RIBA’s ‘Friendly Spaces’ design workshop for children took place last month to teach budding architects the principles behind creating ‘public spaces that are truly for everyone’.
Inspired by the workshop, Millboard’s Caroline Birdsall has put together her top tips for composing inspiring and unique public spaces that bring people together.
Work out how much space you’ve got and what the functions of the space are
Get your fundamentals in order by looking at the space itself. How much room do you have to play with? What health and safety considerations do you need to take into account? Once you’ve got those essentials locked down, you can let your imagination run free. You can now think about how people might use that space – help to guide these future visitors with clever design. If your space is a recreational public park, for example, encourage people to drift around by introducing meandering pathways and points of interest. Conversely, spaces between buildings on a business park will need direct routes and clear signage.
Create a distinct ‘sense of place’
Public spaces include retail outlets, public gardens, private businesses (such as theme parks and hotel lobbies) and leisure facilities. You’ll want to strike the right tone by thinking about what it is that sets your space apart and by bringing those qualities out in your design. Chester Zoo recently revamped its Kimono Dragon enclosure and opted to use Millboard’s Weathered Oak boards for the walkways, to intensify the ‘wild’ element of the experience. These durable, slip-resistant and stain-resistant boards are perfect for public spaces and their aged appearance adds perfectly to the Zoo’s jungle vibe.
Use inspired street furniture
Public space architects have seen their options explode over the past few years as design-led companies have arrived on the scene. Bland concrete seating, depressing planters and utilitarian bins are becoming a thing of the past with the emergence of revolutionary paint coatings and imaginative shapes. London’s Studio RHE used seating from Vestre in their recent installation of a public water garden in the East India Docks. The Oslo-based street furniture company bring contemporary Scandi chic and ergonomic design to cityscapes all over the world.
Create a mood
How do you want your space to make people feel? Use texture and colour to energise, focus or relax visitors to your space. Richard Hywel Evans, Director of Studio RHE, used bright flashes of yellow in the East India Docks project to inspire ‘joy and vibrancy’. Conversely, Tony Wood’s ‘Floating Pocket Park’ in London was inspired by a 2016 report that confirmed that waterside living fosters a calm state of mind. The designer, therefore, fully embraced the watery environment and his floating decked platforms surround visitors with ‘urban blue space’, encouraging them to unwind.
Designing a public space can be an incredibly exciting process – the broader your imagination, the greater the results will be! Have fun, and embrace all of the great new innovations now at your fingertips to bring your space to life.