The Resurging City And The Urban Renaissance Geography

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This chapter provides an introduction to the research project. The purpose of the study is explained, followed by the geographical context of the research. The case studies used in the comparative study are detailed, providing justification for selection. Lastly the research aims and objectives of the study are outlined to provide the developmental framework for the rest of the study.

1.1 The Resurging city and the urban renaissance

In recent years, cities have shifted from spaces of urban decay to dynamic areas of revival: “a remarkable re-conceptualisation”, according to Greene et al. (2007, p. 1). Local government authorities and academic circles celebrate, and critique, the city's return as an important site of revitalisation (Parkinson et al., 2004). Surrounding the revival of cities, the notion of ‘urban renaissance' has transpired, an urban policy epitomised by the British Government's Urban Task Force, with several reports and papers appraising the new concept (Rogers, 1999; DETR, 2000). Recent studies of urban development draw attention to the renaissance of the city and the importance of urban planning policy to improve the urban environment (Parkinson et al., 2004; Greene et al., 2007; McDonald et al., 2009).

1.1.1 New public space

As part of the city's renaissance, the revitalisation and creation of public space has emerged as a prerequisite and catalyst for successful urban landscapes (Moughtin, 2003). In this drive to redevelop the city, urban development and planning practitioners have further recognised the importance in the quality of the urban environment and the metropolitan image engendered in the visual urban landscape (Rogers, 1999; DETR, 2000). In the last few decades there has been a noticeable increase in the regeneration of public space (Chua and Edwards, 1992; Carr, 1992; CABE, 2007). Specifically, Madanipour (1999) notes the renewal and development of public squares as important sites of production and consumption for both citizens and strangers.

1.2 The purpose of the study

Research for this study draws on relevant literature and debates on public urban space, using Geographic conceptualisations from sub-disciplinary urban and cultural fields. Linking the concepts of ‘urban redevelopment' and ‘public space' with the subject of ‘the public', the paper seeks to address its importance as a function of urban policy. The core of the study is to interpret the relationship between the public and public space and more widely to determine how urban space is consumed and perceived, together with the participation of the public in the production of space. To achieve this, a mixed methodological framework of participant observation, key informant interviews and questionnaire surveys is employed, achieving a broader perspective when considering how public space is understood.

1.3Study area: Southampton

The Urban Design Group (2001) identifies Southampton as a city centre in need of improved public facilities and a more attractive environment. Pinch asserts (2002), “Southampton lacks a certain something- urban character, style, dynamism” (p. 71): general impressions of the city that the council is now trying to overcome. Recently, the City Council proposed the development of a cultural quarter in the city centre, as part of the wider urban regeneration. The cultural quarter proposal aims to achieve “an area alive with arts, heritage, entertainment, events, music, colour and dramatic architecture” (Southampton City Council, 2009). A key element of the cultural quarter is the redevelopment of the Guildhall Square, a neglected area underused by the public, yet is also an important site situated outside the city's multipurpose building, containing functions such as the civic centre, library and the South's largest entertainment venue. Southampton city council describes its vision in the Cultural Quarter Pack (2009):

“When complete, the contemporary space will feature many striking design features, making it the perfect meeting place and setting for performing arts shows, exhibitions and an array of exciting events”.

Southampton has only recently followed the cultural path to urban regeneration, and is in the design and implementation stages of redevelopment. The Guildhall Square was chosen due to its significance as the central hub of the city, as well as the importance of the surrounding area, which is a focal point for retail, businesses, tourism, socialising and entertainment. Furthermore the site was highly suitable due its availability and proximity for survey respondents and interviewees, making data collection more accessible. The summary points of the Guildhall Square project are tabulated below ().

Table 1.3.1 Introductive summary of the Guildhall Square


Guildhall Square

Geographical location

Southampton City centre, outside the Civic Centre

Year of construction

Due for completion in August 2010


Bardon Construction


Focal point for the city and its proposed cultural quarter. A significant public meeting place.


New proposed square, part of wider cultural quarter.

Source: Author

This study is unique among other public space studies in that it focuses solely on the public square in the city centre, which is not a study area that been readily identified in other studies of public space. It further assesses public perceptions of space prior to the completion of the new public space. This attempts to assess the current usage and perceptions of the space, with the intention of interpreting the suitability of the site and the reception of the project by the public. From initial contact with the Arts Complex Project Leader (interview #1), Southampton City Council recognised it had not undertaken any public research or acquired community feedback regarding the site, thus it is hoped that the study could be beneficial to the City Council and its partners in their policy on the provision of urban space. The research of this study could be used as a comparison for evaluation once the square is completed, in order to monitor the transformation that the project has had on the public realm.

1.4 Study intentions: aims and objectives of the research

The overarching research aim is to understand the relationship between the public and the public space of the Guildhall Square. The detailed aims and objectives below are formulated to aid greater understanding of the focus of the research.


  1. Explore and understand the function of the public square as part of the urban public space in Southampton;
  2. Interpret the patterns of consumption in the square and how people move in the public space;
  3. Understand the public perception of public space and the square, the level of public participation in the redevelopment project.


