10 Tips for Improving a Public Outdoor Space

Public outdoor spaces can be attractive gathering spots for nearby residents – and can help to beautify the city where they reside.

But what does it take to create a “better” outdoor public space?

What Is a “Better” Public Outdoor Space?

First, let’s define what makes a public outdoor space “better.” This is a bit subjective, but most people would agree that the following qualities are important:

  • Mobility. A good outdoor space should have plenty of room for people to move around. If people feel cramped together or if there isn’t ample room to walk comfortably, it’s going to be a major distraction.
  • Beauty. Beauty is subjective, but a well-designed outdoor space can make an entire area seem more inviting. Professional architecture, better materials, and ongoing attention will make the space more aesthetically pleasing.
  • Comfort. Some outdoor spaces benefit from being comfortable – though some cities intentionally design uncomfortable spaces to deter unwanted loitering.
  • Practical function. Some spaces serve an important practical function. For example, it might work as a bus stop or a place where people can relax while on lunch break. Ideally, the space will be designed with these purposes in mind.

Important Tips for Improving Your Outdoor Space

These tips can help you get the most out of your outdoor space:

  1. Renovate periodically. New renovations of public spaces can revisit old ideas, polish features that have gotten rusty or dirty, and bring new attention to a once-forgotten area. While it’s important to plan your outdoor space renovation with the future in mind, it’s also a good idea to plan on renovating again, multiple times, in the future. Even small updates, every few years, can make a big difference.
  2. Invest in cleanliness. One of the most impactful steps you can make to beautify a space is to invest in its cleanliness. Hire a team of people to pick up trash, remove gum, treat stains and points of deterioration, and keep things polished. A cleaner appearance may serve to maintain orderliness and will certainly make the space more aesthetically pleasing.
  3. Install more benches and seating. People waiting for the bus, taking a break after a day of shopping, or just pausing to enjoy the scenery will benefit from seating and benches throughout the area. Strategically placing these structures and making them comfortable will make the entire area more inviting.
  4. Plant more greenery. There’s something fundamentally relaxing and healthy about being exposed to nature. People who spend more time among trees and other plants tend to report higher levels of happiness and life satisfaction. Accordingly, you can improve your outdoor space by investing in more greenery; almost any kind of plant will do.
  5. Install lighting. Installing bright overhead lights or sconces can serve multiple functions. For starters, it makes it easier to see and travel the area at night. But it also serves as a crime deterrent; many criminals are reluctant to take action if they feel they’re going to be easily seen by witnesses. It also makes people traveling the area subjectively feel safer.
  6. Patrol and set up emergency service lines. To increase safety further, it’s advisable to install an emergency service line that people can access if they find themselves in an emergency. If this isn’t a possibility, if you’ve seen a spike in crime recently, or if you’re covering a big space, you may want to hire private security to regularly patrol the area.
  7. Add some privacy features (if possible). A bit of privacy can make people feel more comfortable and give them a chance to duck out of the public eye. Strategically placed walls can give people exactly what they need without creating too much space for people to engage in illicit activities.
  8. Use electronics to your advantage. Assuming you have the budget and space to support such an idea, you could use electronic billboards, coordinated lights, and other technology to generate artistic displays – or otherwise make the area more unique.
  9. Protect people from the elements. It also pays to protect people from the elements. A handful of overhead canopies, walls, and outdoor fire pits can make your outdoor area enjoyable regardless of weather conditions – or at least endurable.
  10. Help people find what they need. It could be helpful to provide people with electrical outlets, water fountains, snacks from vending machines, and other things they may want or need. If you can’t provide them, you should at least be able to point them in the right direction with a map of the area.

Whether you’re boosting the image of a local shopping district or just making your apartment residents more comfortable, these strategies can help you improve your target outdoor area. Regular investment and ongoing attention can turn even the worst locations into something functional and beautiful.


Tags: landscape, outdoor, public places

Author: Maja Markovski


A 35-year-old female architect with a passion for innovative, sustainable design. I blend creativity and functionality to transform spaces into beautiful, practical environments.


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