2012: Movement in Urban Space: Drake’s Place Garden Case Study

This essay was submitted in March 2012 (M.Arch year 1) as part of a module entitled, “Urban Theories and Methodologies.” The essay employs empirical research alongside published urban theories as a means of analysing a chosen space within the Plymouth University campus. The body of research produced in this module was provided to the university as part of their Space Strategy study.


A Case Study of Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir, Plymouth University

Movement through urban space is defined as either being one of to-movement or through-movement – in other words, the space either attracts movement to it, or facilitates movement to another destination. This paper poses questions as to what influences movement choice. Does the spatial arrangement of an urban environment promote one route over another and if so, why? In the case of destination spaces, what variables or attributes attract movement?
The questions are considered in the context of urban theories. The theories and methodologies of Space Syntax play an important role in understanding socio-spatial integration and segregation, and the impact of distance perception on route choice. Legibility and subtle urban design qualities which impact on the perceived walkability of a sequence of spaces can also influence route choice, and the theories and observations of Jan Gehl and Gordon Cullen are discussed. Jane Jacobs’ observations on the attributes of successful urban parks; William Whyte’s and Jan Gehl’s studies of behaviour of people in public places form a basis for understanding the effectiveness of certain interventions in enabling the appropriation of public space.
The case study of Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir is discussed through the analysis of a set of methodologies which aim to test the preconceived assumption that the spaces are under performing as both routes and destination, and to understand the reasons why. Analysis compares the gardens with parallel routes and uncovers possible quantitative and qualitative causes for lack of movement through the park. Studies of climatic concerns against provisions reveal potential causes for lack of use of the spaces. Without drastic spatial rearrangement and despite the proposed accessibility improvements, it is unlikely these spaces will offer natural through-movement, therefore the focus for these spaces must be on maximising their appeal as destination spaces.




Movement around cities is largely influenced by destination places – the places that people go to (for reasons such as work/study, home, leisure, entertainment, to visit other people) – spaces that could be called movement generators.  Other [in-between] spaces connect these movement generators and enable free flow between destinations.  Hillier & Iida (2005:479) describe this nature of human movement in cities as influenced by to-movement spaces [ie. the spaces that people go to] and through-movement spaces [the intervening spaces that people pass through]. (fig. 1)

This study aims to examine the factors that contribute to creating a space of to-movement or through-movement through a number of enquiries which centre around the case study of Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir (fig. 2) within the campus of Plymouth University.  The assumption in beginning this study is that the gardens and reservoir are unsuccessful spaces in the city – both as destination spaces and as through-movement spaces.


In assessing the success of any space within an urban environment, there are a number of variables that can be reviewed and tested.  In the case of a park – the role it plays is different from that of a street or a square, however, it also functions within a wider network of connected spaces which enables users to both reach it and to use it as a pleasant intervening space on their way to another destination.  This paper focuses its research and empirical investigations around two key variables that are believed to influence the success or failure of a space:

– What are the factors that influence route choice?

– What are the attributes of a space that might positively attract movement?

These questions form the basis of this essay – the discussion of existing literature on urban design and analysis through empirical research that will test these theories in the case of Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir.  Through the methodologies employed, both the existing and potential conditions of the park will be tested and recommendations made as to what interventions might have the most positive impact on the future of the gardens for the community.



“Although it is perfectly plausible that people try to minimise distance, their concept of distance is, it seems, shaped more by the geometric and topological properties of the network more than by an ability to calculate metric distances.” (Hillier & Iida, 2005:488)

Hillier & Iida state that in choosing a route, humans tend to choose that which represents the ‘least distance cost’, – embedded within this is a preference for routes that are perceived to represent the ‘least angle change.’ (Hillier & Iida, 2005:482)  In other words, in going from A to B, humans like to sense that they are progressing in a relatively straight line towards their destination – a logic which corresponds with Gehl’s (2011:137) observation of pedestrian tendencies to short-cut rather than obey the right angles preferred by planners. (fig. 3)  Thus, the spatial configuration of a network of streets plays an important role in facilitating the perception of connectedness as well as the option to be able to choose the quickest route.  This is echoed by Jacobs who states: “Most blocks must be short; that is, streets and opportunities to turn corners must be frequent.” (Jacobs, 1992:178)   Hillier & Hanson (1984:122) discuss spatial connectedness in terms of facilitating either integration [inhabitant-stranger interface] or segregation [inhabitant-inhabitant interface].  Therefore, it seems logical to assert that in the case of a city centre network, spatial integration is a key determinant of flows through spaces and increases the likelihood of a space attracting natural  through-movement.


