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Tips for Designing Public Spaces

Public spaces are often overlooked and underappreciated, with the average person likely going about their day paying very little attention to the places they interact with. Well-designed and beautifully executed public spaces, however, captivate users, draw audiences and create experiences.

Here at NORclad we inspire and aid architects, helping them find the perfect timber material to achieve visionary creations.

What defines a public space?

Places open and accessible to the public for use can be defined as public spaces. From parks to squares, pavements to roads, public spaces are dynamic and everchanging.

Public spaces are not just urban creations; however, this is where architectural exploration is usually employed, meeting demands of challenging briefs and limited areas. Credited with reducing stress and creating peaceful natural vistas, public spaces are paramount for personal wellbeing, especially in a hectic urban landscape.

Deemed significant to many academic fields, public spaces, their significance and effect, relate to geography, philosophy, urban design and cultural studies. From historical meeting places surrounding monuments to modern-day spaces of relaxation combined with functionality, public spaces have always had a role to play in social, political and economic development.

The modern-day, and its associated technology, has an influence on the changing urban landscape and its presentation. Even the internet is considered by some to be a public space; a place for all to be, regardless of gender, race, age. Changing interaction in the contemporary informs the design of public spaces and their use. 

Tips for designing public spaces 

With the significance of public spaces and the everchanging approach to personal interaction in the modern day in mind, here are some top tips for designing public spaces.

Consider Users 

When designing public spaces, huge emphasis must be placed on accessibility and usability for all users. If entrances and exits are unclear and badly placed, users will not use the space. Consider the variety of users of the space, mapping out vehicle, bike and pedestrian routes, and clearly signalling each.

It is human nature to create new paths, derived from shortcuts and cutting corners. Resist creating complex or lengthy pathways simply for symmetry or design. Instead, understand and imitate how users will want to get from A to B.

Intertwine Relaxation with Functionality

Clear, distinct routes defined in public spaces channel foot traffic to assist the functionality of the space while opening up optional spaces for leisure. Have seating lining pathways to give those with destinations a chance to get there, but those with time to relax somewhere to recline. In a busy city on short breaks, leisure can be overlooked by users. Providing a place to quickly stop while going from one location to another forces users to relax, even if only briefly.

Involve the Community 

A public space designed without local users in mind is less likely to appeal to the surrounding community. Consult the community and find out what is missing, what is needed and what can facilitate daily lives. How people will interact with public space, and with others within in, will inform how the space looks and functions.

Provide Cover 

Cover is not essential, and certainly may not be possible for particular public spaces, however, it can be a great asset. Outdoor spaces can be hugely popular on hot summer’s days, allowing users to soak up the sun and make the most of good weather. However, bad weather can make public spaces undesirable, dissuading users to sit on wet seats or muddy grass. Public spaces with cover can be highly regarded by those eager to get outside in fresh air, without suffering the weather. Make your public space usable in all weather, year-round, for maximum use.

Fit in with Surroundings 

Some cities are renowned for certain architectural styles. Or specific building materials. Be sure to design public spaces with surrounding themes and images in mind, potentially mirroring styles or using materials to coincide with the urban area’s identity. If the neighbouring buildings are made with red brick, incorporate red brick. If the city is renowned for sandstone houses, feature sandstone. The same materials do not have to be used, but it’s best to be aware and design in keeping with local styles.

Keep it Simple

Create simple foundations for your public space and allow the future to shape its development. Designing public spaces is not always about showcasing the best of modern architecture, but instead creating functional and beautiful spaces for users to easily interact with. Developments and adaptations can take place in the future as users demand, so create a simple fit-for-purpose design and let proceeding years add to it.

Pick Materials Wisely

Public spaces should be designed to last with minimal maintenance, so choose materials accordingly. Make sure materials are sturdy to last the years, sustainable to reduce environmental impact, and not outlandishly priced. Initial thought and abundant planning will keep costs lower in the long run and ensure an effective public space that lasts.

Consider using timber cladding for your public space. Made from hardwearing timber guaranteed to last decadestimber cladding can enhance simple designs and add a modern touch. NORclad supplied timber cladding is sustainably sourced and FSC or PEFC certified to ensure environmental impact is marginal.

Find out more about NORclad’s dedication to environmental sustainability here.

Ensure Spaces are well-lit 

Well-lit public spaces are more inviting and safer. Users will feel more secure in a well-lit public space while they use the space. Line pathways and cycle tracks with ground lighting to map out routes and keep users safe.

Incorporate Nature

Nature is especially key in cities where concrete prevails. Incorporate greenery and flowers to brighten spaces and break up any surrounding monotony. Getting outside to be greeted by nature, from trees to plants, can help elevate stress and encourage relaxation.

Use timber cladding to inspire calm with subtle but striking hints of nature. Useful for large installations or feature walls, timber cladding is an impactful addition to any design.

See more: The Health Benefits of Timber.

Elevate Your Public Space with NORclad 

Combine striking modern design with subtle nods to nature with NORclad, timber cladding experts. Choose from a range of sturdy, sustainable timber species, styles and finishes to suit your perfect public space design – why not take a look at our products for inspiration? As your public space develops over the years, so will the timber cladding, taking on stunning dynamic colouring over the years due to weathering.

Contact timber cladding specialists NORclad today and create your visionary public space.



NORclad® are the South West’s premier supplier of European Redwood timber cladding, a specie that works well with both hand and machine tools.

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European Redwood, also known as Scots Pine or Scandinavian Redwood, is a very popular softwood specie that is known for its good quality.

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Discover more European Redwood case studies, including a variety of schools, academies, private homes, local offices and public buildings.

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2022-05-18T11:16:11+01:00February 3rd, 2020|

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