Design that encourages people to engage with each other

The design of physical infrastructure influences how people feel about the neighbourhoods they live and work in. Design also has a powerful influence on how people use local spaces and how they relate to others in public and semi-public areas.

Conscientious Design:

Holly Street, Hackney, London

Holly Street estate was built between 1971 and 1975 in Dalston, East London. Four 19-storey tower blocks and 19 five-storey buildings were constructed. The design was completely alien to Hackney's principal residential urban form of grids of terraced streets alongside parks and squares.

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Hulme, Manchester

Hulme Park, completed in 2000, is an example of best practice in park design recognised by CABE Space. This development formed part of the regeneration programme of Hulme and Moss Side, costing £3 million.

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Pruitt-Igoe, St.Louis

The notorious Pruitt-Igoe housing project in St. Louis in the USA, despite winning various architectural awards when built in the mid-1950s, became plagued with crime and high vacancy rates.

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Queens Market, Newham, London

Queens Market is the site of a proposed regeneration scheme. The redevelopment plans have become a major focus of local public debate and have raised public space consciousness in Newham.

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CABE research into what residents think of their new homes supports the idea that a community with good public spaces that are welcoming for different generations, and which encourages people to walk to shops and schools, makes it easier for people to develop social networks and a sense of belonging.

"Successful strategies for community-building included: hiring a community development worker, nurturing cross-tenureGlossary: refers to the ownership status of a household’s property residents' associations, and providing informal meeting places, such as courtyards and public squares within the overall site design".

Attracting and retaining families in new urban mixed income communities, Emily Silverman, Ruth Lupton and Alex Fenton (2006)

The impact of design is subtle. It has been shown that as well as public space, ‘semi-private' space is very important.

What constitutes good-quality public space? Evidence and practical experience identify a range of factors: durable, good quality and contemporary materials; design that is sympathetic to neighbouring buildings and spaces; flexible spaces that can be used by different generations; spaces that encourage informal mixing between groups such as parks, squares, playgrounds; design that avoids creating 'dead' spaces and makes people feel safe; space for local organisations and businesses - are among some of the findings.

However, it is important to bear in mind that good-quality public spaces are not just about 'exceptional design', they must meet local needs. The emphasis on 'good design' and 'design criteria' in policy debates sometimes overlooks the important role played by 'unexceptional' spaces in peoples' everyday lives.

New research from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation looking at change in six low income neighbourhoods identifies the importance of 'third places' - shops, community centres, pubs, meeting places - to the health and vibrancy of these communities. Such third places were described by residents as playing a symbolic role as well as providing places for people to meet and interact. The loss of local spaces and places was seen as an indicator of decline in the neighbourhood. Arguably, a lack of these facilities early in the life of new communities will inhibit interaction between residents and will shape how people feel about the value of their community.