Programmed Space

26 05 2011

Posted by Jun

Picadilly Garden, Manchester 2011

One day, during Easter, I was having coffee with some friends in a café in Picadilly Garden in Manchester. It was a cold evening and most of the passers-by seemed to have clear destinations, probably on their way home. However, the look of the people determined to walk as fast as possible was unusually impressive in the massive open space. It looked like that the space is arranged to show off how busy Manchester people are; and, if it was one of the intentions of the design, it looked very successful.

Picadilly Garden, 1955

And, the other day, I came across with this picture on the Internet which shows people resting on sun-bathing chairs in the old sunken garden in Picadilly before the regeneration. The contrast itself was quite impressive, however, what the most impressed me was the fact that it shows how well the programmed space (meticulously analyzed context and reorganized space programme such as area for resting and area for movement) can work, or dictate a kind of staged scene, although there is some evidence of conflict between the design and free-walkers as Rowland Byass, a landscape architect, noted.

I am linking a design appraisal by Rowland Byass. The context of this public space regeneration and the current use of people are well captured in his article.



Lessons from Volcano Grimsvoetn

26 05 2011

By Sarah Muscat

Another Icelandic volcano eruption! Again, hundreds of delayed or cancelled flights, and people stranded in airports across Europe!

“In England, Newcastle International Airport was worst-hit”, stated SKY News. In mainland Europe, images of crowded German airports made me wonder how the stranded passengers felt. I remembered of a presentation by fellow classmates who reiterated the words of Italo Calvino and the sense of oppression he experienced upon arrival at Trude’s airport. The airport was presented as a non-place, a transience place where no one wants to stay!

Instead airports should be welcoming, flexible and responsive to people’s different needs.

This view is also advocated by CABE in a document entitled ‘Inclusion by Design – Equality, diversity and the built environment’. Access with dignity, treatment with respect, provision of relevant services and convenience in use; were other main criteria for an inclusive design, including airport design.

In case you are stuck in a ‘non-place’, there is still hope; the ash cloud is said to clear UK by weekend!

Eruption of Volcano Grimsvoetn


Stranded Passengers at Munich Airport

The revitalisation of high streets

24 05 2011

By Harvé Dhillon

I am not quite sure whether it’s my own frustration towards British high streets or the news article I read about the revitalisation of high streets that inspired me to write this. It’s no doubt that we have all realised or felt that the British high street seems to be homogenised, with the same shops, similar characteristics and uninteresting streetscape. It’s not that every high street needs to provide a completely niche shopping experience, neither does the urban designer need to be pressurised in order to create a completely different public realm in every city centre. The lack of identity and experience to the city dweller is experienced when nearly every high street in the country feels its necessary to have similar materials, street furniture and retail outlets.

The benefits of good urban design of high streets are not just an aesthetic issue but can actually positively contribute to the economic benefits of high street retail. It may seem like something that is taken for granted but more than often the design of the high street does not need major regeneration schemes but rather small interventions.

The urban transformation of Kensington High Street in Central London has proven an effortless yet effective approach to the revitalisation of the high street. The reduction of street clutter by mounting traffic signals and signage on lamp columns and removal of guardrails and bollards had meant that the area provides a more attractive environment for pedestrians. In addition the removal of staggered crossings and the removal of traffic islands created the space improve the quality of the streetscape.

Read more about high street urban design and the revitalisation of high streets on and also the Urban Design Compendium provides guidance about the success of Kensington High Street on

New finding of the use of Quarterangle space;

4 05 2011

By Siham Saleh

Linking with my previous study of the use of outdoor spaces at Newcastle University, which I have done it in the first post on this Blog last semester.

Coincidence , I have discover an interesting use of  the Quarterangle  space while I was working in the Architecture studio.  Surprisingly, at around 12 o’clock  I  heard  same of strange music outside of the studio, that sound  came from the Quarterangle space…So,,, what is this? Just by following the sound and  watching from  the window, there was a group of people dancing on the space…What? it just make me think what  and why… it looks like a festival event.

Therefore, I just go down and find out that  ,,,,,,,,,, However, I will simply let you watch this following  a recorded footage in order to discover what is my new finding…..!!

Basically, I just wanted in this post  to highlight how the use of space could clearly represents the meaning and the value of its history and how might the space’s value be able to affect its use.

The Royal Wedding and the transformation of urban space

4 05 2011
By Sarah Muscat

Cheering along with thousands of people from all over the world, the atmosphere in Hyde Park was a celebration of a joyous unity, as the newly wed Will and Kate shared a kiss or two in the Buckingham Palace‘s balcony.

It might have been Prince William’s charm, or the bride’s dress, but for many, the transformation of urban spaces in London to celebrate the Royal Wedding was one good reason to visit the city.

The Union Jack featured wherever one looked, the shop windows decorated for the occasion increasing footfall and lingering even in streets outside the main tourist areas, green spaces were enhanced and events organized everywhere, making every part of the global community involved. The sense of inclusivity, of belonging and sharing; gave rise to various positively activated spaces, binding the local communities.

With all the girls competing to marry Harry, the next wedding might take some time! Maybe we could instead continue to celebrate our own communities more often within urban spaces, cherishing every accomplishment towards a better living for everyone.

Kensington Palace Gardens


Shop window decorated for the Royal Wedding


Hyde Park during Royal Wedding

Charm of Being Hidden

3 05 2011

By Jun Lee

I happened to go to a charming cafe, the Music Room, in Lancaster during Easter. The amusing quality of the coffee and the space of the square were magnificent.

The characteristics of the square are more or less of Camillo Sitte’s findings of pre-Modern squares: well-secluded by buildings; not interrupted by roads etc. However, surely, the experience of discovering unexpected place was the most amusing part of the place for me.

When we were going through the small parking space (1 on map), we could only see narrow back alley (2 on map) and we were not sure where we were going to, then we saw a glimpse of open space on our right-hand side, where some people were having outside. That was Sun square with a cafe and a restaurant at the corner. It is still linked to the ‘pedestrianized’ high street, through a type of mews gate (3 on map); however that route is not spatially inviting to outsiders so that you may ‘discover’ it. (or, sorry for spoiling your fun, readers)

The Effect of a Colour

29 03 2011

By Carlie Douglas

In my readings for my Thesis, I have come across much information about the affect of viewing Green Space on people’s mental state (stress reduction, faster healing in hospital patients, violence reduction in inner city areas).  I began to wonder if it could have something to do with the affect of colours on the brain when I remembered an article titled ‘What’s in a Color” in the 1993 Disney Yearbook from my childhood (article left).  It is obviously directed at children, but its contents are still valid.

Have you noticed the colours in a McDonalds?  It used to be reds and oranges, but after they were attacked for their unhealthy-ness, they started to crop up with greens and browns.  My high school used to be stark white hallways with true red striping and walls, but after remodelling was painted cream with teal and eggplant to prevent fights and promote academics.  In many developments, red is used for accents because it catches our eye and draws us in, but why?  Would it not be just as eye-catching with another bright colour?

Perhaps it is about our apparent attachment from birth to the colour.  This, I believe is something that is relevant not only in Advertising, Marketing, and Public relations, but also in Interior, Urban, and Architectural Design.  The colors that we prescribe can have vast effects on the occupiers.  For more information, this website gives an overview: Color Psychology