UX for place-making

EXPERIENCING THE PLACE STANDARD

The Place Standard is an innovative tool created by the NHS to support the delivery of high quality places. Whilst contributing to the SSCI Charrette Mainstreaming Programme, the HERE+NOW team were excited to have a chance to apply this first-hand at both the Blairgowrie and Lennoxtown design charrettes.

The Place Standard offers an easy-to-understand graphic wheel to spark conversations within local communities and allow a completely anonymous, but comprehensive expression of individual opinions within local groups.

The 14 different ‘slices’ that form the Place Standard wheel go from more tangible and practical topics such as green spaces, traffic, parking and the built environment to more abstract, but equally important themes, such as sense of identity/belonging, perceived sense of control and relationship with local authorities.

The topics are rated from 1 to 7 with a point on the graph, with 1 as the lowest score and 7 as the highest. This results in a range of eclectic community ‘footprints’. These are a valuable way to learn about each unique place. We used the Place Standard in this way at both the Blairgowrie and Lennoxtown design charrettes, where we had the chance to apply the Place Standard on groups of all sizes.        

With only the need of a printer and pens, the Place Standard assessment process is straight-forward and quick and can be tailored in length according to the receptiveness of the audience.  It gives a voice to every participant, who can as a result express personal opinions and views on a neutral and open ground.

What makes the Place Standard a fantastic tool for place-making is not only its immediacy in delivering an overview of communities, but also its complete openness to the public. The test is freely accessible and completely open-source, and can be found here together with more details on its scope and uses. Everyone can easily apply it, whether it is at group workshops or to simply have a peek out of curiosity. It is something we at HERE+NOW are excited to use in the future as part of our co-design in landscape architecture approach.

STREET ASSESSMENT DESIGN WORKSHOP

The whole HERE+NOW research team had a really productive design workshop this morning as part of a series of Public Life Street Assessment projects we are currently working on for client the City of Edinburgh Council.   We have been looking at a total of 5 different local town centres across Edinburgh (Leith Walk, Bruntsfield/Morningside, Portobello, Stockbridge and Nicolson/Clerk St) to research and analyse these key public realm spaces and their potential for increased public life.   

Following the 'on-the-street' research and data collection using direct observational methodologies inspired by Jan Gehl (amongst many others), the team analyse this qualitative and quantitative data in detail, learning from a mix of pedestrian counts, behavioural mapping, street auditing, test walks and user interviews with locals to help identify the existing movement and place function of the town centre. We then go on to use this analysis to help start to form suggested design responses and ideas for actions aimed at helping to improve public life in the public realm - from shorter term 'quick wins', through to pilot studies and longer term design responses - all grounded in solid and in-depth research of the public realm and how its users experience the street environment.  

It's a brilliant process to go through - mixing quantitative and qualitative research methodologies based on user experience, followed up with rigorous data analysis and then the transformation of this research into a plan for action and suggested solutions using our design team comprised of landscape architects, urban designers and planners.  We are really passionate about this work and thrilled to be involved in projects such as this which combine research with engagement and design to start to create potential solutions to help improve both public life and the quality of the pedestrian environment in these town centre street spaces.   Find out more here

WEEK TWO: PUBLIC LIFE STREET ASSESSMENTS

Uula Saastamoinen is working with the HERE+NOW team for a 4 week period to learn more about the co-design processes we use in all our design, place-making and landscape architecture projects before he goes on to study a Masters in Landscape Architecture. Uula is learning about a different aspect of the work we do each week. This is his second of a series of blogs about his experiences and learnings.

 

Hi again!

This week I took part in a public life street assessment project for several town centres in Edinburgh. The purpose of street assessment is to collect data about the 'public life' of particular streets and spaces for analysis to enable the making of better informed decisions for their future improvement.

I visited Nicolson St/Clerk St, Stockbridge and Portobello on three consecutive days, and made observations about obstacles and other things which might affect the flow of pedestrians and how desirable these places are. I documented my findings with a camera, and I also interviewed local people to get their view on different pros and cons of the area. All these tasks are part of a larger system of mapping people’s movement at different times of the day and different days of the week, and are designed to provide solutions which take into account the locals’ aspirations and knowledge, meaning they also end up being cost-effective - targeting solutions that maximise impact for users.

One of the key things I noticed was the series of issues caused by narrow streets and very limited space for sidewalks, especially in places like Stockbridge where there are many young families. Bus stops provide shelter, but can also act as obstacles during busy hours. While the initial expression of the area is important, local people’s input is very priceless in knowing where to get started. The result is a huge pile of data, which is then used to suggest small and big changes to these town centres. It was an exciting week for me, and I am glad I had an opportunity to take part in the process!

 

  • Uula

 

street assessment

MAKING THE CONNECTION

We are excited to be running our first ever 'PEP Talk' event in Canonmills on 24 April.  Hosted by The Yard, and with a series of speakers, performers and artists in the nearby old railway tunnel outdoors all around the topic of 'Night in the City' and more creatives uses of city spaces, this promises to be an inspiring event not be missed (register for your free ticket)! 

But this more than just a fun evening out.  This is an event inspired by our discussions with people local to Canonmills over the past few weeks, and a great way to meet other local people and organisations to build on these discussions, ambitions and opportunities.  It is a catalyst to help activate activism. To build on the desires, ideas and aspirations that diverse people in the community already have, by bringing them together to make connections with one another, be inspired by speakers along a relevant theme, and generate ideas and actions together.  You can start or join the discussion ahead of the event via the PEP Talks Facebook page or using #PEPtalking

The theme 'Night in the City' for this first PEP Talk came out of this initial feedback from local people prior to the event.  This included frequent mention of the old railway tunnel and how it felt scary to walk through at night, and how the tunnel had great potential for more activities and community events.  The PEP Talk event programme has been inspired by these ambitions and opportunities local people have for the area, and will act as a way to make connections with other people interested in developing ideas and possibilities for their local places, all whilst having a fun, informal evening in an unusual city space!

If you'd like to join us at this first ever PEP Talk event, please join us on Friday 24 April at The Yard in Canonmills.  Register here for your free ticket. 

 

TAKING DESIGN TO THE STREETS

The HERE + NOW team took to the streets last week to do some face-to-face user research about how people local to Canonmills, Edinburgh, feel about their local area. Check out our video of this process below.

We call this a 'PREP Talk' - a preparation and information gathering event -  asking the people who use and experience a place how they feel about it at present, and what their hopes and aspirations are for the future.  The  'PREP Talk' provided  essential feedback that can then be 'fed forward' to help set the agenda for the follow-up PEP Talk event.  Who knows better what improvements their local places need than the people who live or regularly pass through there?

This is linked to our concept of  'User Experience Design for Place-making'. A focus on user-centred, participatory, iterative and bottom-up approaches to both engage people in place and provide a framework within which local people can meet each other, share their views, and work together to take action to improve their local places.

Following this initial phase of talking to local people about their experiences, we then bring the community, local businesses and other stakeholders together through events, talks and discussions to help kick-start action for improving their local places...  'PEP Talks'. They are about People Engaging in Place, a call to action and a kick-starter for local communities to work together and drive positive change. All whilst having a good time and meeting other interesting people! More on the PEP Talk series soon..

Thanks to Architecture + Design Scotland for their support in developing this process!

 

PEP Talks / PREP Talks from Jenny Humberstone on Vimeo.

HERE + NOW take to the streets to do some face-to-face user research about how people local to Canonmills feel about their local area. We call this a 'PREP Talk' - preparation and research ahead of a PEP Talk event. At a PEP Talk we then bring stakeholders together through discussion and talks to help kick-start action for improving their local places.