What Makes a Great Urban Space?

We all have our favourite spots in our local towns and cities. These spaces connect with us and influence how we feel about a place. It may be the vibrancy or the intimacy of a place which makes it feel special but the chances are you can’t quite put your finger on what it is that makes a place feel special.

It is essential when developing urban spaces that we truly understand what makes a place ‘good’. If we can adhere to trusted place-making design principles, we can help visitors have a positive experience and encourage them to return time and time again. A place should be designed to cater for both people’s wants and needs; and if successful enough it will leave a long-lasting impression.

If we look at some of the major UK cities there are certain places that you can guarantee will be a hive of activity, full of people enjoying the space. In Manchester, the ever growing area of ‘Spinningfields’ is constantly awash with people socialising, relaxing and using the space creatively. They have ownership of the space and are entertained by pop-up bars and novelty, seasonal activities such as ice-skating. Vibrant Covent Garden in London is also a place of constant, lively activity with locals and visitors alike squeezed into the packed bars and cafes that surround the space. It is also rare to take that spectacular walk through the award-winning Peace Gardens in Sheffield without encountering people enjoying this distinctive space and stopping to relax and eat lunch.

But what makes all these spaces successful? Why are they so good to visit? What can we learn from them?