Tuesday, June 28, 2011


     New York City’s popular urban spaces are flooded with people, especially on weekends when more tourists are included.  As one moves away from some of these popular urban spaces one begins to have a different feel of the pedestrian density.  Times Square’s heavy congestion, for example, becomes less dense compare to 43rd St and 10th Ave.  It is apparent for the case of Times Square that the highly commercialized area of this part of the city plays a big part in the difference in activity.  Thinking about the city’s popular urban spaces in general compared to other parts of the city with less activity or even other cities’ urban spaces there can be even a much bigger contrast in the way pedestrians populate the respective urban spaces.  With the kind of city experience spaces like Times Square provides one cannot help but wonder what attracts people to the city, especially in these massive numbers.  This question becomes more interesting when the not-so-positive perception of the general public, including city residents, is taken into consideration.  In Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, which was published as a result of William Whyte’s observations of urban spaces in New York City, he (Whyte) helps us appreciate the complexity of this question:
            What attract people most, it would appear, is other people.  If I belabor the     
            point, it is because many urban spaces are being designed as though the          
            opposite were true, and that what people liked best were the places they  
            stay away from.  People often do talk along such lines; this is why
            their responses to questionnaires can be so misleading.  How many people
            would say they like to sit in the middle of the crowd?  Instead they speak of 
            getting away from it all, and use terms like "escape," "oasis," "retreat."  What
            people do, however, reveals a different priority.
            (p. 19)

Taking a closer look at how safe people feel in the city, how clean the city is, the kind of access people have to the city (transit) and how pedestrian friendly the city is, and how commercialized the city is – shopping, entertainment, etc. will enable us to have a better understanding of why so many people head for these urban destinations.

Saturday, June 25, 2011


     One of the things that come to mind whenever city life is mentioned is safety.  This video’s analysis of social life of small urban spaces gives a perspective of what is and is not a safe urban space.  In the different aspects of his analysis - availability of seats, the street, food, water, sun, trees and what he referred to as triangulation – William Whyte gives ideas on how these urban spaces can be better designed to attract more users and as a result have a safer space.


Within a public space activities that tend to draw people closer to each other provide us the opportunity to socialize.  Some examples of these, which might have already been mentioned in earlier posts of different sites, can be found in seating areas of certain places, pedestrian friendly streets, vendors, street or sidewalk performers, restaurants, cafes, etc.
The sidewalks of Times Square with vendors and visitor within close contact

Friday, June 24, 2011


Columbus Circle in midtown Manhattan is a good observation point for social interaction with an urban space.  With its vehicular and pedestrian traffics one practically get a cross section of both the native new Yorkers and visitors of the city.     

Monument at Columbus Circle


     In the middle of one of the 50's block in midtown Manhattan, Paley Park, a small and intimate space is built.  This park even though very small in area - probably one of the smallest in the city - attracts a good number of users.  Besides the seating provided, with movable chairs and tables the space has a water wall that not only cools the space during the summer but also neutralizes the noise for the vehicular traffic with its sound.
With its location in the middle of office buildings,office workers during lunch breaks visit this park for a quick get away from the daily grind. The location of this space - hidden in the middle of the block - also makes it a quiet place to run to, an oasis within the loud city.  The chairs at this park work well for the visitors, some of whom have their lunch in this park.  The water feature is perhaps the highlight of this space. Covering the whole back wall of the space its huge scale compared to the small size of the park makes it the one feature that cannot be missed in this space.


     Times Square is one of the major attractions of New York City.  With the number of visitors that come to this place it is amazing how people never get bored while in this space.  There is always high pedestrian traffic in Time Square.  The City of New York must have done something right in the space to attract these great number of visitors to this part of the city.  This urban space provides us with a good examples of social interactions within an urban space.  The question that interested me most during our visits to the city was 'what attract all these visitors to place like Times Square and to New York City in general?'
     Among other things, safety and security, the easy and affordable access to the city, the pedestrian friendly environment, and the entertainment on the streets contribute greatly to the positive flow of visitors to this part of New York.

The noticeable police presence in Times Square gives a feeling of safety to the visitors

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


High Line Park is another Manhattan park that is both successful and massive in scale.  This is a park that in some ways is used differently from the other parks we visited.
Much different from how Paley Park is used mainly due to the difference in scale
High Line Park, could also is a good case study of adaptive reuse architecture.  Just thinking of this site prior to the existence of the park it has been transformed much different use from its original railway functions, which is no longer need in this part of the city.  Reassigning the use of such a space at this elevation, 15-20 feet above ground, was done very well in this project.  It is amazing to see the great number of people and how well this space is put into use during its day time opening hours, especially on weekends.