Good management of the design process is critical to ensure a high quality public space. The following section highlights some key design issues to consider:
Consider the wider environment to determine what is appropriate for the area. For example, what plants grow well there and what facilities are already provided in the vicinity.
The overall scale of the space is important to get right. Think about large scale places where people will mix and meet each other, as well as smaller, more intimate spaces for contemplation and relaxation. Consider the size of materials, and be aware of the potential to overcrowd spaces.
How the space is defined and divided is a practical issue that will affect site security. It will also affect how a site feels to be in. Consider the different ways spaces can be defined, e.g. by changing the ground level and using vertical elements such as trees or fences to create barriers and enclosures.
The way people will access and move through the space will help determine its layout. Paths should enable people to reach their destination in a logical, easy and efficient manner. Most people will want to take the most direct route, but land contour and the different uses of open space should be considered.
The project is likely to consist of hard and soft materials, and may include buildings or structures. Materials should be attractive to the eye with good use of shape, colour, texture and form. The soft landscape is made up of natural elements, such as plant materials, grassed areas and the soil itself. The hard landscape is made up of elements added to the soft landscape, such as paving, gravel, walkways, irrigation systems, retaining walls, sculptures, street amenities, fountains, and other mechanical features. When choosing materials consider ease of maintenance (including the cost of repair), local context and character, overall design objectives, functionality, and cost.
Topography and levels
Sites have a unique form which may be natural, man-made or a combination of both. This is known as the topography and is shown on the site plan as contour lines. The contour lines connect points of the same ground level and are used to measure slopes and drainage. Few sites are completely flat and changes in ground level across the site can be used to create a variety of experiences from high viewpoints to sunken, enclosed sheltered areas. Changes in level can be dealt with informally and blend in with surroundings, or made into a feature.
Sustainable drainage, also known as low impact design or water sensitive design, offers numerous environmental and cost benefits. To prevent water from pooling in unwanted areas, consider how it will run off from the site's surface or subsurface. This could be through drains, swales or surface run off.
Sites may have existing public infrastructure located within them, or they may be plans for new infrastructure to be installed. Consider the location and use of infrastructure in the design of the park. The design should minimize any impact on the use and functioning of the site, while maintaining access to infrastructure for maintenance.
Consider lighting along paths or near structures that are used in the dark. Well-lit spaces can deter anti-social behavior and can artfully highlight selected features throughout the space, such as trees or buildings. However, lighting may lead people into unsafe areas and its costs can be high, so its use and placement should be carefully considered. Lighting should only be used if the park is well-used at night for appropriate activities or is a well-travelled thoroughfare connecting popular destinations. Otherwise, lighting may give the impression that the park is safe when it may not be.
Plan open spaces with crime prevention in mind. Avoid creating places where people can lurk, hide or become entrapped; avoid long stretches of path with no alternative escape routes and ensure planting does not block sight lines.
The design and construction practices specified in the project should aim to ensure the park environment and any built elements within it are durable, robust and cost efficient in terms of maintenance and future replacement. The project should help to protect natural resources and improve the built environment so that ecosystems, people and communities can thrive within them.