  1. Review the literature surrounding the concept of public squares, specifically the relationship between public space and the public;
  2. Identity, through key-informant interviews, the planning process behind the square and the level of public participation;
  3. Explore the consumption patterns of the space using observational techniques;
  4. Converse with the public to examine their perceptions on public space and their level of participation in the redevelopment;
  5. Draw conclusions on the significance, impact and limitations of the public square and how it might develop in the future.
1.5 Report structure

The introduction detailed in this chapter provides the foundation for the rest of the research study. Following this, the literary context of public space and public squares is critically analysed to identify the main academic debates and potential literary gaps. Next, the methodological framework is outlined, providing details and justification of the research methods. The research data is then presented and analysed to interpret findings linked to the original research aims. Following this, conclusions are drawn, summarising key findings, their broader implications for the city's wider urban development and finally suggestions for future research.

Z. Avery Chapter two: literature review

Chapter 2: Developing public space: a review of the literature

This chapter reviews the literature surrounding urban regeneration, public space and public squares. A comprehensive discussion of the main themes, pertinent debates and literary gaps is provided, placing the study within the theoretical context of previous academic research.

2.1 Urban regeneration and urban design

The main driver of the aforementioned urban renaissance is notably the response by urban planning practitioners to target the repercussions of post-industrial decay through the medium of urban regeneration (Couch, 1990; Robert and Sykes, 2000; Imrie and Raco, 2003). Urban regeneration denotes “the transformation of a place (residential, commercial or open space) that has displayed the symptoms of environmental (physical), social and/or economic decline” (Evans and Shaw, 2004, p. 4). A major focus of urban regeneration research has been the restructuring of urban policy (McDonald et al., 2009). A notable phase of policy reform was the establishment of the Urban Task Force (UTF), encouraging holistic and integrated urban planning (DETR, 2000). Since then, the principles of urban regeneration have turned to embrace changing contemporary ideas of how urban landscapes should be developed and managed.

Urban design is an increasingly recognised urban regeneration concept, embodied as one of the fundamental principles of the urban renaissance by the UTF (Rogers, 1999). Greed and Roberts (1998) argue that the present and future agenda for urban design is “designing to accommodate a successful renaissance of the centres” (p. 34), to address the issue of revitalising city centres. The recent independent government report focuses on ‘design excellence', demanding that “greater significance be given to the design and management of the public realm” (DETR, 2005, p. 5). This is manifested in urban policies across Britain, with urban design in this context employed by local government authorities to initiate regeneration. Glasgow is one of the earlier cities to employ urban design as part of its urban renaissance (Gillespies, 1990); its experiences have since been adopted by other UK and European cities. For example, Manchester and Dublin (Greed and Roberts, 1998), Birmingham (Hubbard, 1995), Barcelona (Julier, 2000) and Newcastle-Gateshead (Bailey et al., 2004).

2.2 Urban public space

Public space is not a new phenomenon. The concept as a dimension of urban governance is generally understood as any enclosed or open space with public access (Madanipour, 1999). Over time the rhetoric of public space has become more elaborate and defined, now assisted with an array of efforts in its definition. Carr (1992) proposes that “public space is the stage upon which the drama of communal life unfolds” (p. 3). Academic research undertaken for the Scottish Executive Central Research Unit (Kit Campbell Associates, 2001) reflects upon the broader notion of open space, recommending a typology that dichotomises ‘greenspaces' and ‘civic space'. This study focuses on the subset of ‘civic space', addressing the sphere of urban space that serves a civic function.

Public space has become an important urban planning tool in city revitalisation (Madanipour, 1999), particularly associated with the pursuit to construct an attractive urban environment. This rethinking and growing concern for public space is further related to the long-term ‘liveability' of the urban environment (Rogers, 1999), in terms of creating a sustainable urban landscape. CABE (2007) argue urban planners can “use space as a catalyst” (p. 94), as observed in Manchester's use of public space in the city. From this it could be argued that there is almost a resurgence of public space as a key urban tool.

Urban policy in the UK presents a strong emphasis on urban design, complemented by an explicit dimension of public place provision:

“Well- designed and maintained public spaces should be at the heart of any community. They are the foundation for public interaction and social integration, and provide the sense of place essential to engender civic pride” (DETR, 2005, p. 5).

The extract demonstrates the importance of public space and design to the government as part of the urban renaissance. This aspiration for urban design has instigated evident changes in urban policy discourse, which is now often centred on principles of culture, art, wellbeing, sustainability and quality. The report emphasises the notion of ‘place-making', defined by CABE (2007) as “the process of developing a distinct identity for a place” (p. 107). According to Rogers' (1999) Urban Task Force report, there is the need to “create beautiful places” (p. 47), manifested in the emergence of several new and exciting forms of public space documented in their reports.

2.2.1 The public square

The public square is a designated area of public space, specified in Carr's (1992) typology as one of the core forms of public space. CABE (2007) refer public squares as a type of civic space, specifically “hard surface areas designed for pedestrians” (p. 12). The public square has been a longstanding tool in urban planning (Unwin, 1909); as part of the urban renaissance, the public square too is returning to the contemporary urban regeneration rhetoric. According to Moughtin (2003), “one of the most important elements of city design is the square” (p. 87) and the distinctiveness of a designated ‘square' offers a principle focal point for the city. Moughtin (2003) appoints it as vital tool for enhancing the cityscape and provides character to the urban fabric. Similarly Lynch (1961) construes the square as a distinct and memorable site that reflects on the city as a whole, emphasising its significance to the wider city.

Rogers' (1999) Urban Task Force report postulates that whilst the public square forms part of the broader public space, it also serves a purpose with its owns set of functions. Rogers further asserts that this type of public space should represent:

“somewhere to relax, and enjoy the urban experience, a venue for a range of different activities, from outdoor eating to street entertainment; from sport and play areas to a venue for civic or political functions; and most importantly of all a place for walking or sitting-out” (Rogers, 1999, p. 57).