However, while spatial connectedness and integration is important, the line of least resistance does not always make for the most interesting route.  Gehl speaks of distance in terms of how it is experienced and proposes that an acceptable/perceived distance is the interplay between the length of the street and the perceived quality of the route. (Gehl, 2011:137)  This perception of quality might be influenced by varying conditions from alternating spatial sequences to a winding road where the destination might be glimpsed occasionally (fig. 4).  In Townscape, Cullen (1971) considers urban experience and visual connectedness as an art of relationship: “from our optical viewpoint, we have split [the town] into two elements: the existing view and the emerging view.” (Cullen, 1971:9)  For Cullen, space is considered through its qualitative elements such as enclosure, focal points, juxtaposition, serial vision – elements which act to intrigue the user.  Serial Vision, (fig. 5) in particular, articulates the subjective perspective of a spatial sequence of volumes where even the slightest change in alignment can dramatically alter the visual field. (Cullen, 1971)  This quasi-phenomenological approach to understanding the influence of urban morphology on the user experience creates an opportunity for an understanding of spaces as experienced – a methodology explored by Ewing et al (2006) who proposes that perception of walkability can be influenced by subtle urban design qualities such as legibility, imageability, transparency, coherence, linkages, scale, complexity, enclosure.  These qualities act to facilitate navigation whilst providing order, enrichment, identity and definition to a subjective urban experience.


Urban morphology plays an important role in the imageability of a spatial network, and thus, its legibility in aiding navigation.  Krier’s categorisation of traditional and modernist urban space (fig. 6) favours a formal, structured spatial network – with clear hierarchies and space positivity. (Krier, 1990 cited in Carmona, 2003:71)  This is supported by Kevin Lynch’s approach to understanding the imageability of path networks in cities – where spatial dominance (hierarchy) and continuity embed a clearer image of the network in the mind of the user, whilst lack of identity, alignment and landmarks cause confusion. (Lynch, 1960)

The spatial configuration of a network of streets and spaces are a key factor in aiding navigation thus determining route choices made by users.  Walkability, which factors in directness and continuity, is impacted by both the imageability of the network and the quality of the spaces:  this consequently influences the perceived or experienced distance.



In her observation of parks, Jacobs (1992: 103-106) notes four key factors that contribute towards creating a successful and usable park.  Intricacy offers opportunities for different activities (sitting quietly, eating, chatting, people-watching) to be conducted at the same by a diverse range of users.  Centering places a sense of climax within the park such as a crossroads, a focal point – it is almost always a place around which users concentrate.  Sun, particularly in northern European climates, is almost certainly a critical factor in a park’s layout and location, and while tall buildings should not block sun, there should also be a sense of enclosure which defines the park as a park within a city.

Whyte (1980) and Gehl (2011) have studied in detail how urban space is appropriated by its users  – in particular through preferred locations for standing and sitting where a preference for edges has been observed (fig. 7).  Gehl states of parks: “people find it difficult to go out and sit on the grass if there is ‘nothing to sit next to’” (2011:153) and argues for a more considered approach to the placement of seating which takes into account the psychological preference for edges but that also offers intimacy, security and opportunities for people-watching. (Gehl, 2011)  Whyte, in his observation of New York’s plazas, observed that “people tend to sit most where there are places to sit,” (Whyte, 1980:28) – a factor which had more weight in the success of a space than variables such as sun, shape, attractiveness or size.


Another crucial factor in the vibrancy of a space is the presence of other people.  Whyte (1980) discusses how, despite a tendency to use words like escape and get-away, people’s actions reveal a different priority – an observation confirmed by Gehl (2011) and Jacobs (1992) who identified that through choices of places to sit, stand, socialise; people prefer to be where other people are.  As Gehl states: “something happens because something happens because something happens” (2011:75) – a positive process that invites more people, more activity and thus creating more successful urban spaces. (fig. 8)

