Movement and Place: A guide

Front cover of the movement and place guide.Transportation is more than trains, planes and automobiles. The design of the built environment can make or break a successful transportation system. Transport for NSW and the state government architect recognise this and have come up with a great guide to movement and place. 

The guide aims to change some established ways of working so that we get better places and better outcomes. It outlines:

      • a collaborative method for practitioners, stakeholders, and the community 
      • shared responsibility and a shared language to support collaboration 
      • a process for implementing this approach in decisions and project types
      • criteria for measuring and evaluating movement and place now and in future projects

The Practitioner’s Guide to Movement and Place has three main sections. The introduction to the concept and implementing a place based approach cover the practicalities. The third section is more about understanding why this approach is important. The guide is necessarily technical in places and has a reference list at the end.

Established working practices and standards are likely to change, according to the guide. It is asking professionals to think differently about their role in creating successful places. 

There is a companion guide, Aligning Movement and Place. 

Editor’s Note: I couldn’t find a mention of accessibility and inclusion. I assume that practitioners will make this part of the process, but that means it will likely rely on existing standards.  Aboriginal custodians get a mention.

Universal design and an historical city: a case study

A late evening view of the pedestrian area showing street lighting and pedestrians. Real life examples of taking a universal design approach to urban areas are few and far between. This is especially the case for established city areas including those that are heritage listed. So, a universal design case study from Konya, a heritage city in Turkey, makes an interesting subject for a case study. This city has a history of many settlements over thousands of years that were not designed for modern day needs.  

Using the 7 Principles of Universal Design, the researchers carefully analysed the pedestrian area to find out what improvements were needed to be more accessible and inclusive. They ranked circulation space, pedestrian crossings, building entrances, parking areas, transportation stops, wayfinding and street furniture for their level of access and inclusion. 

Each principle of universal design is applied methodically to each aspect of the built environment. Photographs, tables and graphs help illustrate their findings.

The article begins with an overview of universal design and similar terms and reminds us that this is not “design for people with disability”. The article concludes by highlighting the areas in most need of urgent attention based on the analysis.

The title of the article is, Universal Design in Urban Public Spaces: The Case of Zafer Pedestrian Zone / Konya-Turkey, and is available from ResearchGate. It is a good example of how to apply the 7 Principles of Universal Design. The 8 Goals of Universal Design can be used in the same way.

Abstract: Individuals in society who have different requirements and needs (disabled people, elders, children, pregnant women, parents with strollers etc.) go through many difficulties while accessing urban indoor and outdoor services due to the constraints originating from built environment. Universal design is the design of the environment and the product that can be used by all the people. With it’s inclusive and unifying characteristics, universal design has become a design approach that have been adopted by the academia during the recent years. Planning and organizing the urban spaces with regard to the universal design principles will contribute to an increase in the life quality of all the people who use the city. This article aims to evaluate the usage of urban spaces in Zafer Pedestrian Zone, located in Konya city centre, within the scope of universal design principles. The concept of universal design in the historical process, universal design’s emergence process and it’s principles and significances has been discussed in the theoretical infrastructure section of the article. In the fieldwork section of the article, the suitability analysis of a chosen sample place’s space usage have been carried out scrutinisingly under four chosen headlines, with regards to the universal design principles and standards.

 

Accessible built environment: Ulaanbaatar case study

What can a project in Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia teach us about an accessible built environment? Well, probably not much, except that the issues are the same the world over. Doesn’t matter if it is a developed or developing country – there’s plenty of work to do. And that means doing more than drafting a policy. 

Many of the 163 signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities are developing countries. And many of these are taking matters seriously. They see the economics of it – participation improves productivity. Australia has lots of strategies and plans for disability inclusion and age friendly environments. But will Australia start falling behind developing countries with our lack of coordinated action? Not a good look if so. 

Ulaanbaatar in Mongolia is the subject of a study funded by UKaid. The case study report reads similarly to many case studies and guidelines from developed countries. But the backdrop is very different. While countries like Mongolia engage with universal design and accessibility, we are still talking about these issues. However, the Sustainable Development Goals might help us get a move along. 

The Ulaanbaatar case study makes an interesting read.  The report summary lists the key barriers which look familiar:

• The way the city is evolving leaves limited space for accessibility. Urban planning and coordinated efforts should make space to build in accessibility

• A lack of knowledge on the cost of inclusive design is a barrier for decisionmakers. Good quality design should not cost more

• Laws and policies fall through on implementation. Mechanisms are needed to ensure implementation

• A lack of responsibility and accountability for inclusion in built environment and infrastructure projects means existing standards are not enforced

• A lack of good examples of local inclusive design solutions creates a barrier to motivating the general public and designers. Ulaanbaatar needs a vision for inclusive design.