Moughtin (2003) extends the functions of the public square to encompass its use as a site for civic buildings, meeting places, ceremonies, entertainment, shopping, residential areas and as an urban traffic junction. Rogers (1999) and Moughtin (2003) concur purpose and activities are vital to keep the square alive. Often these functions overlap and some dominate the use of the urban square. However little research was identified on how these activities are actually consumed in the square or within the broader public space.

2.3 The design and production of urban public space

According to CABE (2007) there are four stages of public space policy ; each element holds relevance to the planning, delivery, consumption and analysis of public space. Although it pursues a linear model, all levels must be considered at the start of the project. A crucial stage that should be deliberated throughout is the ‘use', since “all the designing and maintenance efforts are expended essentially for the benefit of the end user” (Chua and Edwards, 1992, p. 3). Chua and Edwards further note that “conceptually, all public spaces are designed, bearing the imprint of human intervention” (p. 3). They emphasise the need for the design and management of the public space rhetoric, further stressed in a report for CABE and DETR (2001), asserting “good urban design adds value” (p.8). CABE (2007) further note the importance of design quality in terms of sustainability, accessibility, inclusivity, character and robustness. Further postulating that good design in public space should function well in the present day and in the future. Lynch's (1961) study on American cities relates the importance of quality in relation to building an image of the city, linked with how users read and perceive the landscape. Similarly, CABE (2007) assert that public space should be ‘legible' in terms of “the ability of a place to be easily understood by its users, and ease to find one's way around and how to use it” (p. 107).

As a result of their strong design input, public space is often associated with being a site of public image and display, embodying Hughes' (1999) concept of “imagineering” (p. 1). Often image and aesthetics can become over-prioritised in the design. Following this, Carr (1992) notes how “designers and clients may easily confuse their desire to make a strong visual statement with good design” (p. 18). The desired image and representation of public space is often an unspecified aim of urban policy. Overstating image and aesthetics can lead to the “the dangers of creating an ‘architectural zoo', rather than urban places in which human beings might live” (Greed and Roberts, 1998, p. 12). Consequently there is controversy surrounding the delivery of public space: how it is contextualised by political, social and cultural issues (Goheen, 1998) and how symbols and meanings are attached (Zukin, 1995). A number of these public space debates arise in the literature: crime and safety (Oc and Tiesdell, 1997), policing and CCTV (Cummings, 1999), transport (Jefferson, 1996) privatisation and user conflict (Zukin, 1995) or retail and consumption (Biddulph, 1993). Conflict and space is well documented but with too much literary focus on symbols and politics (Turok, 1999), rather than the real significance of urban policy and the public realm.

2.4 Urban public space and public consumption

Public space is endowed with various sources of consumption, thus it should be important to understand the patterns of consumption within public spaces. CABE (2007) contend, “For a project to be successful it is important to know how people move between other spaces” (p. 12); however associated empirical research is limited. Gehl (1996) refers to the relationship between the public and public space in terms of activities. He divides spatial activities into three categories: necessary activities (everyday living), optional activities (walking and leisure) and social activities (interacting with others). Based on Copenhagen, Gehl draws on the relationship between activity frequency and the quality of the urban environment . When the quality of the urban environment is high, optional activities increase as the space becomes more inviting. Similarly social activities rise with quality, whereas necessary activities remain at a similar level regardless. To summarise, successful public space encourages the consumption of optional and social activities (Gehl, 1996). Similarly Goheen (1998) stresses the importance of quality within urban public space, particularly noting that public space can only be understood through “the use and enjoyment of public space” (p. 493). This underlines the importance of public perception and the responsibility to meet the needs and demands of the public.

Table 2.4.1 Relationship between the quality of public space and the user activities

Source: Translated and adapted from Gehl (1996, p. 19).

The only public-based studies identified are those undertaken by Whtye (1980) in New York and by GEHL Architects (urban quality consultants) for a range of city councils: Copenhagen (1996), Adelaide (2002), London (2004) and Brighton and Hove (2007). Gehl employs traditional observational measures including people counts and behavioural mapping to examine ‘public life' in the city's space, which will be adapted for the research of this study. Whyte's earlier study employs similar techniques of observation using time-lapse cameras to monitor daily usage patterns within New York's plazas. He finds that the most frequent users are young office workers and that high quality space is reflected in more use by women and groups.

2.5 Urban public space and public participation

An importance dimension of the public space concept is the relationship it holds with the public; “people need space” (Thompson, 1998, p. 108) and, to be functional, space needs people. According to Goheen (1998), understanding the public realm is essential to understanding public space. Furthermore if the public space is to reflect the interests of the public, then the public should be involved in the design (Skeffington, 1969). As Rogers (1999) notes, “public spaces work best when they establish a direct relationship between the space and the people who live and work around it” (p. 57). As part of the stages of urban space redevelopment , CABE (2007, p. 98) state to “identify, consult and involve people” at the preparation level. This is critical since people are the end users of the space. The value of public involvement in urban design is widely appreciated (Geddes, 1905; Skeffington, 1969; Moughtin, 1992; Winter et al., 1993; Colqhoun, 1994; Thompson, 1998; Greed and Roberts, 1998).

