Erik Tilkemeier introduced me to William H. Whyte, an urban thinker who carried out pioneering research into what makes a liveable public space.

There’s a nice page on his work at http://www.pps.org/reference/wwhyte/

Whyte

It includes these marvellous quotes:

 

“What attracts people most, it would appear, is other people.”

“One felicity leads to another. Good places tend to be all of a piece – and the reason can almost always be traced to a human being.”

“It is difficult to design a space that will not attract people. What is remarkable is how often this has been accomplished.”

“We are not hapless beings caught in the grip of forces we can do little about, and wholesale damnations of our society only lend a further mystique to organization. Organization has been made by man; it can be changed by man.”

“The street is the river of life of the city, the place where we come together, the pathway to the center.”

“If there’s a lesson in streetwatching it is that people do like basics — and as environments go, a street that is open to the sky and filled with people and life is a splendid place to be.”

“The human backside is a dimension architects seem to have forgotten.”

“Up to seven people per foot of walkway a minute is a nice bustle”

“There is a rash of studies underway designed to uncover the bad consequences of overcrowding. This is all very well as far as it goes, but it only goes in one direction. What about undercrowding? The researchers would be a lot more objective if they paid as much attention to the possible effects on people of relative isolation and lack of propinquity. Maybe some of those rats they study get lonely too.”

“So-called ‘undesirables’ are not the problem. It is the measures taken to combat them that is the problem.”

“I end then in praise of small spaces. The multiplier effect is tremendous. It is not just the number of people using them, but the larger number who pass by and enjoy them vicariously, or even the larger number who feel better about the city center for knowledge of them. For a city, such places are priceless, whatever the cost. They are built of a set of basics and they are right in front of our noses. If we will look.”

 

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