for creating an identity as well as an image for the entire community. These open spaces exist in the public as well as in the private domains. In both cases it is the centre of activity. However due to the changing perceptions not all open spaces are successful and this may be due to various factors.

Today's open spaces have to be created accepting the changes in modern day life. Designing open spaces that are people friendly is difficult but not impossible. Providing for human use and enjoyment is a basic requirement in creating and maintaining successful open public spaces. Providing for human need is a perquisite for successful open spaces. Therefore open spaces are public spaces where people can come and socialize, recreate, relax and enjoy the time they spend there. Such places are sociable spaces with more women, children and elderly. There are five main ingredients that make great public open spaces. (Varshney, 2006)

Social life of open public spaces in urban fabric

The environment as communication

Physical and social environments are a form of nonverbal communication that suggests probable uses and behaviours. Environmental communication is mostly symbolic. Symbols are associated with culture, values, status and identity. Vernacular design is based on shared symbols that speak to a culturally conditioned user group, which is the reason that they are so 'responsive'. Different user group based on their own values and associations interpret the language of symbols differently. In fact environmental perception varies quite a bit amongst individuals of the same group. Users group themselves are overlapping and loosely defined- a person belongs to an age group, region, social class, profession and many other subgroups as well. In the past, most celebrated public spaces 'belonged' to a specific group. Agora's and forums were territories; members of the same caste lived together in 'Pols'.

One of the reasons for the 'incoherence' of present day urban environments is that it addresses people of every sort and description. The design of public spaces involves understanding the processes of environment perception by the people that are going to use it. Spaces with a clear and legible image are most easily understood by the largest cross section of users. Historical places like India gate are popular, especially with visitors and tourists because they are universally associated with certain events and traditions. Spaces need a continuous history of use for group and personal associations to develop. No public places are created in a day; it takes years and even generations before it can be recognised as one.

Open - ended spaces

Urban open public spaces can be either open ended or single ended. A fast food restaurant is generally single minded, while a street side cafe or teashop is open- ended. An expressway is single minded, while a high street, bazaar or even the pavement is open ended. Single- minded spaces are designed with particular function and user in mind. A lot of the new 'designer' plazas have failed as social spaces precisely because they are overdesigned and do not encourage spontaneous usages and activities.

Open ended public spaces are those that allow a variety of usages and possibilities. They become 'places' after people act on them. An open-ended design is the best way to address group diversity. People can use these spaces creatively and spontaneously and thus establish their own identity and territorial rights on them. We feel for and identify with spaces we can control and influence. The most successful neighbourhood parks are those in which the users take active interest in the parks usage and maintenance. Participation and involvement offers the best solution for community spaces and strengthens social ties as well.

The parameters of successful open public spaces


Important urban open public spaces were invariably either centrally located or along major movement and visual axis. Other were located at urban nodes or edges.


''The freedom with which a person can walk about and look around is a very useful guide to the civilized quality of an urban area.''

Sir Colin Buchanan. (Reshma, 2006)

It is important to ensure that we provide choice in access to different activities, resources, information and places for all sectors of community. By accessibility we mean that an open space should be physically and visually accessible to all, regardless of age, ability, background of income. A successful open space is easy to get to, and get through; it is visible both from a distance and up close.

A place should first and foremost be physically accessible. The success of a place depends on its location in the city and its connectivity to various transport systems. We observed that a good place can either be a destination or can lie in route to something or both. If the place is a destination, it is the important that the place be reached by wide variety of transport. If the place is in route then it should strengthen the continuity of movement from adjacent places. Sometimes a place is successful because it is both a destination and it lies in route to lot of places. An example of this is the India Gate. It is no doubt a destination place but lots of people simply visit it while going from one part of the city to another.

For a space to be used it should be visually accessible, that is the people need to see it. An open public space should be discernible from outside and each component should be visually linked to the other. It's because of this factor that most sunken courts in spite of good landscaping are hardly used. It is very important to keep people and activities at street level. An example where visibility of a place made a difference to the popularity of the place is Bryant Park in New York. Initially the entrance to the park was dark and narrow and kept people out. The same entrance when it was redesigned proved to be more inviting and open. The new entrance has kiosks that sell coffee and sandwiches, and the interior of the park is visible from the street. Accessibility does not only mean that the open public spaces should be reachable and visible, it also means that people have the freedom to use that space.

User friendliness

An open public space needs to be user friendly. It needs to provide comfort in terms of climate, physical activities and amenities. Any place must provide the opportunity to enjoy good weather and adequate protection from bad weather. Climate varies from place to place and so should open spaces in that climate.

