Reimagine Streets as Places

For centuries, streets have held significant economic, civic, cultural, social, and political importance. Traditionally, streets served as primary gathering places where people congregated for socializing, trading, and leisure. However, since the proliferation of motorized vehicles began in the 1950s, the ‘place’ function of streets has been overshadowed. Consequently, streets have been predominantly planned to facilitate vehicular traffic mobility. Yet, with the contemporary emphasis on urban and social sustainability, there is a growing recognition of the necessity to prioritize the ‘place function’ of streets over the ‘traffic function’. Streets embody more than mere conduits for vehicle movement. In recent times, concepts such as ‘streets for people’ and ‘streets as places’ have garnered significant attention, aiming to prioritize people in street design. Cities worldwide are reclaiming streets as public spaces for people, as exemplified by Stockholm, where conventional streets are temporarily repurposed as summer pedestrian streets.

This study aims to assess and evaluate the efficacy of public life and public space qualities before and after the temporary transformation of Rörstrandsgatan and Skånegatan into summer pedestrian streets in Stockholm, Sweden. Additionally, the study endeavors to delve into key concepts and fundamental theories guiding the design of ‘streets as places’. The study seeks answers to two main questions:

(1) How do public life and public space qualities evolve before and after the temporary conversion of Rörstrandsgatan and Skånegatan into summer pedestrian streets? (2) What are the essential concepts and primary urban planning theories pertinent to the discourse on ‘streets as places’?

This study employs two methodologies: direct observation and literature review. Direct observation follows Jan Gehl’s observational method, which entails studying the interplay between public space and public life through a combination of various public life tools. These tools facilitate the measurement of public life in diverse ways.

The findings indicate that summer pedestrian streets yield positive impacts on public life. Increased social interactions and a higher frequency of activities contribute to a livelier street ambiance throughout the day. Moreover, the results reveal that individuals tend to spend more time on summer pedestrian streets and linger longer, indicating the success of such initiatives.


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