Who and How Creates Public Spaces

Public spaceNews20 November 2023
20 November 2023

Recently, an educational series called 'Urbanism' appeared on the 'Diia.Osvita' platform. In the third episode, landscape architect Maksym Kotsiuba shares insights into designing public spaces. We explore why a landscape architect discusses the creation of such objects in this article.

Public Spaces: From Architects to Landscape Architects

Public spaces are open and accessible areas within a city. Various types of such spaces exist, including streets, squares, parks, promenades, and boulevards. Areas accessible to a limited but significant number of people are considered public, such as educational institutions, offices, and inner courtyards of residential buildings. The distinction is subtle, so the terms 'public spaces' and 'public areas' are often used interchangeably.

There is a misconception that architects create public spaces, but this is not entirely accurate. If an architect designs streets and courtyards, they are already a landscape architect. This distinction is relatively new in Ukraine, where the profession of landscape designer, typically involved in aesthetically decorating spaces, is more common, especially in residential gardens. Landscape architects engage in comprehensive planning of public spaces, managing the entire project, including technical aspects.

Landscape Education in Ukraine

In Ukraine, you can receive an education in landscape design, but there is no specialization called 'landscape architect.' Instead, there are landscape design programs within the field of landscape and park art or architecture and urban planning. The knowledge required for landscape architects is divided among these three specialties.

In contrast to Ukraine, other European countries and the United States offer specialized education for landscape architects, focusing on public spaces. The American Society of Landscape Architects notes that its members are architects who design parks, campuses, street landscapes, squares, and improve people's well-being through their projects.

How to Align Ukrainian Realities with Global Standards? Local landscape architects are already addressing this issue by sharing insights into their work, such as in the 'Urbanism' series on the 'Diia.Osvita' platform. However, this is not enough. The field needs reform to ensure that landscape architects receive specialized education and licensing to work.

From Idea to Implementation: Landscape Architect's Work on Public Spaces

To become a landscape architect, one needs to study architecture, design, or urban planning first and then join a landscape architecture studio where they learn to design public spaces. Here's what the work on public spaces entails:

It all begins before the actual design phase. The territory in question is studied and analyzed to identify its primary tasks and how users will interact with it. Understanding the role of the area for residents, its peculiarities, history, and context is essential.

To better comprehend how people perceive the territory, conducting sociological research is crucial. User participation in the design process is key to creating successful spaces.

Based on this data, a technical task is prepared. Initially, it is discussed with local authorities and stakeholders before being handed over to landscape architects. They form the project's concept, outlining the main idea for the future space, based on location features and user preferences.

After the concept is approved, an outline project is created, providing more details, including site plans and visualizations. This stage also involves selecting materials and equipment and estimating the project's approximate cost.

Following the outline, the detailed project is developed, where all participants in the process detail and approve each decision. The next step is preparing working documentation, including drawings used for construction. During implementation, author supervision is vital to accurately realize the project.

Key Principles of Quality Public Spaces

To create a quality public space, designers must be familiar not only with the work stages but also with the key principles of successful public areas. There are six: hospitality, comfort, socialization, diversity, attractiveness, and accessibility. Let's delve into each of them:

  1. Hospitality: Public spaces should be welcoming to visitors. Achieving this requires excellent design and attention to detail that creates a pleasant atmosphere.

  2. Comfort and Safety: The space should be safe and comfortable. Plants can help reduce street noise, lighting ensures safety during the evening, canopies provide shelter from rain, and trees and water sprays offer relief from the heat.

  3. Socialization: It should be easy for people to interact within the public space. This promotes socialization and community building, fostering a sense of connection to the city. Achieving this depends not only on design but also on involving users in space creation.

  4. Diversity: A quality public space offers various activities for a wide range of people throughout the day.

  5. Attractiveness: Unique attractions draw visitors to a location. These can include installations, street art, festivals, and more.

  6. Accessibility: The territory should be accessible to all, regardless of age, physical abilities, social status, or other individual characteristics.

By adhering to these principles and the correct work stages, you have every opportunity to create an excellent public space.

Watch the video on 'Diia.Osvita' to learn more about the work of a landscape architect and the creation of public spaces (free access after registration).

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