©EDSA | Insights | Norfolk Alley

We are living in a time of ‘Great Acceleration’, where life’s daily hustle must be intertwined with moments that benefit our well-being. Consider that the average adult spends 98 percent of their time navigating routine demands and less than three hours a day on stress reducing activities like exercising, reading or socializing.

So, while aligned with our renewed appreciation for the outdoors and undeniable link that small interventions with nature bring out the best in us, enticing people to ‘stop and smell the roses’ takes more than just exposure. With minimal time devoted to relaxation and prioritizing mental and physical health, designers must view every outdoor space as an opportunity for society to take pause from their hectic schedules and enjoy moments of tranquility.

Calming the movement pace of people and creating occasions for nature’s exchange requires an artistic intervention and rethink of the ‘in between’ spaces we encounter. It takes an intriguing design, a high level of detail and an ability to awaken and engage the senses. By incorporating points of interest, users are afforded opportunities to rediscover their surroundings and sustain enriched experiences.

©EDSA | Insights | Dog Walking

Imagine if a walkway was enhanced with a canopy of shade trees, intricate paving patterns, benches and community gardens. Now envision moments of intrigue along the way – an unexpected turn that offers a view of the city or a culmination of local art that tells a story. Though we may only spend a few minutes passing through these spaces, subtle design enhancements can transform a repetitive journey into a fluid pedestrian experience that is memorable and health worthy.

We’ve seen similar design practices incorporated at Brickell World Plaza, a 1.6-acre commercial parcel located in the heart of downtown Miami, Florida. Converting existing surface parking into a public park, site enhancements include the addition of sensory landscape, benches, a pet walk and preserved Oak, Poinciana and Gumbo Limbo trees that filter street noise and provide respite from the city heat. Not only does the refurbished area provide a green oasis within the bustling urban core, but the inviting ‘connector’ has become a welcoming place for locals to gather.

When designed and maintained in a way that enhances the user experience, the spaces between can become destinations in of themselves. Take Mårten Trotzigs Gränd, the narrowest alley in Stockholm, Sweden. Overtime, it has become a unique tourist attraction for its walls of graffiti and 35-inch-wide pathways. Iron lanterns line the space from high above and cast unexpected shadows on the steep stairs to create a welcoming, peaceful ambiance. This destination has become so popular, in fact, that it operates similarly to a museum – closing its gates each day from midnight to 6:00am.

©EDSA | Insights | Dubai Stairs

Physical spaces that offer the unexpected thrive on a design aesthetic that encourages people to pause, connect and observe before continuing to their end destination. These spaces hold extended placemaking value that amplify existing features to create an unanticipated experience. And while those passing through may not be able to pinpoint why these ‘in between’ spaces are special, they feel it – making every design decision that much more crucial.

Times of peace and rejuvenation are not only found on vacation or planned outings – it is the moments of surprise uncovered between two everyday places that fuel us. As planners and designers, EDSA will continue to create points of relaxation and enjoyment, at every size and scale, for people to recharge when needed and turn ordinary days into spectacular ones.