A good example of this is Connaught Place. The covered corridor along the shops provides much needed shade during the summers. Planting trees is the simplest way of providing shade. The kind of trees to be planted is also very important. Placement of trees is also important because trees can cause visual barriers. Architectural features such as corridors, semi-covered spaces such as pergolas, etc. can also provide shade. Protection from sun can be provided by shadows of the surrounding structures. Ideally, sitting should be physically comfortable. It is more important, however that it be socially comfortable and also offer a wide range of choices. The sitting should also face an active area otherwise it will not be used. Other than benches and chairs, secondary seating in the form of steps, ledges should be provided. Steps in particular prove to be popular seating. It is imperative to make available, basic facilities like drinking water and toilets in any open public spaces.


Sociability is an important concern in the design of open public spaces. The degree and nature of social interaction depends on the scale of the place and the activities within it. Movement, group formation, density are closely related to the spatial organization of the space. The configurations of physical space can facilitate and encourage the possibility of meetings and encounters that enhance the vitality of public life. (Reshma, 2006, p. 38)

Security is an important issue for the life of public places. People feel free to interact in an environment in which they feel safe. The number of women, children and elderly users is a good indication because they are the most vulnerable groups.


Perception of and behaviour in an open public space is intimately linked with its activities. Human activity brings about a noticeable difference to an environment. A place may be centrally located and prominent but it is not recognized as a public place without human activity to proclaim it. Even for adults, architectural features of a space, unless they are unique and obvious, are less memorable in themselves than vital activity that happens in it.

"Activity attracts more activity." People invariably collect where other people are; they sit in places where they can observe what is happening around them. Even when one comes to a park for solitary contemplation one prefers to sit, alone perhaps, but near to the scene of activity. Apart from making it more interesting, activity can also make place safer. Open public spaces host a wide range of things to do. Sitting, watching people walking, shopping, eating and drinking are common to most places. They may also have specialized activities such as games, sports, performances, concerts, festivals, public gatherings and demonstrations.

For activities to be pleasurable, they must happen in safe, clean and attractive environments that not only allow but also encourage them. Therefore we need an environment which is not simply well organized, but poetic and symbolic as well. It should speak of the individuals and their complex society, of their aspirations and their historical tradition, of the natural setting, and of complicated functions and movements of the city world. Such a sense of a place will in itself enhance very human activity that occurs there.


4.1 Typology of open public spaces

The term 'open space' covers green space consisting of any vegetated land or structure, water, path or geological feature within and on the edges of settlements, and civic space consisting of squares, market places and other paved or hard landscaped areas with a civic function.

Open space may serve a range of functions and some areas, particularly informal spaces, may not fit neatly into the typology. This should be tailored to fit local circumstances, and is usually most applicable to parks, green spaces and woodland areas. Criteria linking population catchments to the size of different spaces and sensible distance or time thresholds can be included, helping to ensure that spaces of different types, functions and sizes are easily accessible to the communities they serve.

4.2 Benefits or role of open public spaces in the urban cities:

Open spaces as the lung of the city: Vegetation traps the particulate matter airborne pollutants, leaves can effectively absorb ozone and carbon dioxide, and all plants consume carbon dioxide.

Reduction of Flood Risks: The open space will act to reduce the flood debit and increase the groundwater reservoir.

Climate Change: Several studies in big cities throughout the world have shown the importance of open spaces and vegetation areas in maintaining the climate stability. These open spaces are important for reducing glare, maintaining cooler air temperatures, and reducing heat load on buildings.

Noise Pollution: Trees, hedges, and greenbelts can reduce the total sound decibels if located in a position between the highway and the residential and/or commercial areas.

Wildlife Habitat: Green open space is home to various wildlife populations, birds and squirrels are commonly seen in the open spaces located near the city.

Recreation: Most of the city's inhabitant values the chance of recreation in the open spaces and woodlands and parks in the city. The chance of recreation is important to improve the people's quality of life and will give good benefit for someone's physical and mental condition.

Preserving open space is an integral aspect in sustainable urban development: Conservation of open spaces is important for sustainable development plan. The open space design is vital in ensuring long term life quality.

Social Benefits of Urban Parks: Well-managed parks can therefore create welcoming environments for vulnerable groups like children and wheelchair users, helping them to socialize and take part in community life. Parks help to build community cohesion by getting people to engage with each other in partnerships. In terms of equality for all sectors of society, free access to parks offer a uniquely affordable alternative to commercial leisure activities.

Parks also play the useful functions of providing a space for civic interaction. Political and social rallies are sometimes held in parks. Access to public parks

And recreational acilities has been strongly linked to reductions in crime and in particular to reduced juvenile delinquency.

