10 things to do

When I was at high school my favourite subjects were Art and Technical Drawing. Although I considered a career in Architecture, at the time the premier course was in Adelaide and the city of churches didn’t hold much appeal for me in those days. However, I have always harboured an enthusiasm for how people interact with their physical environment, and the design of spaces for effective and enjoyable use remains a fascination for me.

I got to indulge this interest last Friday when I was privileged to attend a Strategic Thinking Forum at the City of Melbourne to discuss the use of public space. One of the presentations at the forum was from an organisation called the Project for Public Spaces. (www.pps.org ) Ethan Kent, the presenter introduced us to a very simple but powerful idea, which at PPS they call the Power of 10.

In a nutshell, a great city has at least 10 major attractions, a great precinct has at least 10 venues, a great space has at least 10 possible things to do in it … etc. Now without getting hung up about the sanctity of ‘10′, I love the idea because it rings true with what I have experienced about cities, offices, parks, rooms and any other spaces designed for people to be in.

In addition to the obvious application to design which was the focus of Friday’s discussion, I wondered about how it works as a diagnostic: if a space doesn’t ‘work’ it could well be that the options for activity are too narrow. Think also about the problem of vandalism and crime: when a space has limited utility, the more creative, innovative or rebellious among us will be inclined to generate additional uses …

This is not to suggest the idea of ‘10′ is the only explanation for why space works or otherwise, but it certainly rang true for me. It was amazingly engaging to discover such a simple idea that even in the couple of days since Friday, has changed to way I see ‘spaces’.

There has been some discussion around workplace design on this blog previously. This gives us another angle. Think about desk space, meeting rooms, communal areas … this simple idea could be applied to multiply the effectiveness, enjoyment and utility of expensive office resources.

I wonder whether this sheds any light on your own workspace?