Case Study: Placemaking through Shared Space
The Dutch town of Oud-Beijerland had a problem. Shops, restaurants, public spaces and other attractions were becoming less and less attractive due to the unpleasant and unsafe conditions on the busy thoroughfare leading to the centre. Mobycon Designer Dick van Veen created the solution and it was not a bike lane, cycle track or a ban on cars. Instead, the centre was transformed into a Shared Space where design now provides effective enforcement of the 30 kilometres per hour speed limit.
Shared Space is a spatial concept pioneered in The Netherlands and since exported to the United Kingdom, Sweden, Belgium and Germany. Placemaking is achieved through designs that emphasise local character. Traffic control devices – such as lights, paint and signs – are stripped away, and all users are on equal footing. Instead of chaos, traffic calming is the natural result as users pause, take turns and generally react to the environment by following social, instead of traffic rules. Dick often compares behaviour in a Shared Space to shopping behaviour, "When you turn a corner in the supermarket and see someone coming, would you bash ahead with your cart, or wait politely for the space to open?"
A revitalised centre
Oud-Beijerland's Shared Space was completed in spring 2014. The former thoroughfare unfolds like a series of outdoor rooms featuring green space, access to the harbour quay and connection to the town centre. Cars are still allowed here but they are guests. Cyclists are also guests. A bidirectional cycle track dissolves into the square so cyclists mingle with cars and pedestrians. Pedestrians are not confined to sidewalks but are encouraged to rediscover the whole public space, sitting on the edge of the sculpture in the centre or strolling along the water. In Shared Space, all users have freedom to claim the space, but this freedom is balanced by a greater shared responsibility to watch out for one another. In order to make the design reality, Dick worked closely with residents, shop owners, business groups, tourist organizations and other stakeholders to come up with a design that truly emphasised the place. The key was not to take parking away or calm traffic but to revitalize the town centre.
For more information about Mobycon’s Shared Space design services, click here.
Photo courtesy of Oud-Beijerland.