“The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces”

This for your weekend viewing pleasure just in from Clarence Eckerson, Streetfilms, NYC:

When I first got started making NYC bike advocacy and car-free streets videos back in the late-1990s on cable TV, I didn’t know who William “Holly” Whyte was or just how much influence his work and research had on New York City. A few years later I met Fred and Ethan Kent at Project for Public Spaces. I got a copy of Whyte’s 1980 classic, The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces, which in its marvelously-written, straightforward style is the one book all burgeoning urbanists should start with.

Recently, I read it again. With all the developments in video technology since his day, I wondered: How might Whyte capture information and present his research in a world which is now more attuned to the importance of public space? What would he appreciate? Are his words still valid?

So I excerpted some of my favorite passages from the book and tried to match it up with modern footage I’ve shot from all over the world while making Streetfilms. I hope he would feel honored and that it helps his research find a new audience.

Clarence Eckerson, Jr. is a Brooklyn-based videographer and the creator of BikeTV and Streetfilms.org. He has been making fantastical transportation media in NYC since the late 1990s. He’s never had a driver’s license and says he never will.

Thanks Clarence.
Clarence Eckerson, Jr. (born 1967) # # #

usa holly whyte

Also you may wish to have a look at a full hour film on Whyte’s thoughts and techniques, produced by Mr. Whyte with the support of the Municipal Art Soceity of New York, together with the Street Life Project, and happily now available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6G4B9Z27yA. A brief biography of Mr. Whyte is available from Project for Public Spaces at http://www.pps.org/reference/wwhyte/

The core of Whyte’s work was predicated on the years he spent directly observing human beings, and he authored several texts about urban planning and design and human behavior in various urban spaces. All told, Whyte walked the city streets for more than 16 years. As unobtrusively as possible, he watched people and used time-lapse photography to chart the meanderings of pedestrians. What emerged through his intuitive analysis is an extremely human, often amusing view of what is staggeringly obvious about people’s behavior in public spaces, but seemingly invisible to the inobservant.

Eric Britton
9, rue Gabillot, 69003 Lyon France

Bio: Trained as a development economist, Eric Britton is MD of EcoPlan International, an independent advisory network providing strategic counsel for government, business and civil society on policy and decision issues involving complex systems, social-technical change and sustainable development. His forthcoming book, “Toward a General Theory of Transport in Cities”, is being presented, discussed and critiqued in a series of international conferences, master classes, workshops and media events over 2014. (More at http://wp.me/PsKUY-2p7)

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One thought on ““The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces”

  1. I do really love this book. It shows how people use to open space and identifies the common elements of successful spaces that easy to understand of what makes one space successful over another to make sense and to implement a simple one.

    Reply

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