Participation is an important dimension of urban planning and has become a social expectation of the public (Collins and Ison, 2006). Participation in this context can be defined as “the engagement of ‘local people' in decision-making about the services and structures which affect their daily lives” (Dinham, 2005, p. 301). Geddes (1905) argues that cities undergoing redevelopment should involve each citizen as it has a direct impact on their lives. Arnstein (1969) develops a typology of public participation in urban planning based on observations of urban renewal in the United States (see ). The lowest level is non-participation where the public are invited to only support the plans as a substitute to active participation. The second level is tokenism, where the informed community have the opportunity to voice their opinions. Higher up the ladder are levels of citizen power where the public holds varying degrees of responsibility in the decision making process. This became significant following the work of the SEU (2005) aiming to put “communities in the driving seat” (p. 5)

Table 2.5.1 Arnstein's ladder of citizen participation


Citizen control


Delegated power

Degrees of citizen power







Degrees of tokenism








Source: Arnstein (1969)

However Arnstein's (1969) model is highly simplified and has faced much critique (Burns et al., 1994). Furthermore, high levels of citizen power are not always achievable or appropriate; as Dinham (2005) suggests, little is understood about how this works in practice. Other models have since emerged such as Burns et al.'s (1994) single ladder of citizen empowerment. The most significant step since Arnstein is Davidson's (1998) ‘wheel of participation', comprising information, consultation, participation and empowerment. Rather than a linear ‘ladder', the wheel is more holistic to improve community involvement technique. Each model provides a useful framework for assessing public participation in urban redevelopment policy. Moughtin (1992) in particular draws on Arnstein's work arguing that the public is central to the study of urban design, and that active public participation is highly important. Much of the literature is highly theoretical; no studies could be found that actually research how the public participate in the planning and production of public space.

2.6 Conclusion

The policy context for the ‘urban renaissance' suggests cities should revitalise their urban environment through urban regeneration policy, particular policy that that improves public space provision. The literature demonstrates how the production of public space has emerged as a new policy tool to improve the urban environment, with an underlying drive for the image and design of the city. However, beyond these factors, there appears to be little covering the relationship between public space and the public. The materiality of public squares can often mask the principles behind its production by focusing the eye on its aesthetic representation, rather than the real reasons underpinning its production. Furthermore it has been identified that public space research tends to focus mainly on the urban planning discourse from the policy perspective, rather than the social perspective. It seems the capacity of the public to voice their ideas and perception is regularly constrained in the discursive field. This study proposes to target the rhetoric of public perception, a dimension that is advocated (Lynch, 1961; Moughtin, 2003), but often overlooked.

Z. Avery Chapter three: methodological framework

Chapter 3: Methodological framework and research design

This chapter explains and justifies the research methods employed, outlining the conceptual framework to the research design. Full details of the data collection procedures are provided, together with the methodological limitations and ethical considerations surrounding each method of research.

3.1 Research design

Having established the theoretical framework within the context of the preceding literature, this chapter will outline the research methods employed as the foundation for analysis in the following chapter. The report acknowledges Lees' (2004) assertion that researchers of urban geography should critically discuss methodologies, thus the methods of this study are critically reflected upon in this section. Furthermore, as postulated by Alvesson and Sköldberg (2000), researchers attach epistemological, ontological and theoretical assumptions to their data collection and analysis. The assumptions associated within the context of this study will be identified in this chapter.

The overall research design adapts Yeung's (1997) model of methodological triangulation, which “can do much to improve the validity and reliability of data collected” (p. 64). The multifaceted methodological framework is employed to address the aims and objectives presented in Chapter 1, to analyse the understanding and implications of public space among the various actors and users. The collection of primary data is an essential element of the research, to facilitate a fair interpretation of public perception and to capture an objective analysis of the impact of public space. The three core methods are further supplemented by the literature review and discourse analysis of the limited policy documents on the project. The research combines qualitative and quantitative methods because it was thought that this would embody a more holistic approach for examining the urban landscape.

Source: Author's own

3.2 Research components 3.2.1 Participant observation

Observation is a form of qualitative data collection where the researcher is immersed into the field, undertaking field notes on observed activities and behaviour (Bryman, 2008). Creswell (2003) commends its research value in obtaining information firsthand as it is revealed, which is pertinent to this study for observing cross-sectional consumption and behavioural patterns in loco. This enables the researcher to identify what the target group actually do rather than what they say they do (Bryman, 2008), which will be interesting to reflect on when contrasted with the response to the questionnaire surveys. Drawing on observations, the study seeks to achieve a deeper understanding of the meanings and context of public space.

This was the first method undertaken in order to observe the space without any preconceptions or bias that could be inadvertently perceived from the interviews or questionnaire surveys. The on-site observation was conducted within the Guildhall Square, around the ongoing construction work, as the square is still open to pedestrian traffic. Field notes were conducted during good weather on Thursday 18th and Saturday 20th February, obtaining data on both weekdays and weekends. Pedestrian counts were conducted every hour between the hours of 08:00 and 18:00 on Thursday 11th and Saturday 13th February. The flow of people through the cross-section was noted on the hour for fifteen minutes and calculated to determine pedestrian flow per minute. Fieldwork techniques were adopted from Gehl and Gemzøe (1996) to interpret the space and surrounding features, employing sketches and descriptions of users and their behaviour (Appendix B)

Yin (2009) comments on reflexivity as a weakness of observational research, since the researcher's presence in the field may distort natural behavioural patterns. Furthermore, the researcher may subconsciously remark on some observations more than others, resulting in varying degrees of selectivity (Yin). Accordingly, attempts were made to be non-invasive and discreet when recording field notes and observations endeavoured to limit selectivity.

