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Streets with experience for people

The largest project of the European Capital of Culture, City Reimagined focuses on public space. As part of it, we have opened the topic of visual smog, and a municipal curator has taken up the position overseeing public space within their competency. We talk with urbanist Lívia Gažová, who, as part of the Trenčín 2026 team, focuses on architecture and public space projects, about further opportunities to improve life in the city.


Urbanist Lívia Gažová is giving a presentation during Cities in Placemaking

Foto: Archive Cities in Placemaking 


We move around public spaces every day. Do we realize what and how the street influences us?


Let me give you an example of holiday destinations where we go to relax. We stroll through small streets with cafes, where children play, people sit around; it's a safe space where we don't have to constantly watch out for cars. We perceive it as pleasant, and such spaces create enjoyable experiences. However, when we return home, we no longer demand it.


We are accustomed to wider streets...


Worldwide, when cities were planned in the second half of the 20th century, they were designed for car and public transport commuting. Streets were planned to be straight, long, wide, with tall buildings that don't attract people to stop, with dense traffic and endlessly straight sidewalks.


With wider streets, you talk about tall buildings; with narrower streets, I imagined rather lower buildings.


A person feels more comfortable when a building has only a few floors. This applies to both someone walking down the street and people living in such buildings. Then they have more contact with the surroundings and an interest in public space. We use the term "human scale" to describe the ratio of streets to building height. Some people in panel buildings in housing estates are so disconnected from the space below them that they have no relationship with it.


We won't rebuild entire cities. Is there something that would help us feel good even on streets with taller buildings?


The greatest street experience, up to 80 percent, is thanks to the ground floor of buildings. While moving, we look around at what the street offers us. In the 1960s, spouses - urbanist Jan Gehl and psychologist Ingrid Gehl - conducted research on how people move and behave in various urban spaces and how they use them. This research has proven itself over the years and describes what pleasant spaces look like. These are places where people stop, where they tend to meet, places with identity that everyone knows.



Examples of elements in public spaces. Resource: Tactical Urbanist's Guide



Sometimes we just walk down the street and don't even notice places where it would be nice to stop. What could help people develop a relationship with space without investing in reconstruction right away?


One solution could be temporary street openings for people. Then a person can realize what the street looks like. They don't pass through it by car, they're not in a hurry, they get to know the architecture, they start to perceive the space. Such temporary events or interventions show the space in a different light and can be very surprising. With little money, they allow people to experience what a place could be like.


In Trenčín, we have a beautiful example of this - Trenčín na korze on Ulica 1. mája.


Yes, exactly. Thanks to the event, many people noticed Ulica 1. mája. As part of the reconstruction, the street will be definitively opened to people who already have a pleasant experience associated with it. By the way, we are preparing a similar event with Trenčín na korze on another street with great potential.   

 

 


 

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