{MINT (PROF) 2009}
{edge dialogue}
reactivating dialogue between
the building edges and the
public space in an arcade

submitted in fulfilment for the degree Magister in Interior Architecture (Professional)
University of Pretoria
November 2009

The focus of this thesis is the active dialogue between the visual storefront/building edge and the adjacent public space. The study investigates how the design of the visual storefront edge influences the city dweller's experience of the public spaces around it. The treatment of this edge can re-establish a sense of place, previously lost, and if the edge has a strong sense of identity, it can help to orientate the dweller within the urban fabric. This treatment also functions the other way around. A public space that satisfies the city dweller's social needs and in which the dweller feels comfortable can make them more aware of the edges surrounding them.

The link below gives access to my complete thesis in digital format on the university website:

The building's edge, which divides interior space from the exterior public space, is often treated as a separate entity.  The architect punctures walls with large windows that define the storefront.  The interior architect designs the layout and shop fitting of the interior space, while the exterior public space is the responsibility of the urban designer.  As a result, little consideration is often given to the potential dialogue between the building's edge and the adjacent public space, which could establish a connection between exterior and interior.

This thesis is concerned with the arcades that proliferate within Pretoria's old Central Business District (CBD) and the dialogue between the building's edge and the adjacent public space.  The influence of the design of the storefront, which forms the building's edge, on one's experience of the arcade is investigated.  These arcades are currently largely under-utilised, having lost much of their former sense of place; as a result they are mostly used as thoroughfares, and are no longer destinations in which to escape and linger.  However, judicious re-design of these edges could re-establish what has been lost.

Conversely, a public space that satisfies city dwellers' social needs and engenders a sense of place can make them more aware of the building edges around them.  Herein lies the potential for increased commercial activity.  Van der Westhuizen (2005:18) states, "Public spaces are increasingly being seen simply as opportunities for consumerism."  While consumerism alone is not enough to satisfy our basic needs, if commercial activity within a space is lacking and no other significant activity occurs in the adjacent public space, the sense of place is lost.  The objective of this thesis is to investigate which design features are required to reactivate the building's edge and its adjacent public space in an arcade, thereby increasing the commercial activity and re-establishing a sense of place.

Background for research is established through a literature review.  Criteria derived from the literature are used to critically assess the selected sites.  Assessment is conducted through observations, mapping pedestrian movement and informal interviews with people who frequent these spaces.  Thereafter, an experiment with a musician is conducted.  Recommendations are then made in the form of a handbook that provides design guidelines which can be applied to revitalise the arcade by encouraging 'edge dialogue'.  Finally, through design exploration possible solutions to the design intention, as outlined by the design guidelines, will be investigated.

{design intention}

President Arcade is chosen as the site for deeper investigation.  This particular arcade connects Pretorius and Schoeman street, both of which experience heavy pedestrian and vehicular traffic.  Geist (1983:4) states that an arcade can only thrive if it connects two streets that are heavily frequented.  While President Arcade exhibits continual movement of people through it, it lacks a sense of place and people do not linger.  Dialogue bewteen building edges and public space has diminished, and the result is an under-utilised space and a lost commercial opportunity.