3.2.2 Questionnaire surveys

The questionnaire survey is “an indispensable tool when primary data is required about people, their behaviour, attitudes and opinions and their awareness of specific issues” (Parfitt, 2005, p. 78). As a means of public enquiry, this method emphasised quantification of data collection, generating empirical data for descriptive and statistical analysis. A pilot survey of eight respondents was undertaken in the initial stages using the drafted questionnaire to obtain preliminary research on the comprehension and suitability of the questions (Appendix C). Appropriate amendments were made to reduce response errors and maximise the response rate, further improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the final data collection.

The majority of survey questions were closed to the quantitative nature of this method, however several were left somewhat open to allow a certain degree of more expressive answers. The final questionnaire survey (Appendix C) was self-administered to the public within the square, across Thursday 11th, Saturday 13th, Thursday 18th and Saturday 20th February, from 09:00 to 17:00. Data was obtained at varying times of day, both during the week and at the weekend in order to capture a wider demographic of respondents, following Chiesurah's (2004) survey on urban parks. The surveys were conducted at random disregarding gender and age demographics; however under-16s were not questioned due to ethical reasoning. In total, a random sample of 100 surveys was collected in the Guildhall Square and inputted into SPSS for subsequent data analysis.

Prior to formulating the questionnaire, Parfitt's (2005) work on survey errors was taken into account in terms of potential bias in questionnaire design and respondent selection. Careful consideration was taken with question design, format, language, length and the random sampling of respondent, to improve reliability and validity. However this does not avoid respondent bias, where respondents may answer to please the researcher or if the question misinterpreted (Silverman, 2000). Parfitt also mentions ‘expectational error' where the researcher makes assumptions when respondents offer vague answers. These weaknesses are particularly relevant to this study; attempts were made to monitor these limitations during the data collection and will be considered during the data analysis.

3.2.3 Interviews

Interviews were conducted with key-informants for public policy, targeting those in higher management roles in delivering the project, as these persons would be more knowledgeable. To acquire interviews, Bradshaw and Stratford's (2000) view was followed that “the better our background information and understanding, the more certain we are about who we wish to interview” (p. 70). Following background research, the local council development team was contacted by email, leading to an interview with the Project Team Leader who then offered contact details of other council informants. During the observations the Construction Site Manager was approached in person, following an interview further contacts were made with other key informants. The majority of interviews were pursued through the ‘snow ball technique' (Kitchen and Tate, 2000).

Table 3.2.1 Interview Summary

Source: Author's own

A total of six interviews were conducted with a range of professionals associated with the project, lasting between 14 and 34 minutes. To fulfil the research aims and objectives, an interview schedule of questions was drafted (Appendix D) following Dunn's (2005) semi-structured interview technique. This directed responses to a certain degree, but allowed freedom to deviate from the topic and pursue unanticipated issues. This left considerable scope for expansion from the interviewer and the interviewee on questions not prelisted (Bryman, 2008).

The aims and context of the study were outlined to the interviewee prior to the interview, followed by both parties signing an authorisation form for the interview to be digitally recorded and transcription to be used for the purposes of the study (see Appendix C).Yin (1994) notes that interviewees may provide responses to satisfy the interviewer and that the researcher is often inclined to interpret responses to fulfil their own objectives. There is also the issue of trust between the interviewee and the researcher regarding the extent and depth of the information offered (Bryman, 2008). To address this interviewee permission was acquired as previously mentioned. Further ethical consideration involved presenting interview transcript as anonymous where requested and digital recordings were stored appropriately and removed from the digital recorder following transcription.

3.3 Research limitations and assumptions

Regarding the methodological triangulation of the research framework, there are several limitations surrounding the conjecture in its application. Firstly it makes the assumption that different forms of data are complementary, making associations between quantitative and qualitative data, which Yeung (1997) and Bryman (2008) assert can be problematic. Secondly as Yeung asserts, there has been little application of this methodological framework in human geography research. This study aims to pursue this neglected methodological approach with success, but firmly acknowledges the limitations in its application.

In terms of the findings, the study acknowledges that the situation of knowledge is formed by analytical ‘ways of seeing' (Rose, 1997), thus the production of knowledge is contingent on the relationship between the researcher and the research. Similarly, the study recognises Limb and Dwyer's (2001) perceptions on how the researcher's social, political and economic experiences together with individual identity (age, gender, class) can influence interaction with research subjects. This is relevant to all three research methods, thus researcher subjectivity and the potential influence on the research have been considered.

The study also acknowledges that research is an interpretation of reality, rather than a representation of reality (Alvesson and Sköldberg, 2000). Therefore findings can only stand as an interpretation of public space and public perception, serving to develop knowledge and understanding in this field of research. When drawing findings from the research it must be further noted that even “interpretation does not take place in a neutral, apolitical, ideology-free space” but “nor is an autonomous, value-free researcher responsible for it” (Alvesson and Sköldberg, 2000, p. 12). On the basis of these considerations, it is accepted that the research is instinctively subject to unpremeditated ideological influence.

3.4 Ethical considerations

Research ethics are the ethical principles and codes researchers follow when making decisions on acceptable practice when undertaking any research project (Maunthner and Birch, 2002). Ethical codes are important in order to protect research participants and furthermore to ensure appropriate research practice. In the preliminary stages of the study research ethics were acknowledged and addressed, as detailed under each research method. In addition an assessment of personal considerations and risks was undertaken with the assistance of a supervisor (Appendix A).