The title of the report is, Inclusive Design and Accessibility of the Built Environment in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia

There is a report summary and a full report, which has insights and lessons learned. The project included access to assistive technology (aids and devices) as well as the built environment. Together universal design and assistive technology create the continuum of inclusion. 

Mongolia ratified the UN Convention in 2016 and passed a law to protect the rights of people with disability. This began the drive towards accessible environments. The city does not have a history of urban planning so it is possible to begin with a relatively clean slate. 

Defensive architecture, hostile design

A concrete bench with spike barriers to prevent people from sleeping and even sitting.Design is powerful. It can include or exclude. While many designers are doing their best to be inclusive, others are deliberately creating hostile designs. Why do this? It’s under the heading of “defensive architecture” – ways to prevent crime. But should this be solved with design – it’s the opposite of universal design.

An article from UNSW begins, “Spike, bars and barricades are not typically things you would associate with a park. But it turns out they are part of a growing suite of hostile design interventions in public spaces.” Spikes are embedded in flat surfaces underneath bridges to deter rough sleepers. Seats too uncomfortable to sit on for any length of time. Such designs are at odds with moves to encourage people to get out and about and stay active. Flat surfaces act as seating for those tired legs. Instead of hostile design we should be looking to solve homelessness and other social ills – these aren’t crimes. Meanwhile, it goes against all the principles of universal design.

The article is titled, Defensive architecture: design at its most hostile. It has examples and pictures and discusses the issues of designing to exclude. One picture shows a bench seat with armrests and suggests they are to stop people sleeping on them. However, armrests help people to push up to a standing position.  

There is a similar article in The Guardian, Anti-homeless spikes: ‘Sleeping rough opened my eyes to the city’s barbed cruelty

Unpleasant Design is a podcast on the same topic. 

Image courtesy UNSW newsroom.

Neighbourhoods for every age

Shows the street of a new housing development with driveways for cars but no footpath for peopleDesigning universally requires the involvement of users of all ages and abilities in the design development stage. Inviting them to comment at a later stage assumes only cosmetic changes are needed to the “grand design”. But inclusive design begins right at the stage of design “thought bubbles”. 

Using the experiences of children and older adults, two case studies illustrate the need to utilise universal design principles in neighbourhood planning and design. The authors discuss how universal design is the bridging concept for joined up thinking for greater liveability for all ages. However, entrenched practices based on compliance leave no space for the application of voluntary guidelines whether for one age group or another.

Planning neighbourhoods for all ages and abilities: A multi-generational perspective, is an academic paper. It has several photographs illustrating the findings and the points made in the case studies. 

Abstract: Taking a more integrated approach to planning our neighbourhoods for the continuum of inhabitants’ ages and abilities makes sense given our current and future population composition. Seldom are the built environment requirements of diverse groups (e.g. children, seniors, and people with disability) synthesised, resulting in often unfriendly and exclusionary neighbourhoods. This often means people experience barriers or restriction on their freedom to move about and interact within their neighbourhood. Applying universal design to neighbourhoods may provide a bridging link. By presenting two cases from South-East Queensland (SEQ), Australia, through the lenses of different ages and abilities – older children with physical disabilities and their families (Stafford 2013, 2014) and seniors (Baldwin et al. 2012), we intend to increase recognition of users’ needs and stimulate the translation of knowledge to the practice of planning inclusive neighbourhoods.

 

Universal Design: New York

Front cover is grey with the title.A case study in creating universally designed urban spaces is a good way to showcase how it is done. Universal Design: New York 2 is not a new publication, but the principles are still relevant. It provides guidance for all aspects of an urban environment as well as temporary lodging, workplace facilities and human service facilities. The guide is comprehensive covering circulation systems, wayfinding, seating, public amenities, cultural facilities, renovations and additions, and more. It also lists seven myths about universal design and shows how they are just myths:

1. There are only a small number of people who benefit
2. Universal design only helps people with disability and older people
3. Legislation for disability rights have created equality, so no need to do more
4. Improved medical technology is reducing the incidence of functional limitation
5. Universal design cannot sustain itself in the marketplace because the people who need it most cannot afford it
6. Universal design is simply good ergonomic design
7. Universal design costs even more than accessible design

Universal Design: New York 2 is in PDF format. Edited by Danise Levine and published in 2003 by the Center for Inclusive Design and Environmental Access, University at Buffalo.

Gay neighbourhoods: an urban typology?

Three young men lead a street march with rainbow banners. It's a gay pride event.Last century lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) individuals felt the need to band together for safety in numbers. Some argue that successive human rights legislation has lessened the need for this to continue. Or has it? The notion that gay neighbourhoods are no longer needed is premature. Other neighbourhoods based on ethnicity or socio-economic factors haven’t completely disappeared, and neither have gay neighbourhoods.

