Design Principles for Living Streets

Ford’s Greenfield Labs and Gehl are today releasing Design Principles for the Living Street of Tomorrow based on the deep insights developed as part of the National Street Service.

Our streets are the context within which mobility operates. They are the backbones of our communities, they’re public gathering places and passageways; they are the essence of our cities. But so many of these throughways seem to divide rather than bring together, they serve as gashes when they have the potential to be seamless connectors. That we catch fleeting glimpses of beautiful living streets only serves to reinforce that there is a strong sense more is possible within these spaces. If only we could think about them differently…

One hope is that as technology allows mobility providers to evolve their offerings with new transformational emerging technology, the streets we have today can also evolve in tandem — transforming into more people-centered spaces, places that bring us joy, spaces that are environmentally friendly. As autonomous vehicles move closer, and as new forms of mobility grow, shifts in form for our streets seem inevitable and necessary. But what principles will drive these design adjustments? How will we know whether we’re designing well the streets of tomorrow? Answering these fundamental questions is significant as we at Greenfield Labs, a lab of Ford Motor Company, seek to build the city of tomorrow.

In order to answer these questions we must, at a fundamental level, understand the humans at the center of these spaces. How do we, the people on the street, provide an understanding of what is possible and desirable to designers? Gathering these insights provides critical information to ensure that good design decisions prevail as our streets are reshaped. The National Street Service will continue to play a key role in this effort, serving as a participatory civic engagement organization, which invites people to imagine more for their local streets. We have shared what the National Street Service is all about, and why we’ve built it. But the National Street Service has also allowed us at Greenfield Labs and Gehl to gain insights into the values people adhere to in streets and for streets; these are worth sharing as well. These insights can be turned to great use in the design of streets. By applying the insights we’ve uncovered, and building on strong urban design experience, we can establish design principles that speak to the underlying human needs present in these spaces. And we can articulate what it might look like to be a champion for this design. And, finally, how mobility should be provided in such a place.

We have prepared a comprehensive set of Design Principles that describe what makes a good street steward, good street form, and good mobility. We pulled these principles together in a content-rich website that shares them out, as well as supportive research. These principles will be useful to policymakers, planners, designers, and advocates the world over; and they build on other recent work to bring new rigor to the design of our public spaces. Our hope is that through realization of principles such as these, the world of tomorrow can be transformed via its streets by bringing humanity to mobility.