A Research Approach for Urban Places: Exploring the Behavioral Aspects of a City Plaza

By Aliaa Elabd and George Hallowell.

Published by Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies

Format Price
Article: Print $US10.00
Published online: September 5, 2014 $US5.00

This paper develops and explores a methodological approach for the empirical assessment of small complex urban spaces. The overall objective is to contribute to a growing body of evidence about successful elements of urban plaza design. Our approach includes multiple techniques to quantify the patterns of behavior in a recently developed urban square in Raleigh, NC. The research methods include: behavior mapping, path tracing, time-lapse videography, documentation and photography, open-ended interviews, and an online survey. The primary goals are to understand the behavioral aspects of the new plaza and assess the results of the design choices; to explore how the formal and spatial characteristics of the plaza might accommodate a large crowd and a wide range of uses and events; and to assess the capability of this research approach to capture small scale ephemeral aspects of the behavioral patterns in the plaza. Many of our findings corresponded well with Whyte’s study—including the differing patterns of behavior between men and women, and the need for additional seating and retail/food offerings. We also found unintended behavior patterns resulting from certain temporary design elements. Our research approach allowed the assessment of long-term ephemeral behavior, such as the impact on pedestrian flow due to a major street subdividing the plaza.

Keywords: City Plaza, Behavioral Mapping, Physical Affordance, Perception

Spaces and Flows: An International Journal of Urban and ExtraUrban Studies, Volume 4, Issue 3, September 2014, pp.1-12. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Published online: September 5, 2014 (Article: Electronic (PDF File; 469.995KB)).

Dr. Aliaa Elabd

Ph.D Candidate, College of Design, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA

George Hallowell

Ph.D Candidate, College of Design, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC, USA