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arlene de jesus

on 31 August 2014

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is an open space
designed for public use and defined by surrounding buildings and/or streets.
Its primary functions are to encourage a diversity of opportunities for social interaction and activities, to
provide relief and relaxation
, to
expand and reinforce the public realm
and to contribute to the livability and general amenity of the downtown and other developing parts of the city.
Historically, plazas have been central to the development of urban centers. As the city grows, opportunities are presented through new development to provide open spaces that offer delight, surprise, rest, enlightenment and amusement for a wide variety of users over the course of the day, week and year. Activities accommodated by public plazas such as socializing, resting, eating, bus waiting, exhibitions and open air markets add to the quality of city living and working, enhancing diversity and increasing the educational and cultural opportunities that define the positive experience of urban living.

Figure 1. A Plaza's Proposed Uses, Functions and Linkages Should Be Determined as Part of the Overall Project Design Process
Like a successful building, a plaza requires a program of use and a strong concept. Therefore, careful thought should be given to a plaza's principal functions and to its relationship with the adjacent public realm (i.e. streets, pedestrian routes, other open spaces), activities and architecture.
While some plazas may act primarily as pedestrian nodes, others function best as important viewpoints or enhance the setting for a building. A plaza should also reflect and reinforce the character of its location.
Good street-to-plaza visibility announces the plaza's internal attractions. It signifies that it is a public space, it permits users to watch street activity and it makes the space safer.
Good visibility can be achieved by the following:
• arranging any walls and planting to not screen or block off the plaza from the street;
• locating the plaza at or as close as possible to street level, preferably no more than 1.0 m above or below street level.

Figure 2.
Good Street-to-Plaza Visibility Should Announce the Plaza's Internal Attractions
Figure 3.

Plazas Should Take Advantage of Views
A plaza should be linked to other surrounding open spaces, as well as interior spaces such as lobbies, to create a dynamic pedestrian network. Such links will make the plaza more useful and provide a more dynamic, coherent urban environment.
Linkages can be achieved or reinforced using the following devices: passages; bridges; steps/ramps; paving patterns; planting.

Figure 4.
Plaza Linkages Should Be Created to Achieve a Coherent Pedestrian Network
A plaza will be unsuccessful if it is not well used because of a perception of unsafeness. The design of a plaza should provide for safety. Regard should be given to principles of designing for safety such as defensible space, clear sight lines, good lighting and provision of alternate "escape" paths. The differences in usage, ownership and responsibilities among commercial, commercial/residential and residential plazas should be recognized, so that the different approaches to their design relative to urban safety is addressed at the initial planning stages. For example, zones of responsibility should be established and delineated in the design of these plaza types, taking into account their respective use patterns.
A plaza should provide easy and direct access particularly for the elderly, disabled and young children. Ramp slopes should not exceed 8.3 percent and handrails should be incorporated. Selection of surface materials should result in easy access for the elderly and disabled, and also discourage incompatible plaza activities such as skateboarders. Placement of planters, non moveable eating and handrails should further encourage easy wheelchair and pedestrian access, and seek to discourage the use of skateboards.

A plaza should be designed to maximize opportunities for casual monitoring from its perimeter and abutting developments. Surveillance and overview from adjacent sidewalks, windows and decks are necessary components that contribute to the safety of a plaza.

A plaza should afford good visual surveillance opportunities both from within the space and along the edges. People need to feel secure and will usually avoid dark hidden corners and vacant places.
Good night time generalized lighting is important to enhance safety of a plaza, particularly if it functions as a short cut or as a through route for pedestrians. Appropriately located and designed lighting may also discourage loitering.
In autumn and winter, darkness occurs in late afternoon, coinciding with rush hours. This is generally a time of maximum plaza pedestrian flow, generated from office and retail buildings so lighting should be on timers to account for seasonal changes.
A plaza should also provide easy and direct access to public telephones and information signs.

Figure 5.
A Plaza Should Provide Lighting Along Major Night Time Routes
Figure 6.
A Woman and Child Enjoy a Safe, Relaxing Plaza Environment
Sun paths, sun altitudes and shadow patterns in the plaza should be examined for all seasons, particularly the spring and autumn. Sunlight is particularly valued at lunch time in commercial business areas.
Sunlight can be maximized by:
• locating seating in areas of maximum sunlight;
• creating sun traps - areas surrounded by walls with an orientation toward the south (walls should
not block plaza/street visibility);
• utilizing reflective light surfaces (if no direct sunlight is available).

Figure 8.
Plazas Should Consider Sunlight Factors

Wind reduction can be achieved by the following measures:
• avoid large, open, unprotected areas;
• avoid wind funnels: narrow openings between buildings with easterly or northwest alignment;
• utilize planting, low walls and canopies for wind deflection.

Downdrafts from surrounding high-rise buildings can cause user discomfort and should be prevented or reduced through specific design measures. Wherever possible, protection should be offered from strong northwest winds and from harsh easterly winds which can accompany fall and winter rainstorms.

High levels of traffic, industrial and other ambient noises detract from the enjoyment of a plaza.
Noise can be partially mitigated by detracting attention from the noise source through the introduction of such elements as fountains or waterfalls.

Figure 9
. A Plaza Should Strive To Partially Reduce Street Noise With Water Features
Such protection should be provided at waiting points and along major pedestrian routes.
Protection can be achieved with the following devices:
• canopies;
• awnings;
• shelters;
• glazed trellises.

Figure 10.
Weather Protection Should Be Provided Along Major Routes
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