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Student Award commended 2015

Sponsored by The Idox Information Service



Andrew Dowell, Urban Studies, University of Glasgow

An Investigation of Public Realm Provision, in Particular Shared Public Space, within Urban Waterfront Regeneration and Analysis of Success with Reference to Two Clyde Riverside Areas


About the research

'Public realm' might be part of the lexicon of urban planning and there is now a greater emphasis on achieving quality of place distinctiveness and identity, however it has not always been defined clearly. This research considered the nature of public realm, its complexity and range of uses, by investigating the provision of public realm within urban regeneration, in particular through two case studies of waterfront regeneration in the Clyde (Govan and Breahead).

The research identifies some of the limitations of existing methodologies in assessing the provision of public realm, in particular a lack of clarity over definitions and the difficulty in measuring the less tangible aspects of public spaces.

Based on a thorough review of previous research and acknowledged good principles of urban design, the research develops a new methodology –a simple measurement tool called the 'Square Model of Public Realm Success' – to more objectively assess the provision of public realm according to a range of criteria. This allows for a clearer appraisal of individual schemes, but also comparisons between regeneration areas.

This methodology is applied to the two case study sites. Although both schemes have helped to revitalise the waterfront, the findings suggest that have been more limited in linking to and helping to regenerate other areas, in part due to their lack of connectivity to other public spaces and integration with other policy aims. As a result, such public spaces are not always as successful as originally envisaged.

Implications for policy and practice

In order to maximise the impact of public realm schemes, it will be necessary to coordinate such schemes with the wider urban areas that surround them and to minimise potential conflicts over land use through more integrated development plans.

The model developed through this research could be incorporated into planning policy and guidance documents. It could also help to bridge the gap between the providers and users of public spaces, and so could be a valuable tool for practice.

"[U]rban regeneration …has evolved over time and there is now a greater emphasis on place-making, identity [and] distinctiveness. There are less tangible attributes, which are seen as increasingly important, in addition to meeting land supply needs, to a city's attractiveness, liveability and competitiveness among other cities. Public realm has to be viewed in that context and is of significance, but [its] less tangible nature is part of the complexity in seeking to measure its success."

Judge's comment

"A really good example of how planning research can provide practical tools for planners, in this case for improving public spaces."