Public realm can be defined as urban public open spaces accessible to the public. They are publicly owned pathways, parks and any civic and public building facilities. Public realm are places in towns that we linger day in day out, where we work, live and play (Noel p.89) .The definition can be extended to include all public owned property such as schools, libraries, and whose location are essentially determined by a public sector. It is also constituted of those areas of urban settlements in which individuals tend to be uncategorically unknown. It is made up of those persons who are strangers or who know one another and this is only in terms of occupation and other non personal identity categories.
There are a number of human needs but none is perfect. Abraham Maslow is highly esteemed as his hierarchy of needs seems to explain the need for urban designers to consider before they plan. Maslow suggested that there is a hierarchy of needs from the basic need to the most abstract. The needs trigger motivations in human beings. They certainly behave in a certain way or another and inspire people to own valued objects. The motivations which may result from inner drives often define a culture and are culturally shaped. With this observation, urban patterns developed within one culture are not necessarily transferable to another. In the Abraham Maslows hierarchy of needs, safety and psychological needs are highly related to the need for survival. How to segregate a moving motor vehicle and a pedestrian is a recurrent issue in the urban design. To provide the above needs, people need appropriate levels of privacy and their being in control over their social environments. The socio-physical mechanisms used by people to attain a feeling of self worth are closely related to the achievement of self worth and security. The built environment is very much an indicator of peoples social status (Lang p.6).
The prime function of many urban designers is to enhance the quality of the urban environment. This can be done by changing the investment patterns. The great importance here also is the impact of the built environment on the natural environment. Buildings and other surfaces change the patterns of breezes and the winds flowing through the environments. The process through which the water table underground is created and the how heat is absorbed or reflected are among urban designers need to be aware of. However, little is known on how wind moves through cities flushing out pollutants in its infancy. Therefore, public realms need to be in strategic places where the atmosphere is conducive. Functions of built environment have not changed over time but only the policy-makers, users and designers have changed. The functions of public realms such as objects will serve different functions; for instance financial investments. Most designers articulate clearly this as a function of buildings in the architectural theory.
For any urban design, understanding the trends and the dynamic change of any population is very important. This is to gauge, the growth rate, the decline or it may be the discovery of a section of population in terms of sex, age, race, or social economic activity. This factor is the start point to determine the land requirement for competing activities and land use. Urban designer have to include a variety of techniques so that they can enhance the incorporation of public realm in their designs. The elements of urban design, according to Le Corbusier are sky, trees, the sun, and cement (Le Corbusier). As designers, the sun and the sky is an important and are commodities to bargain in the urban design work. This is particularly helpful about the nature of the public design because of the space to be allocated. However, public realm is psychologically considered as a set of behavior setting.
Urban designers can use behavior setting point of thinking to design a public realm. It consists of recurring behavior pattern, the milieu and a time period. The milieu it consisted of the floor on the ground, the surface of buildings that bound the structure internally (Lang p.8). The concern of the urban design is the sequential experiencing of the built environment as it moves through it, the activities on the ground floor, housed in the milieu and the attributes of enclosing space elements. The physical public realm is consisted of the artificial environment around a person. The urban designers have to be concerned with whole nature of human experience so as to address the nature of activities and the people who engage in them.
The other frequent questions that urban designers consider are such like nature of pavements or sidewalk, how tall the buildings are illumination and how the place looks at night or even the frequency of the entrance of people along the streets and squares. Owing to this, urban designers must plan the public realm in relation to human activities. Inasmuch as the private urban designers want to locate and put relevance to the public realm, the local government for long period has found it not possible to maintain it to the required standard. The parks, the streets and sidewalks have always been in a dilapidated state. The changing trends of settlement in urban would certainly alter the traffic and congestion or decongestion in some areas.
The best utilization of public realm is the case study of Disneyland. Disneyland creates visual coherence, social order and cleanliness. It is an elaborate modernism utopia that reshapes the city to a new anti-geographical space that is conducive for the public to linger around. Ironically, Disneyland ideally utilizes urban public space. Spatial control, visual culture, and private management make Disneyland an ideal type of public space. Disneyland admits the public as on a paying basis. While the local government pays for the infrastructure, the administration of the theme park secures the legal right to govern its territory.
