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Urban Design Compendium

A Thriving Public Realm

To achieve a thriving public realm which encourages social interaction attention needs to be given to the structure of space and the elements it contains.

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Animating spaces with water

Social Space:

  • Focus activity areas in places with views across spaces, that are sunny and sheltered, have facilities for sitting, for shopping and for children to play.
  • Create a interesting places by introducing an activity source alongside or within the interior of the space
  • Design versatile spaces that enable a range of different activities
  • Place direct routes through spaces
  • Consider how sounds, smell and touch can enhance enjoyment of a place
  • Use floorscape design to strengthen local distinctiveness and identity
  • Use planting to give direction, identity, separation or enclosure
  • Use quality materials with high standards of attractiveness, durability and environmental performance, with maintenance to enable places to last.

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People are energy efficient and take the shortest, most direct route through a square. Only those pushing prams or cycles may detour.

Street Furniture:

  • Minimise clutter to provide instead clear messages for users
  • Decide which objects can be hidden and which should be features
  • Produce a comprehensive and co-ordinated strategy of elements for each space
  • Use public art to promote character and identity


  • Ensure the place has legible structure to avoid unnecessary signage. This can be supplemented by routing i.e. differing paving types
  • Ensure signage is consistent and co-ordinated over a wide area
  • Lighting can increase the perceived safety of an environment however care needs to be taken to avoid unnecessary light pollution
  • Lighting can be provided by a variety of means; bollards, street light, faced lights, shop windows etc

Download 'Detailing the Place' in PDF form

See case studies for 'Detailing the Place'