Anna Svensdotter
Mirko Guaralda


Exposure to perceived danger awakens our environmental awareness and sense of individual responsibility. In our rapidly evolving contemporary urban environments, the design of public space is often constrained and focussed on risk mitigation. Designers often rely on the inclusion of mechanisms to control behaviours (eg walls and fences) or rely on displays of authoritarian surveillance (eg CCTV and extensive warning signage). Measures also known as target–hardening (Saraiva & Pinho, 2011). This can create a reliance on the authoritarian control of urban space, which could result in the disuse of self-regulating mechanisms such as individual responsibility and environmental awareness.
This study investigates perception of danger in public space through a scenario-based investigation focussed on Brisbane, Australia. This study enquires how we sense danger, what provokes our sense of danger and how this affects our environmental awareness. Current exemplary design responses that aim to improve safety in public space are also discussed. The study highlights a need for further research about how authoritatively secured space affects city users, sense of place and community.


How to Cite
Svensdotter, A. and Guaralda, M. (2018) “Dangerous Safety or Safely Dangerous. Perception of safety and self-awareness in public space”, The Journal of Public Space, 3(1), pp. 75–92. doi: 10.5204/jps.v3i1.319.
Author Biographies

Anna Svensdotter, Queensland University of Technology

Anna is a PhD candidate at Queensland University of Technology. She has a background within the architectural discipline with a B.Des (Arch) and a M.Arch, also from QUT. Her PhD studies considers the topic of sense of safety within the socio-spatial dynamics of urban public space. Anna is an advocate of inclusive public space for all actors of urban space, and as a result finds the transition zones of urban destinations the object of her research.

Mirko Guaralda, Queensland University of Technology

Dr Mirko Guaralda is Senior Lecturer in Architecture at the Queensland University of Technology; his background includes experience in architectural design, landscape architecture and urban design. Before joining academia full time, Mirko has been working in industry and local government; he has been involved in a wide range of projects at different scales, from small dwellings and gardens, to new estates and urban strategic planning. Since 2001 Mirko has been involved in research projects in Australia as well as in Italy, his home country, and so far has received over $500,000.00 in funding for his work on cities and communities. He is currently research associate with QUT Design Lab, and the Urban Informatics Research group at QUT.


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