The public realm is comprised of the streets,
sidewalks, parks, public squares, and public
buildings that knit together a city, town, or suburb.
The public realm shapes the life and activities in
the surrounding environment.
This presentation is designed to give examples of
public realms that are successful and those that
are unsuccessful, and to explain what makes the
West Street, NYC
West Street, New York City: This road was clearly designed with only motor
vehicles in mind. The landscaping is minimal, and it is almost impossible for
pedestrians to cross. As a result, it is a traffic route and not much else.
Champs Elysées, Paris
Champs Elysées, Paris: Like West Street, the Champs Elysées is a major traffic
route, but it is also a setting for much more – cafés, shops, apartments,
pedestrians, and people who just want to relax. This is because the road has
been designed to be an attractive, usable space for many types of activities.
North Michigan Avenue,
North Michigan Avenue, Chicago: The city of Chicago has enhanced its
premiere shopping street with well-tended landscaping.
Bike Lane, New York City
Sixth Avenue, New York City: This bike lane – just painted lines on the street –
leaves bicyclers exposed to traffic, and is often blocked by double-parked cars
and delivery vehicles.
Embarcadero, San Francisco
Embarcadero, San Francisco: The bike lanes along the Embarcadero in San
Francisco are so narrow and dangerous that most bikers – like this one here –
choose to do the safe thing and ride on the sidewalk.
Copenhagen, Denmark: The bicycle lanes are separated by a curb and trees
from the motor vehicle traffic, creating an experience that is pleasant and safe.
Los Angeles River, LA
Los Angeles River, Los Angeles: After a series of destructive floods, the Army
Corps of Engineers diverted the river into a concrete canal and flood control
system in 1941. This piece of engineering solved the flood problem, but it
eliminated all other uses, and made the river inaccessible to Angelenos.
Riverwalk, San Antonio
Riverwalk, San Antonio: San Antonio faced much the same problem as Los
Angeles – a river that sometimes flooded dangerously. But San Antonio was
able to address the flooding problem and still turn the San Antonio River into a
great part of the public realm. Riverwalk is now the place to be in downtown
Celebration, Florida: The town of Celebration turned this drainage area into a
lovely part of the public realm – a pleasant place to drive by, stroll, or sit.