Convivial Urban Spaces: Creating Effective Public Places by Henry Shaftoe

Reviewed by Anna Papagrigoraki, University of Southampton, UK

Henry Shaftoe has produced a multi-functional book that defines convivial urban spaces and demonstrates how successful public spaces are created and sustained. This is achieved by linking the areas of environmental psychology, urban design, photography and practical guidance. The last is illustrated with the use of case studies from the UK, Spain, Germany and Italy.

In contrast to other authors, he approaches convivial urban spaces with a positive view by stressing the characteristics of successful public spaces rather than focusing on mistakes. The photos are professional and provide a clear representation of a good public space; it is interesting how some are black and white while others are in colour. It is particularly important that different case studies are used to analyse each aspect of a successful and well-sustained public space. An example is the study of Berlin, to show comfort.

Moreover, the simple structure and language make the book comprehensive and accessible for both students and professionals. This is also achieved by the fact that Shaftoe directly addresses the reader in order to be more convincing.

Overall, he crosses over from the field of spatial definition, using a multiple-angle approach which makes him stand out from most urban-design authors and therefore makes his book a welcome addition to the urban-design literature.

In my opinion this book is a practical, clearly represented and inspiring manual that can be used by landscape architects and urban planners to create spaces which – apart from being aesthetically pleasing and providing shelter, work and leisure – will also be sustainable and will prevent crime and anti-social behaviour. Furthermore, it can also be a reference book for engineering and architecture students who have urban design and development as part of their degree.

In conclusion, this is a thoughtful and illuminating book that can be used by anyone interested in the management of public spaces.

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