This article contends that the ‘sense of enclosure’ generated by following certain ratios of street height to street width is based on a valuable perception of what makes a satisfying place, but that the ratio theory is the wrong interpretation of that valuable perception. Consequently, by following the ratio theory we risk making developments that focus on concerns that may be unimportant to street users, and thereby make mistakes. In its place I’ll try to offer an interpretation of why some places that are said to ‘offer a sense of enclosure’ are satisfying that is both simpler and fits the data better, and which is constructed from two principles grounded firmly in known principles of how we perceive a place.
One of the most well-known and most imitated works of civic branding is the ‘I ♥ NY’ logo created by Milton Glaser. Why, according to Glaser, does this slogan work, and how can applying the principle help to save high street shops from dual threats?
Above is one of the most inviting-looking streetscapes in European art. How did Van Gogh achieve this effect and how can we use it to make more inviting public spaces? Read on and I’ll let you in on a few of Vincent’s little secrets… Continue reading →
What makes different public spaces have different characters? There may be many answers to this, from different activities taking place there to different histories to different kinds of users to different styles of architecture, and many more. This series of posts looks at the role that the colour design of a public space can play. First up is a look at how the use of colour opposites can give a public space a more active character.
‘Beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, it is often said. Yet, whilst there might be something in this phrase, we shouldn’t ignore that many Old Masters ceaselessly experimented to find techniques that would reliably delight viewers. Some landscape artists, for example, took this experimentation so seriously that they explicitly considered themselves scientists: John Constable declared that “Painting is a science and should be pursued as an inquiry into the laws of nature. Why, then, may not landscape painting be considered as a branch of natural philosophy [the then current name for science], of which pictures are but the experiments?” His contemporary JMW Turner added the suffix ‘P.P.’, short for ‘Professor of Perspective’ to the signature on many of his paintings. That landscape artists today do not speak in similar terms is partly due to centuries of experimentation having led to the development of a series of reliable techniques for creating pleasing pictures. Their very ease and teachability led many artists to consider the possibilities of landscape painting exhausted, and consequently to move into more untamed, challenging fields of art. A reliable body of techniques therefore exist to create pleasing landscapes, and there is surely no reason why planners of today should not apply these tried-and-tested techniques to make, quite literally, ‘picturesque’ places. This post attempts to apply one such technique to landscaping a public space. Continue reading →
A key goal of many modern developments is to inculcate a ‘sense of place’ so that the development has an interesting character. In order to do this it’s useful to examine how we experience a place, and how we can derive from this practical measures to build a sense of place. Six methods to build a sense of place are derived, with photos of Oxford and elsewhere to demonstrate the suggestions in action.