Z. Avery Chapter four: data analysis and discussion

Chapter 4: Data analysis and research findings

This chapter presents the results of the data collection, using the previously discussed methodological framework. The findings from the results are critically analysed within the context of the study aims and related back to the previous literature on the subject. Limitations and challenges of the research design are highlighted.

4.1 The production of the Guildhall Square

The literature review identified a resurgence of interest in public space by policy makers (DETR, 2000; Moughtin, 2003; CABE, 2007), which fits with the feedback from the interviewees. For example one Council worker remarked that public space is “definitely considered a high priority on the agenda for the revitalisation of the city” (interview #2). It was understood that the motivation behind the redevelopment of the square is “regeneration in a really depressed area” (interview #1), which is definitely reflected in the poorly maintained local cityscape. This supports previous work on public space as part of the wider regeneration schedule (Madanipour, 1999; CABE, 2007).

It is hoped that the square “will become a focal point of interest as well as a landmark attraction, cementing local pride and raising the city's profile” (interview #6). The theme of the Guildhall Square as a focal point for the city was recurrent in the set of interviews, reinforcing Moughtin's (2003) work on the civic square as a centrepiece for the city. Similarly the results give evidence to Unwin's (1909) theory that urban design requires definitive centres, which the city aims to achieve through the square's redevelopment. This further echoes CABE's (2007) understanding of “space as a catalyst” (p. 94), as the square is the starting point for visual success in the wider city centre. The challenge for Southampton is to progress from its reputation as a “non-place” (interview #1) through the process of ‘place-making' (CABE, 2007). The aim is to creating a space that “develops a sense of civic pride” (interview #6), capturing Lynch's (1982) ‘sense of place' by developing an environment that connects with individuals and the collective community.

4.2 Public consumption of the Guildhall square 4.2.1 Public movement in the square

The first set of observational results reveals pedestrians flow through the square . On weekdays low peaks are noted at 08:00 and 17:00, most likely attributable to local employees passing through to and from work. Usage then peaks between 13:00 and 14:00, revealed to be local employees on their lunch breaks from speaking with questionnaire respondents during this time frame. The research reinforces Whyte's (1980) claim that young office workers constitute a significant proportion of users. In accordance with Gehl (1996) these types of users are necessary users, using the space for essential purposes. In this case the space is frequently used as a passing route to access their place of work, to go for lunch or to return home.

Figure 4.2.1 Pedestrian traffic flow through the Guildhall Square

The data also reveals a 23.75% decrease in users at the weekend compared to the weekdays, but the pattern is similar apart from the ‘professional peaks', as there are fewer workers over the weekend. The usage rises from 11:00 throughout the day, and slowly declines after 16:00, possibly due to the closure of the high street retail outlets shortly after this time and the subsequent departure of shoppers from the city centre. By extrapolating the data to determine the total pedestrian flow for each hour, a total of 3856 and 2940 pedestrians theoretically pass through the space between 08:00 and 18:00 on the weekday and weekend respectively, given the observations on these particular days. Thus a large number of people are associated with this space on a daily basis.

4.2.2 Public behaviour in the square

Figure 4.2.2 below shows the outcome of the attempts to map user behaviour in the square by following ten people entering the square and tracking their path at three different times of day. The observational mapping identifies recurrent behavioural patterns of those using the square. The majority of the sample walked directly across the square through the square as if there were a straight path across; this is most likely attributable to the purpose of the individuals simply aiming to get from A to B via the square. It was noted that many individuals turned to survey the construction area expressing inquisitiveness towards building activity. The afternoon observation shows the most interesting patterns possibly due to the haste of workers passing through at 0900, but the majority still follow the same common path. The observations do not provide influential inference, but do offer an insight into the general pattern of usage in the Guildhall Square.

Notes from the field diary were collated to compile a diurnal timetable of observations . The observed usage density corresponds well with the pedestrian counts as the level of occupancy starts relatively high, falls, then peaks in the afternoon and subsequently falls again. From this and the pedestrian counts, the peak usage of the square is between 12:00 and 14:00. As for the composition of users, residents are the most prominent age group, with workers appearing around the start and close of business. The main purpose of people in the square is to pass through; this is due to the uninviting nature of the square. Obviously the areas of construction within the square do not assist in attracting users, but the general appearance of the square is poor and uninviting. The paving is poorly maintained and there is no public seating, it was observed that several people used the surrounding walls as ‘secondary seating' (Gehl Architects, 2004). While there is a café in the square it is noticeably underused in comparison to the city's other cafes, including the café inside the Guildhall building, which can only be explained by the uninviting surrounding urban fabric.

Table 4.2.1 Observed behavioural pattern of users in the square

Based on observational notes in field diary, Thursday 18th February 2010

4.3 The public perceptions of the public space 4.3.1 Respondent Profile

A total of 100 members of the public were questioned about public space and the Guildhall square redevelopment in Southampton city centre. The descriptive summary of the respondent profile from the sample is displayed in The date highlights 24-44 as the most common age group; this could mean this group use the square more frequently or that it is over-represented. As the survey was a sample of the public, it was decided to weight the data by age to take into account of age differential which were considered most significant in these data. In all, the majority reside in Southampton (51%), followed by 27% from the city centre, 15% from Hampshire County and only 7% class as visitors. Across all those questioned, transport methods were evenly spread between walking, public transport and a slightly higher usage of private vehicles.

