Public space is not only for transportation. It is also the place where we see and meet other people; where children play and where we chat with neighbors, friends and passers-by. Squares and parks are open spaces that are different from the ‘normal’ street profile and the focal points of social activity, meeting and interaction. To actually achieve these qualities, public space must be positioned in the right place.
Public spaces with spatial potential for meeting and interaction provide a more pleasant experience to both residents and visitors, especially when these spaces are arranged in such a way that the spatial potential for meeting can actually be utilized. Encounter and interaction in public space leads to commitment; commitment of residents in their street, their neighborhood and their city. Also visitors notice this and that gives them a familiar feeling. When a square or park is not in the right place than you can take two types of action: either you move the function to a place that does have the correct spatial potential or you apply interventions that enhance the vitality of the place. Both measures require a spatial analysis : an analysis in which the spatial properties of the public space are mapped whereupon the effects of several alternative scenarios can be calculated. Also here it is important that the arrangement of the area must be tailored to the spatial potential, but also on the desired use and the future position and function(s) of the area. A beautiful design alone is not enough.
Play areas are perhaps the most special places for public encounter. They are not only important for children, but also have a social function for adults. It are places where young and old encounter, where they meet and engage with each other. Play areas provide opportunities for encounter, but of course only when these play areas are actually used. The study Social Safe Urban Design shows that the location of a play area is more important than its dsign and the quality of the play elements. Play areas which are spatially on the right spot, are better attended and appreciated than play areas that are less convenient. These playgrounds are not only popular with children. They are also frequented more regularly by parents, neighbors and other residents. These spots are accessible from the entire neighborhood and located at central vital locations . The roads naturally lead you to these places, so chances are high that you will meet there your friends and other people. The reality is, unfortunately, that the opposite can also be true. Many playgrounds, squares are parks are not located in places with the appropriate spatial characteristics. These places lack the conditions needed for vital street life. Their location is less central and not easily accessible. Playgrounds that are in these places can be beautifully designed and equiped with the best play elements. When playgrounds are not located in places that generate a constant stream of passers-by then they remain quiet places where little happens.