------ PUBLIC PLACES
INTERACTION WITH PEOPLE?
H93 ! I
j i ;
Deborah Huston Fall 82
METHOD ................................. 8
This project has been undertaken in conjunction with a thesis design project concerning the redevelopment and design of Denver's Union Station, which is slated for conversion to a massive convention/exhibition hall and hotel complex. Under this proposal, the existing terminal building is planned to house the main entry/lobby area for the hotel and convention center, some 16,000 square feet of dining area(s) and about 25,000 square feet of retail space. Its main function then, will be circulation, dining and shopping.
Because a high degree of recognition and involvement with the environment is a goal of the design project, this report seeks to find ways to promote environmental interaction by studying how people use comparable public spaces. "Interaction", for the purpose of this report, will refer to either inter-personal or man-environment exchanges. Issues expected to figure in the results include: density, territoriality, group identification, personal security.
This report will examine the manner in which people use public spaces with respect to positive environmental interaction; it will attempt to judge the most successful settings, in this regard, and to identify the elements that contribute to that success.
Density and territoriality are two connected issues expected to play a role in interaction. It is known that, up to a point, increasing density can increase social interaction but that, beyond that point, when territory is infringed upon, the effect goes exponentially in the opposite direction. It is also generally accepted that we, in the Western World (Americans in particular), require larger territories than those of other cultures. What, then, is an appropriate density for this type of setting? What variables may exist to change that? What signs evidence overcrowding in these settings?
Group identification is another closely related attribute which can either contribute to or negate positive interactions. It is natural to be more likely to relate to others whom you identify as having sone camion ground, shared point of interest or other activity as yourself. A person's perception of his territory is usually smaller in this case and is less easily infringed upon.
An outgrowth of group identification, of course, is personal security. As long as we identify with a particular person or group, we are unlikely to feel invaded by them and are, therefore, secure.
Hiese are, then, the basic ingredients of positive environmental interactions in public spaces that will be looked at. But, as in any recipe, they must be balanced to achieve success.
This study intends to identify patterns of behavior and relationships between variables through the observation of settings that are comparable in function, volume and user profile to those proposed for the Union Station project.
In order to best match the subject settings with the proposed, an effort has been made to select those which are similar in function, volume and users. A preliminary observation resulted in the decision to confine the nature of the subject settings to retail shopping mils or districts. Because the activity seems the primary basis of behavior, such comparables as the Brown Palace or Fairmont Hotels were eliminated because almost all central lobby activities were exclusively hotel related. The proposed station setting will relate to the hotel only as a means to get there; shopping and dining will be the principal activities. Thus, the University Hills and Tamarac Square Malls in southeast Denver, and One Denver Place downtown, were selected for their similarity in size, user and activity and for their variety in layout and ambiance.
With approximately the same volume in its high central circulation core as the waiting roan of the station, the physical form of this space is most like Union Station's. It is characterized by the intersection of three major arteries and a fourth, minor, source coming from the May D & F department store. Benches are plotted in the center of this core, but are a small obstacle and do not much impede the direct flow of traffic. The space is void of any decoration or points-of-interest other than shop windows. It is carpeted and partially day-lit.
Arranged around a more meandering plan, the size of Tamarac Square is deceptive. There is something of a central core, though it is much smaller than that of either Union Station or University Hills. Circulation is like the station in that it extends in two opposite ways from the core. There is also the similarity of a balcony level of shops surrounding the core and major arteries. This space offers a much more human scale and greater variety and detail in materials, fixtures and interior "street scaping." The flooring is brick pauers and lighting is a combination of daylight and period fixtures.
ONE DENVER PLACE
On the opposite end of the ambient spectrum frcm Tamarac Square, One Denver Place is a spartan, somewhat futuristic retail arcade situated on the ground level of a modem high-rise office complex. It, too, has a wandering, but basically two-directional traffic flow. There are no activities or points-of- interest other than the architecture and shop windows. Floors are a combination of carpet and tile. Lighting is entirely artificial.
Hie primary user of the new convention complex will be the carmercial or group business traveler. We can expect them to be somewhat above average in education and incane. Tourists comprise a smaller segment as will locals who live, work in or visit the downtown. Their incanes span a wider range.
Because the Union Station site is downtown and will be populated primarily by business and professional people, at least one other downtown setting was desired.
So it is that One Denver Place most closely duplicates the user population expected at the Station. The other two examples approach the demographics of this prescribed user group in family inccsne and background and in education, although there is much greater disparity in ages and occupations.
Behavior mapping was errployed, at regular intervals, to gather an overview of behavior at each location. A first cut was made in categories of behavior after observing and noting all behavior occurring at three points, in time, at ten minute intervals, on each site, during what was judged to be a peak hour.