Alex Bitterman discusses the lack of academic documentation and research on gay neighbourhoods. These neighbourhoods will likely continue and be important to future generations of LGBT residents and families. He argues that gay neighbourhoods are neither dying nor flourishing – just existing – in the same way as any other typology. Gay neighbourhoods will also need to adapt to other trends such as gentrification and affordability. The notion that gay neighbourhoods are self-sustaining, or that they are diminishing is erroneous. 

Bitterman concludes his essay; “Through unglamorous scholarly inquiry, the true account of the evolution and trajectories of gay neighbourhoods will be revealed. To better understand the longitudinal progression of gay neighbourhoods, researchers should endeavour to differentiate between well-established gay neighbourhoods and emerging gaybourhoods, carefully studying the trends and demographics that lead to shifting LGBT populations and changes in gay neighbourhoods. This evolution, occurring in plain sight but largely undocumented, is LGBT history in the making and the opportunity to chronicle these unique and important changes is ours to lose.”

The title of the online essay is, Rainbow diaspora: the emerging renaissance of gay neighbourhoods.  You can also download a PDF copy

 

Placemaking or Making Place?

A blue picture with swirling shapes as if under water.It’s time to move away from the word “placemaking” to “making place” and “making space”. This concept is discussed from an Indigenous Australian context in a book chapter titled, There’s No Place Like (Without) Country. Making place and making space allows for a view of spatial histories, claiming and reclaiming sites, and to uncover stories that are often overlooked in urban design practice. This is an academic text in,  Placemaking Fundamentals for the Built Environment, and you will need institutional access for a free read. It includes an example of the authors’ experience at the Sydney Olympic Park site. Sydney Olympic Park has documented some of the local Indigenous history.

Introduction: “In this chapter, we critique traditional placemaking approaches to site, through the Indigenous Australian concept of Country. We contest that a move away from the word ‘placemaking’ is overdue. We instead propose a practice of ‘making place’, and further ‘making space’ (i) that allows overlooked spatial (hi)stories to reclaim sites that they have always occupied, and (ii) for the very occupants and stories that are ordinarily overlooked in urban and spatial design practice. To do so is to accept that we must look to those marginal occupants, practices and writings that challenge the gendered, heteronormative, white, neuro-typical and colonising discourses that dominate architecture. Placemaking practices employ community consultation, privileging local stories and quotidian ways-of-being in response. It is our position, that even these ‘community-engaged’ processes perpetuate erasure and marginalisation precisely through their conceptualisations of ‘Site’ and what constitutes community. We present a model for an Indigenous/non-Indigenous collaboration that offers methods of spatially encountering site within a colonial context. We share our experiences of a project that we collaboratively produced in the Badu Mangroves at Sydney Olympic Park, to share the overlooked spatial histories and cultures of countless millennia. We have woven together Indigenous epistemologies, ontologies and axiologies, and design-as-research methodology.

See also Introduction: making Indigenous place in the Australian city from Post Colonial Studies journal.

Universal Design for Streets: A guide

A street in Seattle showing pedestrian areas.The American Society of Landscape Architects has a guide to universally designed streets. Green, complete streets, which incorporate green infrastructure and safely separate pedestrians, bicyclists, vehicles, and public transport, use strategies to reduce reckless driving behaviour, rather than designing around the most reckless driver. Each of the topics below is explained in greater detail in the Guide. There is also a video (below) showing how people with autism or who are neurodiverse can find streets and public places overwhelming. The same can be said for people who are hard of hearing. The picture from the Guide is of Bell Street Park, Seattle.

    • Wide sidewalks and pathways
    • Areas for socializing
    • Clearly defined spaces
    • Attenuated acoustic environment
    • Places of enclosure
    • Perpendicular tactile paving
    • Pedestrian safety islands
    • Flexible seating
    • Frequent seating with arms
    • Well-lit and consistent lighting
    • Green infrastructure

Autistic people can be overstimulated by the amount of sensory information that is present in the built environment. This video offers insight into what this sensory overload can be like for autistic people. 

Children like it green

A group of children are walking along a path in a nature park.It’s amazing what can be done when GPS data is linked to population data. The Danish study used satellite data to show a link between growing up near green space and issues with mental health in adulthood. They found that children under 10 years who had greater access to green space may grow up to be happier adults. The FastCo article goes on to say that data was correlated between the child’s proximity to green space during childhood and that same person’s mental health later in life. The more green space they had access to, the less likely they were to have mental health issues later.

The title of this interesting article is “Kids surrounded by greenery may grow up to be happier adults“.

The study was conducted by researchers at Aarhus University.