Cities and urban environments alike are home to countless user groups that mingle, merge and interact with each other and the built environment. Skateboarders in particular are one of these user groups with strong ties to the urban environment. This article aims to compare and contrast skaters with other user groups that share the built environment. Due to its role in dense urban environments the city plaza or square is the most likely setting where skaters and non-skater user groups may cross paths. For this article Forrest Plaza in Perth City, (shown above) is the chosen location due to its ties with local culture, retail and leisure activities. Additionally this plaza is a popular spot for local skaters. Using this location, and three characteristics that influence how the space is used, data was collected to measuring both user groups within the space. After measuring how the plaza is used by these groups, similarities, differences, potential issues and benefits of the shared space was examined.
Movement of vehicles and pedestrians throughout an urban environment requires adequate planning to avoid incidents and congestion. Due to its density and large workforce, pedestrian traffic throughout the city is assisted with the use of wide sidewalks, passenger bridges, thoroughfares, arcades, external malls and plazas. Forrest Plaza assists local circulation through the use of two corridors that run horizontally (see diagram above). The corridors connect Perth train station with large retail districts such as Murray St Mall and Forrest Chase. These corridors worked successfully by creating easy to follow routes that move directly through the plaza. Visual sightlines through the plaza also make the space easier to navigate and improve general way finding. Both pedestrian and skater user groups utilised these transit corridors similarly to pass through and access the plaza. Skaters deviated slightly on some occasions into the courtyard. It is assumed that this behaviour was primarily a result of skaters avoiding slower pedestrians. Additionally this could be a courtesy gesture as skateboard wheels can be loud when moving at high speeds. Circulation through the plaza also affected the locations of amenities and retail opportunities. Planners and business owners placed amenities and retail alongside the circulation corridors in order to maximise use and sales.
While plazas are a great for circulating people, what really makes them successful is how they are used. With cities full of economic and retail conglomerates, a plaza provides an area for users to escape the energetic pace of city life. Plazas also attract users who don’t work in or visit the city on a regular basis. Abundant social, cultural and leisure activities take place within plazas, making them attractive to many different user groups. In order to be successful plazas should accommodate different activities that are popular among these user groups. Forrest Place facilitates both the skater and other user groups through provision of infrastructure that supports their activities. These activities can be categorised into four different groups. Group one consists of users relaxing on shaded benches. Users in this group are office workers having lunch, individuals and groups mingling and the occasional busker. By providing simple infrastructure, benches and shade, without any constraints this area can be used however its occupants see fit. I believe that this is why it is so successful. By letting the users control the space, unique and interesting activities take over the space. Similar characteristics take place with group four, which consists of skaters located on the courtyard stage. The only difference with this area versus the first is the fact that prohibition of skateboarding can be considered a restraint, and that skateboarding was an unintended use for the space. However just like the first area it’s the occupants creativity and engagement with the location that makes it interesting. Group two, which consists of café patrons, was moderately successful as it facilitates one use only but did so in an affective manner. The use of trees for shade and atmosphere created an enjoyable location. Group three, users of the water feature, were not measured, as the water feature was not running when the data was collected.
While the plazas activities can be split up into three main groups of users, the popularity of the plaza can be divided into seven locations. By measuring the number and duration of users throughout the plaza we can begin in understand what areas are successful based on their popularity. While length of stay is a contributor to measuring popularity, the number of users is considered more relevant and will take priority. Of the pedestrian user groups, the café and its seating saw a small to moderate number of users. They did however stay for the longest period of time. This is likely due to the nature that they are ordering and consuming food and drink. If we disregard the length of stay and focus primarily on the concentration of users (darker orange in the diagram above) it is relevant that seating and shade contribute to a locations popularity. This reinforces the idea that a plaza is a place for users to relax and socialise. Additionally due to the hot climate in Perth, shade is key to providing a comfortable environment. Similarly the location that attracts skaters is also shaded. While this is definitely a benefit the primary attractor to this hotspot (shown in blue) is its architectural qualities. Smooth surfaces, high ledges and the curbed sections make the stage a perfect location for skating. On average this location was used by skaters longer than any other location used by pedestrians. This could be a result of the fact that the majority of skaters come to this location in a planned manner, meaning that the only reason they visited Forrest Place is to skate the stage. While some pedestrian may visit the plaza for one particular reason, chances are it is an intermediate destination as they go about the rest of their day.
Similarities, Differences and Potential Overlapping of User Groups
As the data shows, the two user groups, skaters and non-skaters, both use the plaza in in their own way. Areas where the two groups might overlap are shown above. For the most part this is a minor issue as the circulation corridors are only used intermittently by skaters and the areas above and below the stage can be coordinated so that skaters avoid colliding with pedestrians. Including circulation, similarities in the behaviour of the two groups also include their attraction to shaded locations. More importantly both users engage with the architecture of the plaza, the shaded benches for pedestrians and the stage for skaters. These physical structures are what attract the majority of pedestrians and all of the skaters to the plaza. Without the stage I doubt any skater would use the plaza for more than just a circulation route. The main difference between the user groups is how they behave within the space. As stated earlier pedestrians use the plaza as a place to relax and socialise. Skaters on the other hand perform strenuous exercises while performing their activity. While this fundamental difference might be unfavourable to some of the pedestrians I believe that the majority will appreciate how creatively the skaters can use the space.
Benefit of a Shared Plaza
By sharing the plaza, both user groups can improve the others experience. While there are many benefits for facilitating skateboarding in public plazas, Forrest Place could respond to this in a unique way. The diagram above shows that the plaza can easily incorporate areas for skateboarding while still providing adequate space for pedestrians. The central courtyard, when not used for its water feature and special events, is the perfect demonstration area for skateboarding. Demos, events and workshops could be hosted to engage with other users, advertise local skate businesses and enliven the plaza. Additionally the courtyard and stage are surrounded by pedestrian areas that are perfect for spectating. The infrastructure is already present within Forrest Plaza, but some adjustments to regulations need to be made in order for this to be a successfully shared space.
- This reference has been left intentionally blank as 1 is denoted as a footnote on page 1
- Forrest Place Redevelopment by Plan E, Scoop Online, August 2014, accessed November 8, 2017, http://www.scoop.com.au/Online-Articles/Forrest-Place-Redevelopment-by-PLAN-E
- Nikolas Cutten, “Layout Diagram” illustrated by author, November 9, 2017.
- Nikolas Cutten, “Circulation Diagram” illustrated by author, November 9, 2017.
- Nikolas Cutten, “Locations Diagram” illustrated by author, November 9, 2017.
- Forrest Place Redevelopment Project; Plan E, Scoop Homes & Design, accessed November 8, 2017, http://www.scoop.com.au/Region/Perth/Commercial-Designs/Forrest-Place-Redevelopment-Project
- Bocelli Espresso, Way too much Coffee, June 19, 2014, accessed November 8, 2017, http://waytoomuchcoffee.com/food-and-drink-perth/bocellis-espresso/
- Rob Dose, 01 Forrest Place Perth City, Rob Dose, accessed November 8, 2017, http://robdose.com.au/forrest-place-perth-city/
- Rob Dose, 03 Forrest Place Perth City, Rob Dose, accessed November 8, 2017, http://robdose.com.au/forrest-place-perth-city/
- Nikolas Cutten, “Hot Spots Diagram” illustrated by author, November 9, 2017.
- Nikolas Cutten, “Overlapping User Groups Diagram” illustrated by author, November 9, 2017.
- Nikolas Cutten, “Shared Space Diagram” illustrated by author, November 9, 2017.