Table 4.3.1Frequency summaries of respondent profile

The findings show that generally presence in the square increases with age, apart from the 24-44 range. The leading occupants of the square fit the economically active age range, coinciding with survey comments that respondents were heading to or from work in local offices or on a lunch break at the peak times of usage. This supports Whyte's (1980) findings in New York's public squares, identifying high usage by office workers. However Whyte also concludes women are also prime users, which is contradicted by 3:2 gender ratio in this study. Another interesting find is that the majority of users sampled were from the local area, implying the square is not seen as a strong visitor attraction and mainly used by local residents. The Council aim to address this by using the city's cruise industry passengers as potential visitors to the square:

“It's almost become a non-place because of the fact that it's a gateway to go through. Well, we want to celebrate the fact it's a gateway, so people coming from all over will visit Southampton to enjoy the city and this space, before they go elsewhere” (interview #1).

4.3.2 Perceived public usage of the city and the square

The public were asked to asses how frequently they visit the city centre, pass through the square and visit the square to use and enjoy the space (before the construction commenced). The responses in show that the public visit the city centre regularly with 64% visiting weekly. The frequency of passing through the square provides similar results, with 60% passing through on a weekly basis. In terms of visiting the square purely for the use of the square, the responses are skewed towards the lower frequencies; 92% declared they very rarely use the square purely for its function as a public space.

The square is primarily used as an ‘urban traffic junction' for pedestrians (Moughtin, 2003) as the space is regularly used by passing pedestrians, similarly observed in the pedestrian flow counts (). This demonstrates its importance as a key junction for pedestrian flow, but means the square itself is not acknowledged as a public space to spend time in. This is attributable to the poor quality of the area, eliminating any desire to spend more time there than necessary. The current space fails to achieve the Urban Task Force's (1999) impression of public space as “somewhere to relax, and enjoy the urban experience” (p. 57). This is mainly attributable to the lack of purpose and associated activities that are vital to maintain regular use of the space (Rogers, 1999; Moughtin, 2003).

Following Gehl's (1996) classification, types of user and user activities were recorded for each respondent . Of the sample, 59% were visiting for consumption purposes: mainly shopping or using the library; 27% were everyday users, primarily for the purpose of getting to or from work. Very few use the space as visitors to events or for recreation. In terms of the categorical purpose for their visit, a 68% majority asserted their trip as ‘necessary' either for work or a planned shopping trip. For optional and social purposes the response was low at 18% and 14% respectively. The crosstabulation between the two variables identified that the ‘every day users' and ‘customers' of the space both tend to have necessary purposes. Chi-square testing was employed to denote the degree of confidence in the association; the outcome asserts a strong association between the two variables (p-value of 0.000), suggesting strong validation for the aforementioned links between type of user and their activities in the square.

Table 4.3.2 Crosstabulation of user type and user activity

Recreational and event visitors, though few in number were using the space for optional or social activity. Optional activities require value judgements on whether to spend time in that space; Gehl's (1996) theory states optional activities are high where there is high quality of space. The low proportion of these activities reflects low spatial quality. The predominantly necessary use of the space is also associated with the poor site quality, acknowledged by the City Council, denoting the space as a “pretty depressed site” (interview #1). The intention of redevelopment is to transform the space into “a place to be open for people to go and feel as though they can enjoy themselves” (interview #1). Similarly the enjoyment of public space is heavily prioritised by Urban Task Force (Rogers, 1999) and advocated by Goheen (1998). When the space is complete, the level of enjoyment and quality of the space will be manifested in the volume optional activities in the area.

4.3.3 The importance of public space to the public

As expected there was an overall consensus that public space is important; Thompson (1998) asserts that “people need space” (p. 108) and it is thus an integral part of their everyday life. After recoding the responses to the importance of space into ‘yes' and ‘no' to reduce the range of data, it was identified that 95% considered public space provision as important and just 5% felt it wasn't important . There was no recognised pattern to those that felt indifferent, only that this 5% generally felt Southampton didn't need more public space, but interestingly all concurred that the redevelopment is a good investment for the city. Whilst they assert the investment could be good for the city, these respondents either believe the money should be invested in other areas or do not view public space provision as a priority.

Looking more closely at the demand for public space, 82% feel positively towards more public space provision in Southampton, similarly 72% agree that the provision of a public square would have a positive influence on the frequency of visits to the city centre. Only 18% maintain that a public square would have no influence on their visiting frequencies. On reviewing the data, this minority comprised of either local residents visiting the city for necessary purposes or visitors for social purposes and thus do not feel the need for improved public space due to their necessary or infrequent usage.

Table 4.3.3 Frequency summaries of the importance of public space

Responses to the open question on public space importance is presented in (), loosely categorised into themes with the according percentage of responses per theme. Social value and aesthetic value are highly recognised by those sampled, with recurring comments on the significance of open space for socialising and improving visual quality. The high aesthetic value reiterates the work of DETR (2005), emphasising the significance of ‘design excellence' in how space is organised and managed. In contrast CABE and DETR (2001) also highly prioritise the economic value of public space. However, both the sample and the Council are less concerned with this factor, cited by just 6% of respondents. Correspondingly, the council note that the project is “initially led by culture as opposed to being lead by the economic” (interview #1). Furthermore, it seemed the respondents did not associate the surrounding buildings and planned activities with the square itself, which Moughtin (2003) considers to be highly important. However the negative response was very low at 4%, mainly associated with the controversy over Council expenditure where respondents felt budgets could be better invested in other areas.

