Urenio Watch Watch: Cities

Co-creating Responsive Urban Spaces

This book explores the opportunities for incorporating responsive technologies in spatial designs to improve the quality of public spaces. It also presents inspiring examples from a two-year practice-based study of responsive public spaces carried out by a consortium of spatial designers, interaction designers and local stakeholders, headed by the Chair of Spatial Urban Transformation of Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences.

Responsive public spaces use interactive technologies to adapt to users and situations. This enhances the quality of the space as a public realm. However, the application of responsive technologies in spatial design is still to be explored. What exactly are the options for incorporating responsive technologies in spatial designs to improve the quality of public spaces?

This book draws on those insights to provide a practical approach and a roadmap for the new design process for responsive public spaces.The study results are of signficance for various professional fields. The book is intended for clients and stakeholders involved in planning and design of public spaces, spatial designers, interaction designers and students.


In Part I, the book starts with the specific assignment for public spaces. It discusses the importance of public spaces in detail and the pressure these days on the way they function. Then, ArenA Boulevard is briefly introduced as an example of a new type of public space with a specific assignment that can be seen as a model for a large number of actual and potential public spaces in and around cities.

Part II describes the design process itself and the new playing field this leads to. It also introduces the setup for the action research here. Designing a responsive space on the scale of a specific urban location requires collaboration between two design disciplines: spatial designers and the up-and-coming profession of interaction designers. Two other important parties are the local stakeholders and the municipality. Their professional and local know-how, expertise and formal roles are complementary and all needed.


Part III focuses on searching for building blocks for the design. We concentrate on the redesign of existing squares and streets. Rather than a device that can be applied in the same way everywhere regardless of the context, responsive spatial design constitutes a situation-specific design assignment. Analysis of the existing situation leads to the diagnosis of the assignment, based on which the first building blocks can be identified for the redesign. To this end, we analyzed the physical space of ArenA Boulevard, the pedestrian flows, behavior, the experience of the place and the target groups in turn. In short, the existing situation was mapped, which gives an insight ‘˜from the bottom up’ of the assignment and possible pointers for the design solutions. We call this ‘˜the building blocks from the bottom up’ .

In Part IV, the perspective shifts to the technological developments. The authors call them ‘˜the building blocks from outside’ . In this part, the interactive installations are classified according to a typology of five mechanisms. The authors present them using a wide range of reference images. The authors then consider the design issues relating to responsive solutions. Finally, in this part the authors also look at the lessons that can be learned from environmental psychology. Together, they give an understanding of the possible effects, the intended mechanisms that responsive technologies can set in motion and the design patterns.

Finally, Part V concentrates on the ‘˜research through design’ . This is where authors switch from analysis to development and application. Their aim with this part was to get live the entire process of designing responsive public spaces by carrying it out from start to street. Specifically, they designed two responsive ‘˜interventions’ in a co-creation process, tested them with the partner companies and built prototypes to be tried out on users of ArenA Boulevard at certain test times in the winter.