Friday, 6 January 2012

The Social Life of Small Spaces

Last night I took advantage of a free showing of W H Whyte's excellent film, "The Social Life of Small Spaces" (courtesy of The Urban Design Group) . Having previously seen some clips c/o Miriam Fitzpatrick who gave a talk in our practice about Whyte last year, I was keen to see more. Though old (1969) his observations are hardly dated and led to a simple set of design codes (seven or so in total) for New York, which were subsequently adopted by the city planners.

The film is made up of many observations of behaviour between people and each other and between people and spaces. In a simple, soporific and amusing way, Whyte's dry voiceover points out what should be obvious: that "People sit where there are places to sit" and that "People like to watch other people." However, the manner by which these needs are met through good design of public space is not so obvious , making this film a must-see for architects, urban designers and difficult-to-persuade clients alike. [Available to watch in full here.]

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