NEW YORK TIMES | What purpose do our parks, plazas, and what is more broadly called the public realm serve for our cities? Take a stroll through New York with Mr. Garvin and as he says, "learn from, this..."

In this New York Times article, Michael Kimmelman does just that. "The public realm - the streets, squares, parks, infrastructure, and public building make up the fundamental element of any community - the framework around which everything else grows" Mr.Garvin explains. As they continue through the city, he points out "the best public spaces encourage diverse urban experiences, from people watching to protesting, daydreaming to handball, eating, reading and sunbathing to strolling and snoozing. The attraction was, and remains, the place itself."

Yet urban planning does not often design for this. What passes for public space in many crowded neighborhoods often means some token gesture by a developer, built in exchange for the right to erect a taller skyscraper, Kimmelman describes.

How can designers create better public spaces? Watch and observe and see what happens - just like Mr. Garvin does. Then (like the Dutch, we learn) call in the urban designers to work out how best to organize the sites for the public good.

Ending at Grand Central offers "a daily reminder of how the public realm, at its best, speaks to the aspirations of a society and the nobility of a great city" - "We ought to be able to learn from this," he reminds us.

Read more here...