When it comes to public space, it is often true that people make places more than places make people. How then, as architects, do we design meaningful and functional public spaces? We worked with the City of Stonnington on a strategic plan for Prahran Square: to hero pedestrians and provide a safe, multipurpose environment for the community. Our design facilitates interactions and community engagements instead of prescribing them. As one of the largest, most ambitious open air plaza projects delivered in Australia, this project marks a symbolic transformation for the community.
It saw Cato Square, an unremarkable car park breeding antisocial behaviour, reimagined into a diverse public realm for the community. The space ebbs and flows with the mood of each day and the people that occupy it, allowing the community to define the meaning of the space. This aspect of flexibility and accessibility in our design is key in creating a safe public realm –– for a space to be safe it requires diverse people to use it in diverse ways. By giving space back to the people Prahran Square has already transformed a community. Its true potential however, will be realised over time as the community transfers their identity to make the place their own.