Gehl (2011:101-103) and Jacobs (1992:145-151) also identify the integration of spaces [well connected, diversity of activity] as opposed to segregated spaces [mono-functional zoning] as being a key component in attracting people and encouraging stays.  Jacobs (1992) states that even the most beautiful parks will fail if they are not well located and stresses proximity to a diverse range of uses as a critical factor in determining a park’s ability to attract a range of spontaneous to-movement and through-movement.  Hillier & Vaughan (2007) consider co-presencing, or lack thereof, as a natural outcome of spatial configuration (fig. 9) – meaning the more structured a spatial network, the more ‘front doors’ and diversity of activities – the greater the likelihood of the space being inhabited through natural co-presencing creating a greater sense of security and perception of safety.  Jacobs’ ‘Eyes on the Street’ describes a network of civic controls and standards, enforced not by the police but by the natural presence and expectations of other people. (1992: 31-32)  Co-presencing is, perhaps, the most critical determinant of movement choice – where fear of crime can outweigh factors of connectedness and perceived distance; and in the case of a destination space – its quality and attractiveness. (Jacobs, 1992; Minton, 2009)


However, does poor location, lack of surrounding diversity and spatial/social segregation necessarily spell trouble for a park or urban space?  Jacobs equates this kind of space to a large store in a poor economic location, where chance of rescue can only be through concentration on ‘demand goods rather than reliance on impulse sales’. (Jacobs, 1992:107)  In the same way, a park or urban open space may concentrate its primary function on attractor events – sports/games, performances, markets etc – rather than relying on spontaneous visits. (fig. 10)

The creation of destination spaces can not be done through design quality alone – but through the interplay of a number of variables whose ultimate aim must be to attract people and encourage stays.  People attract people and thus this natural proliferation of activity, diversity and co-presence creates a multiplier effect which plays a major role in the continued vibrancy of a park or urban space.




Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir (fig. 11-12) date from the 16th Century although the spaces as seen today were completed in 1891 (Scutt, 2010).  The gardens and reservoir, parts of which are listed [1], were leased to Plymouth University in 2007 who, in 2012, will apply for Heritage Lottery Funding [HLF] in order to improve the spaces [2] (Scutt, 2010; Friends of Drakes Place Association, 2011) (fig. 13).  From the assumption that these spaces are failing as both to-movement and through-movement generators, and in the context of the theories as discussed in the previous section, the gardens and reservoir will be analysed from both a quantitative and qualitative perspective in order to understand and test this assertion, to predict the potential impact of the proposed changes and to offer recommendations as to the most effective solutions.




Gate Observations

A series of ‘gates’ were set up at locations within and immediately around the gardens as well as on parallel routes to measure the quantity of movement through the spaces.  The gates were each observed for 10 minutes between 8.30 – 9am; 12.30pm – 1.30pm and 4.45 – 5.30pm.  This study was conducted during winter term-time therefore it is recommended that further study is conducted outside of term-time and during the summer which is likely to provide different results.  Additionally, due to time constraints, only two instances of data per gate per period were collected which may not provide completely precise averages, as it was generally observed that the university time-table provoked concentrated bursts of movement [3].  There was no gate sited within the reservoir space as this is currently not a through-route.

Table 1 lists the raw data from the observations and fig. 14 illustrates the position of the gates by the intensity of the averaged counts.  The results indicate that on average Drake’s Place Gardens is 5-6 times quieter than the adjacent North Hill and parallel Portland Square routes.  The comparative results between Portland Square and the gardens were particularly revealing – particularly as either route could potentially be an alternative for the other.



Spatial Analysis

A number of methodologies were employed to interrogate the spatial characteristics of the gardens and surrounding spaces in order to understand the spatial configuration and to measure the levels of integration and segregation.

Historic Analysis

Historic figuregrounds (fig. 15) reveal how the university campus has grown organically – supplanting the existing street pattern to create the large urban block that exists today.  Additionally, the post war reconstruction of Plymouth further segregated this part of the city through the construction of large ring roads.  Within both the University and City Centre islands, large building footprints do little to structure the space and create frequency of connections.


The historic figuregrounds indicate through the width of roads and accessibility to the spaces that the gardens and reservoir have always been spatially segregated. However in the 1890s, the area was primarily residential and therefore more evenly inhabited than it is now. Since then, the key changes over time have been the construction of the Portland Square building which follows a similar footprint to its predecessor [albeit the building is presumably larger in mass and volume therefore encloses Sherwell Lane more]; and the closing of the western access to the reservoir space. This space is not built on however is gated for use by the estates department of Plymouth University.