Fascinatingly, Disneyland has its own rules, currency, script or vocabulary. This establishes the culture of the public in the consumer ship. Hence, this is the urban model space driving the businesses that are public-private districts of business improvements. Disney world provides its own sanitation, security force and it is cleaner than the normal real cities. Disney world has a mass transportation system, street furniture and outdoor lighting and surprisingly this offer better than the public ones. There are shopping malls, urban festival markets, museums displays, planned residential communities and resorts. The ultimate control of Disney Worlds labor force and the interaction with the consumers has been adopted by other businesses. Disney is a way of making the symbolic economy to be real, no matter the levels of unreality.
Disney had an attachment to his childhood experience and he wanted an ideal landscape that is secure. His father was unsuccessful small business man who hoped from job to job and place to place during the childhood days of Disney. He desired to build an amusement park away from public transportation in a large tract of underdeveloped land. His utopianism dates backward towards the past with the reconstruction of the vernacular landscape of the Main Street, US. In the 70s Disney World opened near the city of Orlando and wanted to build a planned residential community. Spaces were that fostered civilized social interactions were designed. Hence the idea of public realm that chipped in. Popularly, the social space at Disney encouraged social interactions and encouraged the customers to be polite in the waiting queue. They were bombarded with the desire of impulse buying due to the time spent along the queues. This was a good provision for the businesses to market their products.
The issue here at Disney World to the urban designers is how to come up with public spaces to satisfy private needs; the need for social cohesion and the need to be entertained. The public realm at Disney is capital based to generate revenue. These are places for the private developer to market for many kinds of conventions and association centers for them to meet. Hence they tend to lobby zoning laws to public use either through facilities for shopping, eating or art exhibitions. Hence, the public spaces are experienced by observing how others are experiencing them. Hence, public space is viewed as a realm that brings people together in market places.
Orlando for instance is a city that Disney set its architectural masterpiece and has seen tremendous growth. One thing that attracts people (Blackwell p.61) is that projection of the public space at Disney because of its safety from bad weather and crime. Disney World has helped to shape the growth of Orlando .It had so much underdeveloped land, very clean streets, no ethnic conflicts and people who are homeless lived in sidewalks. The local government did not raise taxes in order to clean the city streets, maintain buildings or the orchestra for tourists. Hence, private development creates significant benefits to the public. Disney helped shape the growth of Orlando with the success of planned residential communities strict buildings, and design rules.
People provided rules by imposing criteria of vision to enhance broader strategies of social control. Space is organized by the criteria of considering the income level of the people and distribution of population. This depends with go ahead of the existing internalized political authority. At Disney, the envisaged visitors are about four-fifths who are adults. Hence, the space must appeal to the grown-ups. Disney puts much effort to the visual coherence in that uniforms and behavior norms partly based on production.
Disney World organizes space for public and has influenced majority of cities in the world. The first thing, the space must be free of litters, which the citys sanitation cannot control. Public access is limited by making rules for the most appropriate behavior and also erecting barriers. The public is also controlled by keeping people moving through public space and how and where they sit. Also, at Disney, body representation is used as another strategy of social control; the grooming codes, and the dress. These social strategies create an impression of trust among strangers. Establishing confidence by means of controlling the space create partnership for the private and public sectors. Though unable to keep the public away, they have to make their accessibility possible but not encourage disorder, unruliness or homelessness. At Disney World, the private business can create a public access but have absolute control over it under that jurisdiction. The services replace public goods, but not to supplement public goods (Blackwell p.64)
In conclusion, there is a lot to learn from Disney World the urban designers can embrace to come up with good state of the art urban designs. They should be set in such a way that they are secure and away from bad weather. Public realm can be used as a source of great revenue.
Noel O'Sullivan. The Concept of the Public Realm. Ed.Routledge. reprint ed. Routledge 2013. Print
Michael Parfect & Gordon Power. Planning for Urban Quality: Urban Design in Towns and Cities. 2014. Print
David R. Walters, Designing Community Routledge. 2007. Print
Jon T. Lang, Urban Design: A Typology of Procedures and Products, reprint Routledge. 2005. Print
Cliff Moughtin, Urban Design: Method and Techniques, reprint, Routledge. 2003. Print
Sharon Zukin, Mass: Blackwell. The cultures of cities. 1995. Print
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