Applying Urban Design Principles to Interior Public Spaces

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Urban planners have known for a long time that creating an active and vibrant public space for a city will attract people.  The same people that are attracted to an active and vibrant city are creating a demand for an extension of that public realm into their office buildings. Private developers are realizing the demand for interior public realms and they are beginning to apply the same urban design principles – scale, variety, and connectedness - to office buildings. 


Scale – Urban planners use scale as an organizing tool in cities.  It helps people to determine the importance and use of a space.  Having a grand scale can denote an important space, but the space won’t feel as impactful if not seen in relation to a more human scale environment.  Human scale creates everyday comfortable spaces. Developers are beginning to implement this idea in public areas such as lobbies. They are surrounding the grand lobby with human scaled spaces. Employers and employees are looking for this balance of place that is both inspiring and comfortable.   

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Variety – The best urban areas have a variety of uses and space types. Urban planners have been promoting mixed-use developments at a neighborhood and regional level for years.  Developers are following suit by creating a multi-layered public realm. There are different uses:  food and beverage, lounge, work, retail, etc.  There are different types: formal, casual, quiet, busy, etc.  A large variety provides both the opportunity for choice and the energy that employees are looking for in a public space. 


Connectedness – Great urban areas have an exceptional culture.  Culture is an organic process – and to be authentic it should evolve over time – there are frameworks both in cities and buildings that can create an atmosphere conducive to a genuine culture.  Being connected to the culture to evolve is critical.  Developers are shaping spaces that drive collisions and interactions in interior public office spaces.  They are programming and curating activities and events because today’s employees are looking for places that promote a sense of belonging and culture.

All of these urban planning principles are used to develop a sense of place. A building with a personality generates a city full of personality. At PDR we are always interested in making work a more fulfilling experience. Part of that experience has become this transformation of the public areas in office buildings from circulation into thriving hubs of activity.

Click here to see Skanska's new project that embodies scale, variety, and connectedness.


Kimberly Mercer


As a Project Manager and Project Architect, Kimberly brings an organized approach to programming, planning and design, with a deep understanding of the elements necessary to produce construction documents.  She takes great pride in helping clients define and realize their project desires.