The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces is the single most important book for creating non-monumental public spaces. The reason it’s so great is not just that it’s always right, but that it’s all about behavior and process and not so much about architecture, so it lets you expand on its rules, rather than just being some nuts-and-bolts guidebook.
So how awesome is it that Tropolism found this video of William Whyte going through the areas of the book. With the film you get to see a little more of the behaviors that don’t come across on the page and you get to see the time-lapse film that Whyte used to make rigorous studies of the Seagram building. After you’ve seen this, you’ll see social spaces in totally different ways.
The High Lineopenedtoday. The much-vaunted and extremely chic park built on a former railroad viaduct south of Penn Station will be a test of both urban design theories and the exceptionality of New York. Diller Scofidio + Renfro have built what appears to be a truly beautiful modern park that appeals to theorists as much as hipsters and bankers. It’s also an elevated pedestrian structure, with limited access and some other design decisions that contradict basic public space design practice. But it’s popular and it’s going to get a lot of attention; many cities are already looking to copy it.
There hasn’t been a place in New York that deserves close observation since the West Village in 1961. The degree to which this works could change the way governments approach marginal spaces, just as the Embarcadero and the Central Artery/Tunnel projects have show the civic potential of highway removal. We’ll just have to wait and see if this is the same.