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The 7 Keys to Great Streetscape Design

by Kevin F. on February 12, 2014

Streetscapes are designs that most of us interact with every day. Whether driving in our car, riding our bikes, walking or running, chances are you do it along the edge of a street somewhere. Streetscapes can be an important and functional part of our culture. They affect how we get around and the experiences we have while doing it. As a landscape architect, I’ve had the opportunity to design a number of these spaces and have learned a great deal (through both successes and failures) about what makes them great. Here are some thoughts from my personal experiences.
There are numerous types of streetscapes, both large scale and small. Large scale streetscapes occur in areas like parkways and highways. These are typically more vehicular driven with little regard to pedestrian movement. 
For purposes of this blog, we’re focusing more on the pedestrian scale streetscapes, ones that allow for a multi-modal experience. The 7 most important things that must be considered when designing a streetscape include:
  1. Most importantly the streetscape must create a unique sense of place.  This can be done in a variety of ways, i.e. materials, brick paving, signage, lighting, landscaping, crosswalk markings, and art of sculptural pieces are some of the more common ways to do this.
  2. There should be an implied separation between vehicles and pedestrians.  This could be done with trees, low vegetation, planters, bollards, or other elements.
  3. The design must allow for movement between vehicles and sidewalks.  One of the keys is ease of accessibility from a vehicle to a desired location on the sidewalk.
  4. Views from the street to buildings, businesses, or points of interest are extremely important and must be maintained, especially in retail areas, views and sightlines are critical to any businesses’ success.
  5. There must be places to sit and interact along the street.
  6. Landscaping is critical to creating an image.  However, when landscaping, the designer should use low landscaping or landscaping that is above the users’ line of site.  Most low landscaping should be a maximum of 18-24” tall.  Any trees or upper level landscape should be maintained at 6’ or above.  The middle area of the landscape should be kept clear.  This accomplishes two things it, keeps a line of site into things along the street such as retail areas and it helps with safety by not providing potential places for people to hide.
  7. Safety of the pedestrians is critical too. The separation of the vehicles discussed before is important, however things like well-marked crosswalks and parking spaces, proper accessible spaces and curbs all contribute to the safety of the users.
These are just a few things to consider when thinking about streetscape design. Obviously, every project is different and has a different set of needs and requirements, not to mention budget. Hopefully, this can be used to at least spark some ideas and give a good foundation to designing a well thought out streetscape design.