The resulting categories made a worksheet that served for all subsequent mapping.
OBSERVATION CATEGORY ANALYTIC CATEGORY
Active Interaction Interactive
Mapping was done over a one-month period, on every day of the week and at various times of the day.
The results that appear in the following tables represent the nuiriber of persons observed to exhibit a particular category of bahavior on that day and in that location. Everyone observed in the public areas during the observation time is recorded in one of the categories, and only those in public areas are counted. Shoppers inside of stores at the time are considered participants in that individual store's setting and are not counted.
Fran these data, it is obvious that, not only are there many more users exhibiting interactive behavior, but there are more users, period. This is not due to a disparity in size as the two malls are comparable. In fact, the public spaces at Tamarac are smaller and more broken up. It is probably that sane of the lop-sided figures for "active" interaction during the evenings are due to the cinemas that open off the mall. Not that people standing in a movie line were counted; they were not. However, sane do cane early and browse, or do so when exiting the show. This cannot account for the great disparity, though, particularly at other tine of day. University Hills has a department store draw, May D & F, that Tamarac does not. And One Denver Place would seem to have a ready clientele in the office building above it. What, then, is the reason for the difference?
As described earlier, Tamarac Square does have more architectural detail than the others and may be what more people consider attractive. But this alone cannot explain the situation. This setting must be comfortable. For one thing, people must identify with the elements of the place and, therefore, with each other. The dominant material in Tamarac is brick (as opposed to paint, plastic or aluminum in the others), which is both natural and familiar. Many people can also identify, indirectly or not, with the period elements present with the cortmon past they suggest. Their security is bolstered; they are. comfortable.
It is clear that the greater density, due to smaller public areas, is no hinderence to individual security. The "human scale" is another great asset in increasing personal security and, hence, in causing people to open up, to be receptive to their surroundings.
RESULTS TABLE: UNIVERSITY HILLS
PASSIVE ISOLATIVE TRAFFIC
1 1 10
3 0 12
3 3 19
0 0 8
3 4 22
2 1 13
2.0 1.5 7.0
RESULTS TABLE: TAMARAC SQUARE
ACTIVE PASSIVE ISOLATIVE TRAFFIC
Morning 3 0 0 7
Afternoon 10 4 0 6
Evening 32 8 0 6
Morning 8 1 0 12
Afternoon 9 4 0 12
Evening 34 2 0 3
TOTALS 16 3.16 0 7.66
RESULTS TABLE: ONE DENVER PLACE
ACTIVE PASSIVE ISOLATIVE TRAFFIC
Morning 5 0 0 21
Afternoon 6 .5 0 18
Evening * Because most of the arcade business and, indeed, most of
Weekends downtown, is closed on evenings and weekends, these are
This report has looked at the way people use public spaces with respect to the degree of interactive behavior. Retail shopping malls with volumes, functions and users that are comparable to the Union Station building were selected as sites for observation in order to apply the results in an ongoing project in that building.
After first recording every behavior in each situation, these were grouped into more general categories for use in further mapping: active interactive, passive interactive, isolative and purely traffic. The behavior of users on these three centers was then recorded on various days of the week and at various times. Mapping was as instantaneous as possible with one researcher, each taking 4-5 minutes with ten minutes in between.
The environment at Tamarac Square proved to foster far more interactive behavior than the other two locations. Movement there was less destination oriented with far more people taking time to stroll leisurely, window shop, sit and people-watch, etc. Elements unique to this environment which seem to be responsible are the natural materials, period fixtures and plant materials, which are familiar and with which most users identify. The smaller "human" scale places all attractions in shop windows, etc. very near at hand to draw attention, and it contributes to personal security in a number of ways. One does not
feel dwarfed or isolated, but in coimand of the situation and setting. The wandering circulation provides ample opportunity to retreat from anything that may be unconsciously threatening.
All of this breeds security, without which it is difficult to "open up", making oneself vulnerable and, at the same time, receptive to environmental stimuli. These are all considerations to take to any project where involvement and interaction with the surroundings are desirable.
Ittelson, W., Rivlin, L. and Proshansky, H. Ihe Use of Behavioral Maps in Environmental
Psychology. In H. Proshansky, W. Ittelson and L. Rivlin (eds.), Environmental Psychology, New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970.
Proshansky, H., Ittelson, W. and Rivlen, L. (eds.), Environmental Psychology. New York: Holt, Rinehart & Winston, 1970.
Rapoport, A. Toward a Redefinition of Density. Environment and Behavior, June, 1985, 133-35.
Stokols, D. Perspectives on Environment & Behavior. New York; Plenum Press, 1977.
Wolfe, D. Room Size, Group Size and Density: Behavior Patterns in a Children's Psychiatric Facility. Environment and Behavior, 1975, 7, 2, 199-223.