Cities need thoughtful urban design not because it’s pretty, but because it makes people feel as comfortable in public as they are in their private homes.
Every day, we spend our time in both public and private places. Generally our private space is our homes, on which we spend a lot of money to call our own. Our public lives are spent on streets, parks, playgrounds and shops, where we connect with other people and with nature. We pay a lot in taxes to ensure those public spaces improve our daily lives. Having both public and private places gives us the luxury of going out on the town, then going home, undressing and going to bed.
But while 2014 FBI data released this week showed San Diego was once again the safest big city in the country, it doesn’t always feel that way. That’s because subpar urban design can make safe streets feel isolating, uncomfortable or dangerous.
In 1972, urban designer Oscar Newman’s “Crime Prevention Through Environmental Design” argued that good design communicates a distinction between public and private spaces and typical people recognize those distinctions as a sense of where they belong.