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Methods of studying the effects of the surroundings on outdoor activities in urban public places Lindsay, Barbara Susanne

Abstract

This study was concerned with selecting methods drawn from ecology and ethology that could be applied to evaluating the behaviour of people in downtown public places. Time-sampling and behavioural mapping proved to be useful objective methods of observing and recording people's activities in four public places in Vancouver, British Columbia. Information on user activities was applied to evaluate the relationship between behaviour and the physical environment in a park, a square and two plazas. In each place there were examples of the impact of environmental factors such as sun direction, shadow patterns, wind tunnels, and edge conditions on the location and the intensity of user activities. Too often the design of urban spaces has not been sympathetic to the reactions of people to their surroundings. This inadequacy has brought about a lack of use of these spaces. Traditional techniques of behavioural research have not been able to improve this situation. The observational approach developed here is capable of providing objective information on the ways in which physical surroundings affect people's activities.

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