Midtown Sustainists: How Does a Space Make us Feel?

By Aswini Iyer and Slesha Dahake

Hello everyone. We are students studying at SCAD and we have few thoughts to share about the built environment. We’ve had discussions in one of my classes about the importance of public spaces. This triggered a thought in me about how human behaviour is affected by the built environment. The built environment can be categorised into sub categories like public space and private space. First, let’s explore what is defined as a public space. A public space is defined as any commonly shared space that is created for the open usage of the community. Few examples of typical public spaces are monuments, parks. Whereas a private space is more confined to personal use like residences, self owned backyards, etc. Both these spaces are usually built with few specific activities in mind. But it does not necessarily serve only those assigned purposes.

We read the following in an article which says, “Placemaking has the power to transform our local communities, and generate pride and a sense of belonging that translates into sustainability, economic development and increased quality of life.” We strongly believe that the built environment, be it intentionally built or unintentionally generated; manipulates people’s behaviour.

In the spirit of understanding spaces, we would like to elucidate a few examples that we came across during our research for one of our classes.

We came across the above area where the public parking lot was not very actively used for parking purposes throughout the week. But these places were converted to informal meeting spots for youngsters during the weekend. Young kids used this space to play sports like basketball and baseball. We understood from this behaviour that this particular space gave the kids the asset of having a play area in their neighbourhood while serving another public purpose of parking.  This put light on how people (the Community) modify and adapt themselves and their necessities according to the resources available around them. This may not always be an ideal option but what we understood from this is that people tend to create their own lifestyle according to their convenience. And in a city where over 70% of polled residents agree there is a lack of public spaces, making due is an act of both creativity and rebellion.

Another example that we found is that several old people tend to meet each other to have everyday talks in their front yards with some drinks. Despite the high crime rate, some residents insist on creating openly welcoming spaces for conversations with their neighbors. People clearly show the desire of communicating and knowing their neighbours in order to feel safe and homely in the environment.

These actions elucidated the following questions. How do these common spaces affect community behaviour; may that be good or bad? Which spaces grow as these huddle spots? Spaces where people feel comfortable to perform the activity that they wish to do, where they feel secured, which is easily accessible for them and best suited for the need. These spaces help people come together and closer to each other giving them opportunities to build relations, partnerships, solve local issues

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