How the ‘Social Field of View’ Impacts Street Life

The vibrancy of a neighborhood may be defined by what people can see in their immediate vicinity.

1 minute read

September 8, 2023, 5:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Blurred pedestrians on busy walkable street in Copenhagen, Denmark with old buildings in background

Vibrant street in Copenhagen, Denmark. | Mikkel Bigandt / Adobe Stock

An article by Tristan Cleveland in Happy Cities describes how visual cues in the immediate field of vision can make a significant impact on the vibrancy of urban streets.

Cleveland describes a study by researcher Todor Stojanovski, who noticed that places like Copenhagen’s Ørestad Station, an ostensibly transit-oriented development, still lack street life despite access to transit and urban amenities within a 400-meter radius. Stojanovich’s analysis found that “The majority of streetlife happens within 100 metres of stations.”

For Stojanovich, this is explained by the fact that a human can generally see clearly for roughly 100 meters. Thus, “What matters most for supporting commercial space isn’t what people can theoretically walk to, but what they can see.” Urbanist Jan Gehl has discussed a similar theory, calling the concept the “social field of view.” For Gehl and Stojanovich, “This is the scale that matters most for creating successful streets.”

Cleveland notes, “Four hundred metres remains the right scale for some things: People will find their way to their homes and office jobs without needing to see them from the transit station. But to create vibrant streets and public spaces, and to support street-level businesses, designers have to focus on the human eye.”

Wednesday, September 6, 2023 in Happy Cities

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