“The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces”

It has been noted that “William Whyte’s The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces is one of the most oft-cited resources in a new approach to park design”. Before reading his works, I decided to do a little research concerning his stance on city spaces. Whyte mentioned the importance of the sun and its ability to attract others to a specific location, but what can keep the people in an area.

Whyte’s emphasis in this writing, in particular, was mostly seating and various sitting spaces. It takes the place as a “prerequisite… to induce people to come and sit” (Whyte 28). Seating gives the people choice- the choice to “sit up front, in back, to the side, in the sun, in the shade, in groups, [or] alone”.

Seating doesn’t have to be selective to just fixed individual, concrete chairs, there can be benches, moveable chairs, ledges. There must be variety. Whyte even goes to mention that those individual seats are a “design conceit… [that create] social distance” (35).

It is important to pay attention the sitting height for it does play an intricate role in where people will choose to sit. Whyte conducted a study and was able  to find out that “people will sit almost anywhere between a height of one foot and three” (31). Steps and corners are attractive to the passerby’s as well.

In our own Tatnall Square Park, stones have been placed that mimic a seating space, which people actually use. Some even use the stones as a place to exercise. The area surrounding the Centennial Fountain is also a sitting are

Around Mercer’s campus, you can find students and faculty sitting along the brick, sloped heights along Cruz Plaza. On the picture below, you can find that area to the far left side.

cruz fountainsIn regards to Macon’s areas, there can be much information to take from Whyte. His factors can be used in any type of city. I think that it’s important to denounce the suburban hype for a chance and utilize the downtown areas, which are “best at historic preservation and reuse” (93).


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