Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space

"A community’s physical form, rather than its land uses, is its most intrinsic and enduring characteristic." [Katz, EPA] This blog focuses on place and placemaking and all that makes it work--historic preservation, urban design, transportation, asset-based community development, arts & cultural development, commercial district revitalization, tourism & destination development, and quality of life advocacy--along with doses of civic engagement and good governance watchdogging.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Dog park followup: designing for dogs

In bike planning, I am a critic of how we focus our resources mostly on white men under 40 years of age, because they are the people who come to meetings, fill out online surveys, etc.

Parks planner David Barth makes the point that for parks planning, you need to survey at least three different types of user demographics, to ensure a broader range of opinion (in other words, people into team sports want parks to be athletic fields, people who just want open space think parks should be passive not active, etc.) in the process.

WRT bike planning, while I think planning efforts to engage women (National Women's Bicycling Summit) or black women ("Black women take their place in D.C.'s bike lanes," Washington Post) are important, I think that the real issue is to engage all demographics systematically--by age, gender, household type, income, race, language-immigrant status--to ensure the broadest possible range of users, rather than just focusing on one or two additional groupings outside of the dominant demographic.

But with regard to parks planning, I never would have thought to think about parks from the perspective of dogs.

It turns out that the landscape architecture firm Mathews Nielsen drills down their planning for dog parks to details concerning the dog's response.  From "Green Team: Part 2 - Colors Only Your Dog Can See" in the Metropolis Blog:

As landscape architects, we often think of ways to manipulate ground layer materials to enhance the aesthetic experience while providing a functional design. Because the dog’s eye view is keenly anchored to the ground layer, we chose to focus our efforts on the paving treatment. Asphalt appeared to be a viable solution. It’s easy to maintain through power washing. But how could we manipulate this monolithic, dark surface into a material that would be more dog friendly? How could we play on materials? Could we incorporate various textures, shapes, and colors into dog-specific site elements? If bike lanes are painted green for safety, why not explore similar painting treatments that dogs can discern?
In any case, Mathews Nielsen clues me into another constituency, pets, for which we need to consider more carefully than we have been doing thus far in parks planning.

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