Friday, February 19, 2010

Build it right...they will come

Eyes on the street at the Winter Olympics

In the film Field of Dreams Kevin Costner responds to a ghostly incantation: If you build it, he will come. In CPTED we do something similar with territorial reinforcement - also known as turf control (TC).

TC is urban design so that people feel safe through a sense of ownership of that space while offenders feel at risk of being apprehended. TC designers use landscaping, signage, and architectural features to break public spaces into semi-public. When people feel safe they are more likely to use a place in greater numbers and, as Costner discovers, they will come (and stay to enjoy).

At least that's how it works in theory. But sometimes on the street, not so much. Usually it is more complicated.

Design does not guarantee anything. People equally need to feel that they are absolutely comfortable, that they can experience joy and fun, and that a place is playful. Comfort, joy, fun and play - these too must find expression in public places for TC to blossom.

How do we use colorful, interactive design features or even bizarre and fun territorial markers to create TC?

I discovered some answers this week.

TV viewers watching the Winter Olympics see sporting events. There is a whole other Olympic story on the transformed walkways and byways of Vancouver's streets where events are free and people are encouraged to touch public art and sculptures. Kids are told to jump on everything...except for the flaming Olympic cauldron which, for the first time ever, is mounted at ground level. Who knew people actually want to touch fire?

The following photos show some great examples of playable, touchable, and TC-friendly stuff. Will they get vandalized post-Olympics? Probably. But if they continue to work as well as they do now, does it really matter (especially if maintenance funds are set aside for upkeep)? Probably not. Better still, maybe the "adopt-a-highway" program could work to get local groups to clean their favorite public art thereby further enhancing TC.

Apparently building with people in mind produces some outstanding results.

See for yourself.

A sidewalk canopy of recycled material

Eco-statues to touch

Kids need to touch and play street art

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