Space Syntax – Spatial Integration/Segregation

A wide area of the city was mapped through the Space Syntax methodologies in order to understand how the campus, and specifically the gardens and reservoir, integrate within their context.  Fig. 16a is a convex map which subdivides open space into convex space. [4]  The space was then analysed through specialised software [UCL Depthmap] which measures the connectivity of each space to all of the other spaces and colour codes it accordingly.  Fig. 16b was produced in the same way however includes and connects the reservoir space to adjacent spaces as is planned in the HLF proposals.



Axial lines are straight lines drawn as far as they can go between solid objects [5]. Fig. 17a, analysed through Depthmap, illustrates the connectedness of each line to all other lines in the system. Warm colours indicate good integration; while cold colours identify areas that are more segregated.  Fig. 17b focuses on the park area which reveals that despite being in the midst of a relatively well integrated spatial context, the park itself is isolated. Fig. 18-19 are a measure of Step Depth from the gardens and Portland Square respectively which is the number of steps taken to reach the location from other locations in the map [6].  Comparatively, Portland Square is reachable in less steps from more locations than the gardens, which perhaps explains the reason for the drastic traffic differences as observed in the gate observation exercise. These illustrate that because of the number of angle changes/steps which must be taken, Drake’s Place Gardens may be perceived to be more distant than Portland Square.


The Space Syntax analysis confirms that despite the gardens and reservoir being located adjacent to one of the busiest and best connected routes in the city, it is not well integrated into its local context.  The garden’s relationship to the surrounding residential streets is impeded by a large busy road and its relationship to the main University Campus is blocked by large buildings such as Nancy Astor and Portland Square which serve to isolate it both visually and physically. Because it is not well integrated and may be perceived to be ‘out of the way’, and because of the poor quantities of foot traffic, the assertion that the gardens perform poorly as a through-movement space seems to be appropriate.

Visual Permeability

Visual connectivity is another aspect of Space Syntax analysis which connects physical permeability and integration with visual permeability.  Fig. 20 illustrates the visual depth of the university campus and surrounding area by measuring the ability of each square in a given (human-scale) grid to ‘see’ other squares on the map.  Warm colours represent good visual connections.


Isovists map visual connections from a chosen location on the map and colours all of the areas on the map that can be ‘seen’ from that location.  Fig. 21 [and Appendix 1] illustrates some of the key locations for this study.  However, this methodology [visual depth and isovists] is limited [when used in Depthmap][7] as semi-transparent objects [glass, vegetation, railings] are not differentiated from opaque objects [buildings, walls].  Additionally, the analysis does not account for the impact of topography, or temporal issues such as parked cars or traffic which can impact the visual connections from the human perspective.


While visual depth maps and isovists could be helpful in illustrating the visual connections between generic open space, it is a very high level objective view of spatial relationships which fails to incorporate the more intangible aspects of the urban experience.  The quality of the urban experience must be questioned as a possible cause for inviting or repelling spontaneous movement into a space.  Do visual connections in the reservoir and gardens provide enough information (or intrigue) to encourage to-movement or through-movement?  The next methodology, whilst highly subjective, attempts to analyse the spaces from a qualitative point of view through photographic observation of the gardens and reservoir as approached, and within.

Qualitative Analysis


Fig. 22 – 25 present and discuss the four main approaches to the spaces in a descriptive and subjective manner. The approaches are considered in terms of views and vistas; the emerging view; the sense of openness or enclosure and how much opportunity the walker is given to visually connect to the spaces. Some key observations have emerged from this analysis. On some occasions, the view is blocked which limits the visual connection to the space. In the case of the tree near the northern entrance to the reservoir (fig. 24); this could potentially inhibit visitors choosing to enter the space if they are unable to read that there is a through-route.



fig 2526

Quality of the Internal Spaces

Fig. 26 and 27 present and discuss the two main spaces of the case study with consideration of Jane Jacobs’ key criteria for parks [intricacy; centering; sun; enclosure] (Jacobs, 1992:103-106).  Drake’s Place Gardens is well laid out and offers an intimate garden experience whereas the reservoir is quite a vast, open space forming an intriguing relationship with the gardens.  The interplay of hard surfaces and water in the reservoir space creates a sense of  ‘pristine-ness’ – whereas the gardens, whilst formal in its own way, has a softer and ‘wilder’ aesthetic.  The relationship of these spaces to each other is quite unique, which in itself could be an attractor – but, is it enough?