Environmental and Ecological Benefits of Urban Parks: Healthy environments lead to healthy economies and societies. Parks are pollution ameliorators and help counter the pollution, which can make cities unbearable and unsustainable. Urban parks with well maintained vegetation act as physical filters helping to reduce air pollutants such as sulphur dioxide and nitrogen oxide. They also help in reducing the rate of ozone production and in capturing dusts and volatile organic compounds.

Urban parks with tree vegetation are a major contributor to stabilizing the urban climate, they serve as lungs for towns and cities and counter pollution by removing particulates from the air, adding oxygen and removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. They promote the idea of ecologically sensitive towns and cities by providing wildlife corridors and are havens for many birds, animals and wildflowers. Parks contribute to land reclamation by establishing trees and woodlands on the many derelict and degraded lands in urban areas, it is an inexpensive option for improving the appearance, enhancing their ecological value and making them available for recreation. (Rose Susan RABARE, 2009)



Perception of and behaviour in a public spaces is intimately linked with its activities. Human activity brings about a noticeable difference to an environment. Signs of human presence are most important in children's environmental perception. The street corner at which the sweet seller sits becomes an identifiable space for them. Even for adults, architectural features of spaces unless they are unique and obvious, are less memorable in themselves than vital activity that happens in it. A place may be centrally located and prominent but it is not recognise as a public space without human activity to proclaim it.

"Activity attracts more activity." People invariably collect where other people are; they sit in places where they can observe what is happening around them. Even when one comes to a park for solitary contemplation one prefers to sits, alone perhaps, but near to the scene of activity. Apart from making it more interesting activity can also make a place safer. Street facing cafes, balconies and terraces overlooking public areas provide natural surveillance. Mostly public spaces become active due to activities happening there. Many people use public spaces only for hangout and leisure activities.

Public spaces can host wide ranges of things to do. Sitting, walking people watching, shopping, eating and drinking are common to most open public spaces. There are many urban open public spaces where eating is the main activity. The activity and behaviour of other people is the most easily understood form of environmental communication. Activities like a morning walk in the park assume a ritual significance in people's life.

General activities in open public spaces-

The everyday users: People that live and work in the area or walk through.

The visitor/customers: People that visit the functions in the area.

The recreational visitors: People that visit the area because the public spaces is delightful or use the public spaces in relation to recreation, pleasure, exercise, play hangout etc.

The visitors to events: People that visit the public spaces because of special events.



This dissertation deals with the Open public spaces in the urban city and open spaces the world. Selection of the case study based on the people's activities. People gather in leisure. Places which are use for hangout normally.

The reason or the cause for choosing these spaces is that they are all successful and moreover the all are entirely different kinds. There are different reasons for its very existence these have different cultural background, climatic condition, social behaviour, activity patterns, economic factors, land use etc.

The objective of this dissertation is to understand the factors or elements that make an open space successful and also to identify and analyse the role of these spaces in the city's expression and transformation i.e. their significance in the urban realm they are located in.

Therefore analysing these three open public spaces the author will have a better understanding of the definite factors that go into making of a successful urban open public spaces.

Trafalgar Square in London (England).

Trafalgar Square is a public space and tourist attraction in central London, England, United Kingdom. At its centre is Nelson's Column, which is guarded by four lion statues at its base. There are a number of statues and sculptures in the square, with one plinth displaying changing pieces of contemporary art. The square is also used for political demonstrations and community gatherings, such as the celebration of New Year's Eve. Trafalgar Square is 110 m by 110m big (3 acres).

Trafalgar square was built to commemorate Admiral Nelson, the square was named after the Spanish Cape Trafalgar where his late battle was won.

Location: London United Kingdom Building type: Recreational/Cultural, Commercial

Architects: Sir Charles Barry

Year: 1845 Area: 3 acres (110m x 110m)

Plan of the Trafalgar Square


It was John Nash, who designed the first layout of the square in 1820's. Although he didn't live to see its completion, his Neo-classical design was adhered to, achieving the unified effect of the beautiful buildings we admire today. Building of the square began in 1829 and was still being developed till the 1840's. The present architecture of the square is due to Sir Charles Barry and was completed in 1845.


The Trafalgar square is located at the intersections of Pall Mall, the mall and the charring Cross Roads. The Buckingham Palace, the Westminster Abbey, Waterloo Station and Charring Cross Station are few of the important landmarks near the square in London. Trafalgar Square behaves as a roundabout for five of major heavy traffic roads in London. All these roads converge at the Trafalgar Square. Therefore the square is easily accessible from any part of the London.

