At OpenCity, we have spent the last seven years learning about what motivates diverse people to spend time in a place and connect with others. Design for Diversity is a new way of viewing, planning and designing public space through a lens of inclusion and diversity. Over the coming weeks we will unpack the Design for Diversity manifesto to ease planners and city lovers into the practice.
In this post, we address the importance of “something for everyone” – the fifth point in our manifesto. Providing a variety of uses is a must when it comes to designing great public spaces; what appeals to one person may not appeal to another. This is especially true when designing for diversity. People from different backgrounds may have different expectations of a place based on their individual needs and past experiences. Variety allows people to feel comfortable in a space because you know you can find something to do, somewhere to sit, or someone with which to chat. The creation of a safe and comfortable space helps lower our own psychological and social barriers and is thus a stepping stone to achieving successful interculturalism.
We see this principle in action at the Scadding Court Community Centre. The Scadding Court Community Centre, a neighbourhood in and of itself, caters to its diverse downtown Toronto community with indoor and outdoor pools, community gardens and a shipping container market. The market offers affordable foods that reflect the diverse fabric of the surrounding neighbourhood and everyday services that give people a reason to keep coming back. The broad variety of activities, foods and informal nature of the space attracts people from all backgrounds and allows them to comfortably use and enjoy the space.
Similarly, Dufferin Grove, an animated park space on the north-west side of the city, offers extensive seating and places for play that caters to the wide demographic of users in the area including a playground, basketball court, grassy areas, and an ice rink. Programming that utilizes the natural landscape encourages engagement between people of diverse backgrounds by appealing to the almost universal appeal of being outdoors. Ultimately, by creating an environment that has something for everyone, informal conversations or shared experiences can lead to new connections with people you may not have otherwise engaged.
First photo by Wendy Gold, second photo by Michi McCloskey and third photo by Gabriel Li from FlickrCC