fig 27

Environmental Observations

Climate must be an key consideration in the design, layout and furnishing of an open space – particularly in the context of Plymouth’s climate where issues of sun and shelter play an important role in the viability of a public space.  Fig. 28 illustrates shadowing as observed in winter time and Fig. 29 approximates shadowing during summer time. Mornings are sunnier closer to summer solstice; lunch-time can be sunny all year round; however because of the tall massing to the west of the spaces, evenings, even in summer, do not offer a lot of sunny spots within the gardens.  Although, on a positive note, the position of this massing does provide some shelter in the gardens from the prevailing south-westerly winds.  The reservoir, on the other hand, because of its elevation and openness, is quite exposed to the elements.

fig 28

How, then, do these spaces respond to the climatic concerns and are there provisions which support year-round use?  Fig. 30-31 map observed provisions (seating and shelter) within the gardens and reservoir.  Both Gehl (2011) and Whyte (1980) stress the importance of opportunities to sit in a variety of conditions as being crucial to the success of an urban space.  When fig. 30-31 are considered alongside fig. 28-29 [Shadowing/Sun], the seating provision [particularly in winter] does not offer enough opportunities for sitting in the sun.  Fig. 31 maps sheltered areas [the colonnade in the gardens, the undercroft adjacent to the cafe] which also benefit from sunlight at certain times of day, however there is no seating provision in these areas.  Fig. 32 maps the few instances of observed use [8], most of which centered around the cafe which provided users with a reason to be there.  There were few observed occasions of people sitting in the park [possibly because the seats were mostly in shadow] – although further study at different times of year is recommended to provide a more balanced result.

fig 3032

The lack of opportunities to sit in the sun, under shelter or by edges [the seats in the centre of the gardens conflict with Whyte’s (1980) and Gehl’s (2011) observations that people prefer edges]is a possible cause for the failure of these spaces to attract prolonged use [which in itself creates opportunities for co-presence, interest and a sense of security]. These results confirm the assertion that the gardens and reservoir are failing as spaces of to-movement.


As part of the public consultation, the University conducted two community surveys to gather data and opinion on the current use and proposed development of the gardens and reservoir.  In the user survey (Friends of Drakes Place Association, 2012), an unexpected 58% were unaware that the gardens were open to the public during daylight hours (Fig. 33) [9] – a result which confirms that lack of legibility, visual connections and activity fail to promote the gardens and reservoirs as inviting spaces.  In the consultation survey, there were many comments [10] which suggest that there exists a perception that the space is unsafe, insecure and private:

fig 33

I think you need to make the space feel safe and welcoming. I have heard stories about various types of criminal activity taking place there so at the moment avoid it.” (Survey Respondent # 300);

it’d be nice if the resevior could be made safe enough for people to actually enter the area and enjoy it, even at night, not just in the sense that the area needs to be physically safe, but so that people actually feel safe going there. This needs more thought than a few lights, north hill is notoriously a student area and with the work being done by the university, many people will see it as a university facitlity. but I think that it is important to make it clear to local people that  this is  a community space you are trying to build.” (Survey Respondent #419);

Make it clear that the cafe is open for everyone, not just students” (Survey Respondent #116);

These results and comments suggest that perception of the space has changed little since the University took over the lease in 2007 and indicate that much will need to be done to improve the legibility, attraction and imageability of the spaces so that they once again encourage both spontaneous and planned movement and use.



“Over-complex and structureless spatial layout …had obliterated the patterns of natural movement and co-presence between different kinds of people that is the norm in urban space, and which intuition suggests is the source of our sense that urban space is secure and civilised.  (Hillier & Vaughan, 2007:220)

Despite their aesthetic appeal, amenity value, heritage and beauty, Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir are not sited well within their contemporary urban context.  They have become isolated and segregated – at the edge of the university campus; adjacent to a busy road; at the edge of the city centre and near residential areas that outside of university term-times are effectively evacuated. In this socio-spatial context, it is unsurprising that these spaces struggle to become part of people’s daily interactions.

This paper asserted that Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir are under-performing both as spaces of to-movement and through movement.  Two questions were posed in order to understand why:  What are the factors that influence route choice?  What are the attributes of a space that might positively attract movement?  This assumption was tested and discussed through a number of theories and methodologies.

