We have elaborated 5 simple street observation exercises to thriver new thoughts and ideas about our streets structures and uses and imagination on how to improve this public space centered on people — during social isolation
We are living a moment of great reflections and dispute about cities. The current pandemic challenges us to rethink our social dynamics and the way we live and produce public spaces. Streets are the major public spaces of cities: most used, visited and widely distributed. All people have access to the streets, although often in a more vulnerable and inaccessible way, but at the same time, the streets are constantly neglected when they are understood only as a place to pass through.The streets provide the confluence of several events, and exist with countless variations in dimensions, materiality, uses, flows and identity, defining their potential and complex social function.
The Curitiban poet Paulo Leminski declared himself “these people who think that the street is the main part of the city”. For João do Rio “the street is a factor in the life of cities, the street has a soul!”. While the American urbanist and activist Jane Jacobs said that the streets are the “vital organs of a city, because it is in them that all the integration and coexistence of a society takes place”.
The fact is that the streets are ours! While we cannot actively use them, we can exercise a careful look at them. Thinking of that, we have prepared 5 points of observation that anyone can accomplish from their windows to understand what the street is alike today and imagine better streets.
Let’s create new imaginaries for the streets? You can take pictures, record, make colages, draw on top or whatever you prefer. Be creative! (and if you publish it, please tag @sampapesp)
Exercise 1: Observing the street distribution
- What is the space proportion of the street by the use (walk, cycle, stay and park)?
- Are the sidewalks wider or narrower than the road?
- There are a bike lane or bike path? Is it one or two-ways?
- There are an exclusive lane for public transport?
- How many lanes existes for motorized vehicles? Are they one or two-ways?
- There are parking spaces by the curb?
- There are other uses to the curb like parklets or shared bike stations?
- Do you think this street distribution is fair or good? What could be different?
Exercise 2: Observing sidewalks and identity
- How many different sidewalk patterns can you see from your window?
- There are any sidewalk patterns or identities on your street that can be seen throughout the neighborhood?
- Which materials can combine esthetics and access?
- Which elements are present on your sidewalks, like bins, bus shelter, mail boxes, and others? Are they an obstacle or there is sufficient space to walk left?
- What is the final balance of the sidewalks on your street? What could be improved?
Exercise 3: Observing mixed use
- How are the buildings’ diversity on your street? There are houses and buildings? There are services and shops at the ground floor? Are the buildings only residential, for offices or also mixed?
- What kind of services can be reached on foot?
- Is it important to increase the diversity of uses on your street? How could this be done?
Exercício 4: Observing the urban green
- Are the trees on your street enough for a comfortable walk? There are shades on the whole street?
- There are a diversity of trees? Where are they placed?
- How many trees can you see from your window?
- Can you hear birds?
- How could the presence of the greenery and trees be improved in order to improve walking experience?
Exercise 5: Observing sitting opportunities
- There are public benches on the street?
- There are other informal opportunities to sit, such as steps? Have you ever used them or have you seen other people sitting on them?
- There are squares, parklets or other spaces that offer sitting structure? Have you ever used them or saw someone using them?
- What could be different in order to create more opportunities to sit and stay on the street?