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Charting Use Of Public Open Space

Anyone charted the use (or the none use) of public open space in a city's downtown (inner core) and/or waterfront? ANd if so - any results to see?

-- Harry Pasternak (email)

It is a superb book, like anthropology/sociology in its intense observations.

-- Edward Tufte

The following text, which I drafted for a municipal Plan of Conservation and Development, briefly discusses some functions and uses of open space in suburbia.


There is an increasing realization that the operation and livability of a community is equally dependant on its developed and undeveloped portions. In terms of appeal, former U.S. Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt once characterized open space as equivalent to "beachfront" property.

For planning purposes, open space has three basic functions: establishment of an attractive community, preservation of natural processes(e.g. wetlands and wildlife), and recreation.

A possible fourth open space function is tax relief. Studies by the Trust for Public Land, the Southern New England Forest Consortium, and others suggest that when compared to developed land, preserved open space generates no taxes, but also requires far fewer municipal services than industrial, commercial, and residential uses.

Open space is a unique land use in that it can increase the livability of all other land uses, and smooth the transitions between them. For example, the buffering abilities of open space are useful for aesthetics and noise. Residential property values and desirability can increase when adjacent to protected open space. Flood storage capabilities of protected wetlands and lowlands can insure against property damage.


Some suggestions...

New York Regional Plan Association: 25% of all land

The National Recreation and Park Association: 10 acres per 1000 people (based strictly on recreational needs)

Ian McHarg (landscape architect and teacher): natural processes, not acreage, should be the basis for both open space and general planning decisions reflecting prohibition against certain types of land uses.

Other studies recommend that a community have 78 acres of open space of all kinds for every 1000 population. This figure would break down as: 42 acres per 1000 as regional open space (state park, watersheds, etc.) 36 acres per 1000 for local parks (private recreation, golf courses, green spaces)

Discussions regarding open space planning routinely raise the question "how much is enough?" A community cannot honestly or accurately answer this without also asking: "How much development is enough?"

The total amount of open space desired/needed by any community or region depends on, and is proportionate with, the amount of development desired, needed, and possible in the community.

The landscape available to a community for land-use decisions contains developed, preserved, and uncommitted land. The public's desire to maintain existing community character and "sense of place" requires some balance of these three components. Therefore, as long as development continues, so will a public desire/need for additional open space acquisition. Further, as potentially developable land decreases, the desire/need for additional land preservation is expected to proportionately increase.

-- Mark B. Kasinskas (email)

An article in the New York Times has comments by Fred Kent on human behavior in public spaces.

". . . Mr. Kent, 64, is an urban anthropologist and space doctor, and as founder of the Project for Public Spaces, a 32-year-old nonprofit group with offices near Washington Square Park, he spends his days observing homo sapiens in one of its favorite habitats: cities.

Mr. Kent learned his trade from the anthropologist Margaret Mead and the urbanist William H. Whyte, affectionately known as Holly, and he assisted Whyte with the research that culminated in his remarkable 1980 book, "The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces."

-- David Cerruti (email)

And now for something completely different

Immaterials: Light painting WiFi from Timo on Vimeo.

-- Niels Olson (email)

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