Transformative Open Space

In a car-dominated culture, it is easy to design a city to suit the automobile’s needs to get from point A to point B. However, this plays an enormous impact on pedestrians and open spaces. By quarantining pedestrians to limited-to-no sidewalk space, and/or not providing proper crosswalks, these areas are not only less visually appealing, but, more importantly, can be dangerous for pedestrians.

Sunset Triangle Plaza, City Lab

Sunset Triangle Plaza, City Lab

However, with a bit of entrepreneurial planning and design, cities can transform the way people perceive spaces. By simply changing the design mindset from creating car-centric spaces to prioritizing the needs and activities of pedestrians and cyclists, an entirely new public space can emerge; a public space than can bolster economic development goals for adjacent and surrounding neighborhoods. The Brazilian urban planning collective Urb-i has cataloged before-and-after city transformations such as these.

Sunset Triangle Plaza 2009

Sunset Triangle Plaza 2009

Sunset Triangle Plaza 2015

Sunset Triangle Plaza 2015

Silver Lake Picture Show

Silver Lake Picture Show

We can add Silverlake’s Sunset Triangle Plaza to Urb-i's collection. Los Angeles City and County officials transformed underutilized space on Sunset and Griffith Park Boulevard into a vibrant outdoor plaza now home to festivals, food trucks, and outdoor movies.  Los Angeles is an exemplar of car-culture cities, with 60% of its land devoted to streets and parking lots. However, steps to creatively transform areas into pedestrian-friendly public spaces are in the works with programs such as the City’s Great Streets Initiative.