Seasonal spaces and value perception
Have you ever felt like you’re seeing your everyday route for the first time? Or do you remember missing a turn because the corner you just passed by looked unfamiliar? The month of December in particular is when many places are “created” as they get dressed up differently. The increase or decrease in level of patronage, the shifts in destination preferences, and the upward and downward trends in space perception are factors of the seasonal value of places.
These are spaces that exhibit patterns of character transformation over time cycles.
You’ve seen empty parking lots becoming crowded bazaar sites overnight. The central business district street with a formal business air in the morning teems with life as ambulant vending creeps in at night.
Because of the relative predictability of the timing of transformations, seasonal spaces enable people to know where they are in the 365-day timeline. The cyclical pattern may manifest over shorter periods of time within the day, week or month.
We refer to some parts of the city as a night place or a daytime destination. There are weekday places that are defined by work routines and there are weekend places that are visited for recreation. Ephemeral spaces are temporary spaces that exist only while the activities defining them are in motion.
Event-based vantage point
Place perception is influenced by one’s event-dictated viewing station point.
Seasonally designated pedestrian spaces would look different when viewed while walking as compared to what one would see from the windshield while driving. Regularly held crowd drawer events create places that are totally different when seen from a tall building or from a television screen. How we view places is filtered by the sum of our own personal attributes, the behavior settings that spaces accommodate, and the environmental conditions at any given time.
Seasons and underlying social factors
Time-based cyclical patterns of place transformations are attributed to different factors. There are changes governed by geography and climate factors.
Hence, indoor activities extend to outdoor spaces in the dry and cool seasons. Annually recurring festivals, religious and political events alter the sensory experience of streets as their colors, sounds and smell change with the people and activities that come and go
Other place-changing, scheduled events include the opening and closing of classes, nation or city-wide retail store sales and mega events such as a boxing matches, basketball championship games and beauty pageants. While many events are held indoors, the spatial impacts are seen and felt way beyond the enclosures of their physical venues.
Physical place manifestations
Transformations manifest in the number of people simultaneously converging—hence, the so-called lull and peak periods in the places we visit.
Building façade treatments, decorations and accessories, furniture and other moveable items literally change the face of the place. Space layouts are reconfigured, support staff expands or contracts, lighting dims or intensifies with every setting up or pulling out of events. Wayfinding and security measures may be more challenging on some occasions and ad hoc systems may need to be installed to make places user-friendly at all times.
Space design and planning challenges
Planners and designers are enjoined to partake in the constant redefinition of spaces that imply public welfare and enjoyment of shared places. Strategies that engage the users—from pedestrians being able to control lighting and park-goers being able to move around plant boxes to communities that are allowed to regulate foot traffic—all allow customization of public spaces.
The possible overlapping of public and private realms on some occasions poses order, privacy and security challenges that may be addressed through interactive urban design elements.
Spaces for all seasons
With land as a finite resource, supply may be optimized through multi-layered use of public spaces.
Assigning different uses during different time periods through flexible spaces has been a feature of vernacular architecture and can very well work at urban management level. Varied activities may also be accommodated in the same space at the same time through boundary setting elements such as plantscapes, floor patterns and art installations.
Spaces for one-time international events should be designed to integrate with the urban fabric in the long-term.
Gliding along with the seasons account for contextual spaces that respond to local conditions, traditions and shared values. Flexible spaces also account for resilience that enables places to adapt as cities go through the birth, growth and renewal cycle.
The author is a Professor at the University of the Philippines College of Architecture, an architect and urban planner.
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.