The most interesting thing about making good public spaces is how people use them in ways you hadn’t considered. I believe that the key to making spaces live, have long futures, be loved and work at the heart of their communities is to create spaces that are adaptable and feel comfortable for as many uses and people as possible.
I think of public space as being like my house. My bog standard C19th London terrace was built for a particular kind of person (well behaved lower middle class office worker) to use it in a particular way (dining room, bedroom for the live in servant, scullery), but has been adapted over the years to meet its tenants’ and owners’ changing needs without knocking the whole building down altogether and starting all over again.
The best public spaces can feel right at different times for crowds, families, children playing, delivery vans, cars, busses, outdoor eating, protests, games of cards, local people, tourists, street markets, meeting friends, shopping, parties and showing off.
This photograph is of students playing badminton on Exhibition Road at night. They have propped the net supports into the drain cover and are playing across the pedestrian and transition zones. I love it as an example of people taking ownership of the road in way no architect, designer or engineer would ever have considered.