Design for the Public Realm

A variety of products provide options for flexibility
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Sponsored by B-K Lighting, Bison Innovative Products, and Western Red Cedar Lumber Association
By Elena M. Pascarella, RLA, ASLA

Learning Objectives:

  1. Describe the sustainability criteria (LEED and SITES) that apply to the design of exterior spaces and outdoor rooms.
  2. Discuss the various products and systems that are available for designing exterior spaces for the public.
  3. Explain some of the key safety considerations in designing public spaces.
  4. Describe how lighting can enhance the public’s nighttime experience and also provide safety.
  5. List the ways in which exterior spaces meet LEED requirements of human health and well-being.


AAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
AANB 1 Hour of Core Learning
AAPEI 1 Structured Learning Hour
MAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
NLAA 1 Hour of Core Learning
NSAA 1 Hour of Core Learning
NWTAA 1 Structured Learning Hour
OAA 1 Learning Hour
SAA 1 Hour of Core Learning
This course can be self-reported to the AIBC, as per their CE Guidelines.
This course is approved as a Structured Course
Approved for structured learning
Approved for Core Learning
This course is approved as a Core Course
Course may qualify for Learning Hours with NWTAA
Course eligible for OAA Learning Hours
This course is approved as a core course
This course can be self-reported for Learning Units to the Architectural Institute of British Columbia
This test is no longer available for credit

Over the past decade, there has been a renaissance in the design and construction of the public spaces in many major cities. This renaissance has resulted in the creation of new plazas, parks, pedestrian streets, and waterfront areas in our cities. These public spaces help to enhance the experience of urban social and cultural life. But what are the elements and components of these public spaces that make them successful and provide enticing public spaces for users?

Park Towne Place in Philadephia

Michael Albany Photography LLC.

Park Towne Place is a premier apartment complex that sits adjacent to Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The Lighting Practice designed an interior lighting system for all public amenities as a as the exterior hardscape and landscape.

Designing for the public realm is essentially placemaking. The Project for Public Spaces is a nonprofit organization that has spent more than 40 years developing guidelines for making successful public spaces. In its work, it has developed a chart that outlines the qualities that make public places successful. Successful places share four qualities: they are accessible, comfortable, present a good image, and provide a place for sociable contact and people to engage in activities. This course will examine key features and characteristics of public spaces and provide insight regarding appropriately sourced materials that can be used in designing these public spaces to enhance user experience and provide designs that enrich the social experience.

Public outdoor spaces can provide experiences in outdoor dining, active outdoor activities such as poolside recreation, or just relaxing and taking in the surrounding landscape. In addition, attractive public spaces can greatly increase the appeal, value, and marketability of nearby commercial and residential properties.

Urban areas and large cities do not always have large tracts of land available for public use. Many communities and organizations are moving toward creating small pocket parks and pop-up parks that provide flexible outdoor experiences on smaller tracts of land, thus allowing for more public outdoor spaces to be developed in their neighborhoods.

In designing these pocket parks, pop-up parks, and decks, pedestal systems and other modular products can provide architects and designers with greater design flexibility. Rooftop gardens in particular are a growing trend, as more and more urban areas are passing mandates requiring green roofs on commercial buildings over a certain size. Modular wood tiles and pedestal deck systems are two products that provide design flexibility with respect to location and layout.


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Originally published in Architectural Record
Originally published in July 2018


Design for the Public Realm
Buyer's Guide
Denali Series Floodlight with BKSSL® Power of C Inspiration Control System
B-K Lighting introduces INSPIRATION Control System, an iOS app that enables control of its Bluetooth wireless technology featuring BKSSL® Power of C with color-tuning technology Denali Series floodlights. The fixture always remains factory sealed and protected against the elements. It has a complete on-off function and features a modular design with electrical disconnects that permits field maintenance.
B-K Lighting
Bison Rooftop Deck Systems
Manufactured in the USA with 20 percent post-industrial recycled materials, Bison Pedestals create level decks over sloped surfaces. Bison Pedestals elevate and support wood tiles, pavers, site furnishings, and a variety of other surfaces. Bison Wood Tiles are commercial grade, constructed from sustainably harvested hardwoods, and available in standard and FSC-certified species.
Bison Innovative Products
Real Cedar Siding, Decking, and Trim
Beautiful, durable Western Red Cedar is nature’s most versatile building material. Naturally resistant to rot, decay, and insects, Real Cedar products are ideal for exterior applications. And when it comes to designing for public spaces, the wood’s inherently rich tonal range is perfect for creating warm, inviting interior environments.
Western Red Cedar Lumber Association