Exploring the world's built environments and seeking sustainable solutions.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Mariatorget - Urban Design Qualities Inventory

Mariatorget is a plaza that is situated in Stockholm, Sweden in a busy shopping district near Slussen Station. There are several design elements that make this plaza quite successful in terms of sustainable urban design.

Below are our observations and assessments of this particular plaza:

- Adequate Seating. There is a wide variety of seating choices from lawn space to benches to suit individual or group activities
. People can be found eating food from the local vendors on the lawns, reading a newspaper or novel on the bench, or just conversing with friends by the fountain.
- Shade/Access to Light.
Trees line the entire area to provide shade from the long hours of sunlight during the summer season. There is adequate access to sunlight along the central north-south axis of the plaza as well.
- Sense of Safety
. The plaza is relatively safe due to the narrower, less trafficked streets that surround the east, west and south sides of the plaza. There are barriers implemented that provide protection from vehicles (sidewalks/fences).
- Access to Services/Facilities.
Services such as cafes, pubs, street vendors and restrooms are in relatively close proximity.

- Access to Transportation. Mass transit (bus stops) and bike parking are along the perimeter of the plaza.
- Noise Reduction.
The plaza utilizes the surrounding buildings and lanes to create a wide range of areas (quieter to more social environments).
- Suitable for Users of All Ages.
Children-friendly areas (playgrounds) are located away from heavy automobile traffic for safety reasons. Variety of seating opportunities can accommodate those of all ages.
- Cost-Effectiveness. Little maintenance of public displays and vegetation is required.

- Accommodation for Activities. Grassy lawns can be used for multiple purposes (outdoor play areas, or just for lounging).
- Waste Disposal. Trashcans are strategically placed throughout the plaza for convenience.
- Accessibility.
The plaza does not slope and is handicap accessible. There are no stairs to enter/exit the plaza.
- Connectivity.
Within a short distance, there are other plazas (three blocks away).

- Wide Central Lane. The plaza design provides for easy access to all areas of the public space. There is a wide central lane to accommodate pedestrian traffic and the occasional bicyclist.
- Open Space.
The plaza is not closed off/gated. Fences are built low enough to allow individuals to enter the plaza from any side, creating multiple pathways.

- Use of Axis to Direct Views. There is an axis to draw individuals to the center of the plaza where the f
ountain is the main attraction. This place acts as a central gathering point.
- Public Art Displays. Outdoor sculptures are placed near seating areas. Seating is arranged for varying views of the plaza (trees, fountain, or surrounding street views).
- Well-Maintained Landscape. Vegetation as well as o
utdoor sculptures/displays provide a scenic view throughout all areas of the plaza.
- Use of Water. The element of water in the fountain is ca
- Cleanliness. Waste disposal bins are placed strategically near local vendors or near seating areas to reduce litter, which creates a sense of cleanliness.

- Moveable Chairs. The use of moveable chairs can create more group interaction in the plaza. Current seating (benches) may not be able to accommodate large groups.
- Recycling Bins in the Area. Along with waste bins, recycling bins can create a more sustainable environment.

Mariatorget is a prime example of a successful plaza th
at has been integrated into the urban landscape. It is a well designed plaza that offers a transitional space from the busy city life to a quieter, calmer environment. A common mistake in the United States is that plazas are not in close proximity to other green spaces, or local transit options. Many plazas are also built much too large. Consequently, the space becomes underutilized due to its expansiveness. Therefore, the use and features of these smaller plazas in connection to other smaller plazas can be applicable.

Posted by: Melody Wu, Bernadette Rosero Dugtong and Matt Ichinose

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