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The public realm as a generator of urban design


For me, urban design at its heart is a positive activity that has a primary objective to contribute a public benefit. This is principally achieved by designing a network of public spaces – the public realm – that form the setting for individuals and communities to live their lives efficiently, safely, purposefully, meaningfully and memorably. The public realm consists of typical urban elements of streets, lanes, plazas, parks and environmental areas of different scales and purposes. These elements of public space are combined to create distinctive and unique places that invite use and activity. Underscoring this is the view that the primary user of public space is the pedestrian and the primary transport mode walking, cycling, and public transport. The car remains important but less so than the other modes.
With this approach, an essential requirement of the private realm of buildings is to form the public realm by positively defining public space, for it can’t exist without the physical form of the buildings, and landscapes. The mix and location of land-uses in close proximity activate the public realm, so people can readily access the uses needed for daily life, and are invited to do so due to the quality of the urban setting.

Pages:153 to 156
Section: Viewpoint
How to Cite
Richards, P. (2017) “The public realm as a generator of urban design”, The Journal of Public Space, 2(1), pp. 153-156. doi:

Author Biography

Peter Richards is a registered architect with a masters degree in urban design. He is highly respected for his strategic thinking and design leadership on projects at all scales and complexities from urban regions and centres to individual buildings and places. Throughout Australia, he is sought after for his expertise in collaborative design processes and contributes to defining its practice here. Underscoring his work is a strong understanding of urban quality and the rich relationship between people and place to form a sustainable regional urbanism.
Peter has directed the practice’s involvement in significant master planning and transit oriented projects, including the award winning Varsity Station Village, Sunshine Coast University Hospital, Health City Springfield and the Bowen Hills and Yeerongpilly TODs. He has also contributed to planning for new settlements in Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria, the Northern Territory and most recently, Western Australia.
Open Access Journal
ISSN 2206-9658