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Successful urban space

How do we analyse public spaces? In this arcticle, Dr David Chapman discusses the method 'Qualityreviewer'.
A public place with fountains and a café
© Photo by David Chapman
The design of cities is important in determining if a public space is successful or not. Qualityreviewer is a book created by Rob Cowan, Scott Adams and David Chapman to help people think about the design quality of places. It provides you with simple criteria to help you determine how successful a place may be. Use Qualityreviewer when considering and assessing a place’s strengths and weaknesses. Here are the six topics to consider:

Movement and legibility

  • Does the place give priority to easy access for pedestrians (of all abilities)? Does it encourage the use of public transport?

  • Is the place well connected to important destinations and routes?

  • Who will feel welcome and comfortable?

Space and enclosure

  • Does the space have a reinforced street/ building line or is it eroded?

  • To what extent is the space framed and enclosed by streets?

Mixed uses and tenures

  • Are mixed uses and tenures promoted at whatever level (building, block, neighbourhood or district)?

Adaptability and resilience

  • Does the place exhibit any features to help tackle climate change?

  • How could the place be adapted to a new use or uses if conditions change?

Resources and efficiency

  • Does the space use resources efficiently in operation?

Architecture and townscape

  • How successfully is the space integrated into its setting? How functional is it?

  • How attractive is the place created?


Cowan, Robert, Adams, Scott & Chapman, David (2010). Qualityreviewer: appraising the design quality of development proposals. London: Telford

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