On January 24th, Street Plans implemented a day-long public space intervention along the waterfront in Downtown West Palm Beach as a part of the winning research team, Happier by Design, of the Van Alen Institute and West Palm Beach Community Redevelopment Agency‘s Shore to Core design and research competition. The intervention was led by Happy City‘s Charles Montgomery, and in collaboration with University of Virginia Center for Design and Health‘s Dr. Jennifer Roe, PhD.
Participants were tested the day before as a “control”, when the pop-up space wasn’t there. Public space surveying was also conducted before and while the pop-up space was being implemented. This included pedestrian and cyclist counts, stationary activity mapping, and observing the time it took pedestrians to walk through the space. These various measures attempted to reveal how the space impacted passersby. The team observed whether people stopped to hang out in the space, or if it caught their attention and caused them to slow down.
Street Plans designed the space with a variety of configurations to test. For example, some tables were placed in the shade, some had just one seat as opposed to two, some were right by the waterfront, and some were in a more enclosed area with tall bamboo bushes and plants. Street Plans wanted to see how people reacted to different types of seating and if more people preferred a specific type.
Overall, the project measured participants’ neurological responses to experiencing the day-long pop-up space created by Street Plans with watches that detected changes in heart rate and skin conductance. The data will help reveal the possible wellness benefits of well-designed urban spaces, and inform how urban design affects the minds and bodies of those who move throughout it.
Thank you to all of our volunteers who experienced this space with us, and a special thanks to Moonlighter Makerspace for helping Street Plans construct some of its critical elements.