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Park Life: How do we use public spaces?

In 2019 SWA Group produced a research report titled The Field Guide to Life in Urban Plazas, which sought to document how people use public spaces. The study observed the behavioural patterns of thousands of people - individuals and groups, over 10 selected sites across Manhattan, New York.

The study aimed to revisited William H. Whyte’s manual - The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980) which was  produced as part of The Street Life Project. The study is also reminiscent of Jan Gehl’s much cited book on the same subject: Life Between Buildings – Using Public Space (1987)

25 key findings were cleverly visualised in the report. Although focused on plazas, they still provide a fascinating insight into how visitors might use similar public places such as parks and green spaces.

In this resource the Green Flag Award have selected our ‘Top 5’ findings that are most relevant to the award criteria. We hope that park managers and other green space professionals can benefit from SWA’s work to help inform future design or management of public space.

The images and text from the findings are used with the permission of SWA Group. Graphic Design by Paul Wehby.

For the full report visit:

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Author: SWA Group (USA)

Estimated Read Time: 5 Minute Read