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Design of Urban Public Spaces: Intent vs. Reality

Department of Sport Science and Clinical Biomechanics, Southern University of Denmark, Campusvej 55, Odense M, 5230, Denmark
Architecture Department, University of California-Berkeley, 230Wurster Hall #1820, Berkeley, CA 94720–1820, USA
Human Potential Centre, Auckland University of Technology, AUT Millennium, Room SA225, New Zealand
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15(4), 816;
Received: 23 February 2018 / Revised: 5 April 2018 / Accepted: 19 April 2018 / Published: 21 April 2018
PDF [3023 KB, uploaded 3 May 2018]


This study investigated how two public spaces for sport and recreation were utilized by different user groups, and how this aligned with the initial design objectives for these spaces. Two newly built urban spaces situated in Copenhagen, Denmark, provided the context for this investigation. The System for Observing Play and Recreation in Communities (SOPARC) was used to examine the physical activity of users in these two urban spaces. The architects responsible for designing each space were interviewed to ascertain the intended target group of each space and to unravel the reasons behind the design decisions. The SOPARC observations revealed that males were more vigorously active than females when using the recreation facilities, and the observed users did not align with the intended target groups. The interviews suggested that design decisions were based on minimal interdisciplinary knowledge, and that expert knowledge was chosen randomly. These findings point to a systematic lack of evidence-based practice when designing sport and recreational facilities. This article has implications for landscape architects and urban planners; a new method must be developed to embed interdisciplinary knowledge in the planning process of future sport and recreation projects. This must be done in a systematic way to make the design process transparent. View Full-Text
Keywords: activating architecture; physical activity; transparent design; evidence based design; interdisciplinary collaboration; SOPARC activating architecture; physical activity; transparent design; evidence based design; interdisciplinary collaboration; SOPARC

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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Hjort, M.; Martin, W.M.; Stewart, T.; Troelsen, J. Design of Urban Public Spaces: Intent vs. Reality. Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2018, 15, 816.

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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health EISSN 1660-4601 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
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