There is a lot of informal road crossing by the visitors especially from the south side of the square. The National Gallery occupies the north side of the square. On the east is the South Africa House, with African animals carved on the stone arches. On the west side there is Canada House.C:\Users\Denka\Desktop\square\Trafalgar_Square_files\290px-Trafalgar_Square_Map.png

Open Street Source:

Road Network Source:

A 360-degree view of Trafalgar Square, in 2009


Trafalgar square is home to many sculptures and statuary. The four large pedestals positioned around the column on which are seated four lions. Another pedestal has nothing atop it for the present, the sculpture is to be changed every three months, adding vitality and change to the place, also speaks about the transformation of peoples square. There are several other lesser statues and sculpture adorning Trafalgar Square as well. The Trafalgar Square is very secular in nature and it does not differentiate between activities and it's accommodating as well as flexible. It provides social access, never distinguishing between people on the basis of their backgrounds. Such a place is instrumental in enhancing the social as well as the economic situation of the area.

Street section of Trafalgar Square

Source: Source: Dissertation book by Anju Reshma (Study of major Urban Active Open Public Space, p.63)



On the north side of Trafalgar Square is the National Gallery. It was founded in 1824 when George IV persuaded the government to purchase 38 major paintings, including works by Raphael and Rembrandt.

Plan of National Gallery

Source: Salon Art Bizarre 2010

Elevation of National Gallery Source: Source: Salon Art Bizarre 2010

The National Gallery houses one of the biggest picture collections in the world. To the west lies the West End, with its famous shops and hotels. To the east is the Strand, which leads to the City of London.

Section through the National Gallery Source: Google Image Search

Nelson's Column

Dominating the square is the 56 m (171 feet) column, Nelson's Column, with its 5.5m (18 feet) statue of Nelson on top. It was erected in 1843. Nelson faces south, towards Whitehall, Westminster Abbey, the Houses of Parliament and the River Thames. South west is Admiralty Arch; the entrance to the wide ceremonial drive to Buckingham Palace called The Mall.

Nelson's column and Admiral Nelson Source: Salon Art Bizarre 2010

Nelson's column is guarded by four huge bronze lions sculpted by Sir Edwin Landseer in 1868. They were made out of metal from guns that had been taken from old battleships.

Nelson's column and Admiral Nelson Source: Salon Art Bizarre 2010

Nelson's column and Admiral Nelson Source: Salon Art Bizarre 2010


The DDA community market in Basant lok is a successful open public space in the strong urban context of Delhi. It has become a pulse point in the city. Today it is almost like an entertainment and hangout arcade, with a cinema, fast food joints, restaurants, garments shops and book stores, a pool parlour- all concentrated within a small part of the market. There are also offices, a small medical centre, a hostel and a post office.


Basant lok is situated at the edge of one of Delhi's wealthier residential enclaves.

It lies on the road perpendicular to Poorvi Marg. It is not located along an important movement artery, but since Priya is a destination place rather than one you pass through, this has not been a deterrent to its growth.


The Basant lok community centre was planned by the DDA to serve as a community centre for the residents of Vasant Vihar and the nearby areas. DDA planned the layout of the complex and allocated the major land uses. However it has now become a major hangout place for whole of Delhi.

Once a regular community centre for residents of Vasant vihar, the Basant Lok cinema complex has now turned into an entertainment arcade which acts as a 'pulse point' for the entire city.


The nearest bus stop is ten minutes away, across a rather deserted park. There are plenty of autorikshaws available. Parking is provided for about 500 vehicles in two parking lots. One next to the hotel and one behind the office block.


The layout of the complex consists of two main pedestrian streets at right angles to each other. Three subsidiary paths at lower levels connect the main access path to the parking space. The open space in front of the cinema occurs at the intersection of the two. The space is rectangular with a large stepped fountain at the centre. There is another open space at the end of the perpendicular path. This space is irregular in shape, enclosed on three sides by curved office blocks and green space. This space and the path leading to it form a separate space sequence. The two overlap only at the edge.

Spatial character:

Priya is experienced as a narrative place- the approach to the square and the open spaces are linked together by movement and activity. The environment communities visually through billboards, neon signs, lights and banners that leap at you and announce themselves. It is not subtle, but it is effective and easily understood.

Edge and Enclosure:

Both streets and open places within the community centre have an intimate scale and high degree of enclosure. The block with McDonalds, Nirulas etc. is four stories high and provides a continuous arcaded edge, the shops across the street and the cinema are double storied.

