Places that enrich, enliven, humanize, and democratize the complex web of public life

People build cities, towns, and villages:  creative expressions of the need for social, economic, political, and cultural community.  It is the open space commons of the city—streets, plazas, sidewalks, parks, gardens, creeks, and waterfronts—that creates the public setting for community interaction.  Outdoor public spaces are often integral to the site developments of public facilities such as civic complexes, libraries, museums, schools, community centers, transportation hubs, and other public infrastructure.  Ordinary citizens, students, co-workers, visitors, and patrons come together in such places as a daily part of their public lives. These public spaces are critical to the quality of life of a place, forming an essential structural system for human use within the urban fabric.  When conceived as primary assets of the physical environment, they can enrich a community immeasurably.

The same spatial interactions are also integral to multi-family residential facilities in the shared commons, and in private commercial facilities that are open to the public.  Clearly distinguishable outdoor spaces – private versus semi-private and shared-public areas – are integral to the composition of the commons requiring defensible personal space as well as places that encourage social interaction.  In each case there is an opportunity to build a strong sense of community through the organization and composition of the public spaces.

The design of cities reflects an evolving balance among built forms, nature, and the interests of the community. Historical patterns of settlement and individual buildings reveal a place’s cultural heritage and challenge the designer to blend new projects and new ideas with the old while serving the community’s needs.  In addition to the influence of cultural heritage on city form, the landscape heritage exerts a powerful influence as well.  Water, plants, landform, and ecology are as significant to the urban fabric as concrete, stone, and light, and typically valued very highly by the community.  And ultimately, the values of the local community are given expression in the choices made about the built environment.  The community designer creatively engages with each of these forces to give form to public spaces and help shape the identity of the place.

John Northmore Roberts & Associates has successfully designed rich contemporary urban spaces for communities throughout the San Francisco Bay Area alongside design professionals, artists, poets, business professionals, historians, public officials, and interested citizens.  Representative community design site development projects include:

  • Community centers
  • Civic complexes
  • Cultural centers
  • Libraries
  • Museums
  • Public plazas
  • Streetscapes
  • Special needs residential and educational facilities
  • Transitional homeless residential and educational facilities
  • Affordable family and senior residential facilities
  • Multi-family residential facilities
  • Arboreta and public gardens
  • Theaters