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To Build a Great Public Space, You Need More Than Good Design

In low-income neighborhoods, even the best-designed parks and community centers go to waste if no one uses them. The nonprofit Kounkuey Design Initiative is taking that challenge head-on.
relates to To Build a Great Public Space, You Need More Than Good Design
Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

The late urbanist William H. Whyte famously observed the designs that ruin public spaces, from excluding places to sit and gather to creating dead zones. But even the best-designed public spaces can be a waste if no one uses them. This is especially true in low-income communities.

“A pitfall is thinking that design can solve all the problems,” says Chelina Odbert, the cofounder of the nonprofit Kounkuey Design Initiative. “As architects and planners, we like to think that our skills cover a lot of different disciplines, and that's true. But design alone is never going to be enough.”