Movement and activity pattern:

Both movement and activity are concentrated in the main access street and the space in front of the cinema people collect and sit on the square stone planters, or along the edge of the arcade. Within the square, activity is concentrated where the street and square meet and the centre with the fountain, which is where people sit. The edge are relatively dead. Some activity spills onto the street at the side which lead to the parking and have eating stalls and garment stores. Office workers mostly use a second access through the car park behind. In spite of the benches and fountain, the only people sits there are only tramps- people who want to be away from the activity.

Circulation Plan


Activities generators:

Priya Cinema complex has a large number of activity generators of which the cinema hall is the main focus. The squares in the complex, though have a central and governing function, maintain activity in a balanced manner. This hustle- bustle in the squares is possible largely due to its multifaceted character which enables a wide variety of uses. The user finds all varieties of hangout place and entertainment here, starting from small food joints, window shopping, people watching or generally hanging around.

Similarly in the second square, the ambience is very relaxed. The plan of this square is asymmetrical and does not have a fixed geometry. The fountain in the center of the square add to the casual nature of this space. The surrounding buildings consist of office spaces as well as restaurants and showrooms. Thus the variety of architecture surrounding this space is of a wide variety. Second-hand book and magazine vendors have setup stalls towards the entrance of the market. They cramp the space a bit but produce another activity- browsing through books.

Users groups and sociability:

Priya cinema complex is dominated by a young crowd always. Users are middle or upper class, westernized, urban. People come in large groups or pairs and there are interaction both within groups and between different groups. The environment is designed to symbolise and communicate their values. The predominance of a certain class does help to promote social interactions. There is a large percentage of women users at all times. Surveillances is easy because it is a small fairly enclosed area.


The colour used inside and outside the buildings and other architectural features are very bright and distinct. This makes it possible for a perceiver to comprehend the space better. The material and the textural quality vary and thus add to the visual aesthetics of this place.

Similarly landscaping done on the site helps in adding interest to the surroundings. Landscape elements like trees, benches fountains etc. add to the quality of the environment.

Proportion and scale:

The proportion of the built mass to that of the unbuilt space within and around it is very comfortable. Neither does the space seem too small or inadequate to be useful, nor look like a wasted spaces due to the lack of population. The ratio of the width of the streets or the movement corridor to the height of the built mass is 1:2 and square1:1, which makes it a comfortable environment. The width to length ratio in the streets is 1:5 which clearly defines it as a street. On the other hand, the primary square has a width- length ratio of 2:3.

Nelson's column and Admiral Nelson Source: Salon Art Bizarre 2010


The main movement corridor of the Basant lok complex provides a high degree of visibility and accessibility to the user. This result in the user feeling comfortable and safe in this square.

Also the lighting at late in the evening and night is commendable hence providing the user with the comfortable of staying till late at night. This complex has a crowd even at 12 in the night which comes either to watch the late night show in the cinemas hall or just to hangout.

But the secondary square sees any crowd during the night as this space is seen as breeding ground for unsocial element.



Public spaces are a celebration of urban vitality, diversity and fullness. Moreover they are an essential feature of urban life. As mentioned earlier the objective of this dissertation is to analysis of successful active urban open public spaces and understand the cause for them being successful, also to understand their importance and their role in the city's expression and transformation the presence of large number of public spaces is one of the most notable characters of cities. Spaces in which strangers can come together to meet, communicate, transact business or just enjoy the sight and sound of each other is at the very core of urban experience.

The Trafalgar square is a very successful open public space. It is the main breathing spaces in the urban fabric of London. There are various factors that go into making it the place it has been. From the case study author can analyse that the Trafalger square is centrally located and is easily accessible from any part of London. It is also a place where five main roads of London converge. The kind of land use pattern in that area is institutional. Therefore there are a lot of office goers who use this place. It is also a tourist spot. Large number of tourist comes here to see the nelson's column. Considering the climate of London the Trafalgar square is used as winter sit out. Also the buildings that are around this square gives it a feeling of enclosure. The architecture of the place also appeals to the public.

In the second study, PVR Priya complex, it is seen that on the whole the two squares function quite well along with their pedestrian spines. But on the individual level, the square at the end of the secondary spines mostly remains less public during most of times. The secondary square does not have any major attraction other than Nirula's. According to case study this complex has a higher degree of sociability during all times of the day. It is a popular hangout place not only for the young generation but also for the elder generations and hence proves to be a public puller. The main reason for this are:

Accessibility:- The PVR Priya complex has a higher accessibility in term of visibility, symbolism and physicality. A passer-by on the Munirka Marg can perceive the activities happening in the square and consequently gets pulls towards it.