Table 4.3.4 Respondent feedback on the importance of public space 4.3.4 Public awareness and participation

Only 11% of the public were fully aware of the redevelopment plans and just 26% knew a little about the plans. On the other side, 68% were either not really aware or completely uninformed. The importance of public awareness is strongly advocated in the literature (Skeffington, 1969; Colqhoun, 1994; Greed and Roberts, 1998); however this project disregards the value of public knowledge. Chi-square statistical analysis was applied to the data to test the association between awareness of the square and a range of respondent characteristics (). The outcomes indicate that the only variables representing a high degree of association with awareness are age and area of residence. The minority that were very aware of the plans were generally aged between 25 and 65 years; however, no further correlation could be identified in the crosstabulation with age. Surprisingly, 73% of those completely unaware of the plans were from the City Centre or Southampton. This was unexpected since the Council asserted they issued information packs to local residents: either the recipients failed to examine the information, failed to remember receiving it or did not receive a copy. The Council did admit in response to community awareness that “there will probably be some confusion” (interview #1) due to their hesitancy to convey the plans following funding withdrawal from SEEDA. Furthermore, the Developers confessed “the information signs in the square have been put up very late” (interview #5), adding to the lack of knowledge amongst the public.

Table 4.3.5 Chi-square testing of awareness of the square redevelopment with respondent characteristic variables

Levels of participation are reported in . A majority of all 80% felt they did not have any involvement with the management of the square. The remaining proportion comprises those that could not comment, with just 1% feeling involved in the policy. In terms of how the project has been communicated, 60% contend that they were not informed in any way. The Council advised that an exhibition was held in the summer with models of the proposals (interview #2), however this was only viewed or recalled by a small proportion of the sample. Given the high usage of this space on a regular basis, the lack of community involvement raises important policy and research issues on participation. The project challenges the work of the Urban Task Force; Rogers' (1999) report asserts: “public spaces work best when they establish a direct relationship between the space and the people who live and work around it” (p. 57). Either the Council believes they can achieve successful public space without community participation or the project is risking potential success by failing to involve the local community.

Table 4.3.6Crosstabulation of involvement and feelings of participation

The importance of public involvement in regeneration and urban design is widely acknowledged by academics (see Skeffington, 1969; Colqhoun, 1994; Greed and Roberts, 1998). However, public involvement in this project is limited, adopting Foley's (2000) ‘top-down' strategy for regeneration involving minimum community involvement. In accordance with Arnstein's (1969) typology of public participation in planning, the public of Southampton based on this sample are situated on the lowest level of participation, termed ‘non-participation'. The council could argue there are some degrees of ‘tokenism' based on their assertion that public consultations were held. However just 1% of the survey was involved in the consultation, making the public passive in the design and delivery of the project.

4.3.5 Putting the public back into public space?

The respondents were invited to suggest what they think formulates good public space (). The strongest themes were facilities and activities, similarly raised by Rogers (1999) and Moughtin (2003) as the vital features to keep public space thriving. The respondents were keen to see attractions and entertainment in the square, just as the Council noted in the interviews. Other commonalities between the Council's vision and the public were the image and design of the square and the access; stressed by many that all age groups should be able to enjoy the new space. An interesting theme that emerged was the desire for ‘greenery' and ‘green space'; many residents noted how they appreciate the local parks and consequently associated them with the square. The plan for the Guildhall Square does not incorporate high levels of greenery, with only a series of creative square trees. Since the public are essentially the end-users of public space, the square should reflect their interests through public involvement (Skeffington, 1969). However, the project contravenes this theory. It would be interesting to discover whether the council would have incorporated this knowing the demand for a natural public space. Despite the lack of community involvement, it seems the council have generally addressed the demands of the collective community relatively well.

Table 4.3.7Respondent feedback on what makes good public space

Following this, respondents were asked to predict their usage of the square and its functions on a scale of 1 (high) to 5 (low), presented in . A lower mean represents frequent use and a higher mean signifies less interest. Higher standard deviation represents a wider range of responses, thus functions with a low mean and low standard deviation are potentially most successful. For the majority of functions the mean is less than two, thus respondents expect to use them regularly. Generally standard deviation is low, indicating most responses are consistent with the mean. The highest standard deviation was for the use as a meeting place, meaning there were more mixed responses to this function. A promising outcome for the Council is the potential success of the cafes. An aim of the redevelopment is to create a “European style café culture” (interview #5). Other potentially successful functions are simply as a meeting place and seating area, termed by Gelh (1989) as “passivities” (p. 15), formally the prime purpose of civic space before commercial attractions emerged. Less embraced functions are public events and cultural attractions, although with a mean of around 3 the average respondent would use these attractions on occasion. The square itself received a relatively high mean in comparison, implying respondents expect to be visiting the functions and activities in the square rather than visiting the actual square itself. The public do not see the association between the square and the surrounding complementary activities. In contrast Gelh (1996) argues that public squares should feed off the surrounding structures; it is hoped when the project is completed they will complement each other.

Table 4.3.8 Descriptive analysis of perceived usage of the square and its functions

Chi-squared analysis was then applied to perceived usage and a selection of respondent characteristics to test for the degree of association (). The low significance values suggest generally perceived usage does differ by factors of age, gender, area of residence and type of user. Further crosstabulation identifies that Southampton and City Centre residents are more likely to use the square, retail outlets, public events and as a meeting place. Conversely, the data on non-local respondents is more spread, primarily because they will not tend to use the space regularly. An interesting finding is that the likelihood of visiting for the purpose of

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