Having determined that route choice is largely influenced by perception of distance, the spaces within their urban context were analysed in terms of integration and segregation (Hillier & Hanson, 1984:122) and it has been confirmed that in comparison to Portland Square, the gardens perform poorly through both observed use [as a route] and in their spatial connectedness to the surrounding context.  Route choice is also influenced by visual connectedness.  Through a subjective discussion of how the spaces might be approached, it was determined that lack of visual permeability reduced the legibility of the spaces as a through-route thus impacting on their use and on any subsequent imageability that might be formed from use.

The theories of Jacobs (1992), Whyte (1980) and Gehl (2011) featured strongly in formulating an assessment of why these spaces fail to attract prolonged use.  Jacobs’ (1992) assertion that even the most beautiful of parks will be underused if they are poorly situated holds true in this case study. The gardens and reservoir are quite unique [particularly in their relationship to each other], both spaces benefit overall from good climatic conditions and offer a variety of experiences – however, this does not seem to be enough.  Analysis of opportunities for spontaneous use of the gardens revealed a poor variety of seating provision which caused too few ‘stays’.  A lack of sustained activity in the spaces impacted on the sense of co-presence, perception of safety and human interest that is formed by being able to survey other people and other activities.

Even with the proposed re-connection of the reservoir to North Hill and to the gardens, analysis suggests that this will have minimum positive impact on the integration of the reservoir and gardens so that they becomes places of natural, everyday, through-movement.  Therefore, without drastic demolition, it must be assumed that these spaces will continue to be spatially segregated and so the focus for revitalisation must be on creating a place of to-movement.  As Jacobs has identified, such places can be rescued by creating ‘demand goods’ – in other words, reasons for people to visit. (1992: 107-109)  Jacobs’ example of universities with drama departments and problem parks on campus putting two and two together, rather than further privatising the spaces, seems particularly relevant in this case (Jacobs, 1992: 109).  Plymouth University [with its science, arts, music and drama departments; as well as its numerous campus markets] already has a number of events in place that could do well in a garden or reservoir setting.

Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir already hold a strong identity within the city which is grounded in heritage and memory.  Any intervention should build upon this, creating opportunities for people to linger, encourage use of the intimate spaces within the gardens, celebrate the uniqueness of the reservoir and unblock visual barriers.  The first step is identifying the role of the gardens and reservoir as part of the university campus and student experience, and within an urban community.  From this, Drake’s Place Gardens and Reservoir can once again be useful and used spaces within the city.



  1. Listing SX4809955115 – Drakes Place Reservoir Walls, Colonnade, Boundary Walls and Railings, Conduits, Drinking Fountain and Fountain, Listing SX4816755113 – Drakes Place Road Frontage Walls and Railings.
  2. The University initially invested £300,000 in emergency restorations and in making the gardens safe and attractive (it was previously a notorious no-go area, inhabited by vagrants). In 2010, £60,000 was received from the Heritage Lottery Fund towards developing plans for the continued restoration and maintenance of the gardens and reservoir. At present, the gardens are accessible during daylight hours only; the reservoir is fenced off, visually accessible only from the street (where topography allows) and from the exterior space attached to the reservoir cafe. In 2012, the University is applying for £500,000 from the HLF, which if received, they will match-fund.
  3. The largest concentrations of movement happened between quarter to the hour and the hour, when timetabled lectures, seminars etc tended to finish and just before they started. With 6 gates over two periods of observations, some of the gates were not observed during this period, therefore a further 2-3 observation sessions which tightened the control time would allow for greater precision.
  4. Convex Space can be defined as a social space. Its polygonal geometry facilitates an enclosed, inward looking space – but. crucially, one that is connected to adjacent convex spaces.
  5. In this case, the axial lines represent pedestrian routes. Given the nature of Plymouth’s traffic system, a separate map would represent vehicle space, however this was not deemed relevant for this study
  6. Step depth can also be defined as the number of turns (ie. angle changes) on a route.
  7. Depthmap may not have been an appropriate tool for this analysis because of the issue of topography in particular, however in-the-field visual observations might provide more accurate results which account for semi-opaqueness, topography and temporal objects.
  8. There have been infrequent/seasonal events such as carol-singing and ‘community days’, however these were not observed as part of the study. See: Plymouth University. Drakes Place Gardens & Reservoir. Accessed at: http://www.plymouth.ac.uk/drakesplace. Date Accessed: 8 December, 2011
  9. Friends of Drakes Place Association (2012) Drake’s Place Plymouth: User Survey. Available at: http://sites.google.com/site/drakesplaceplymouth/home/surveys . Date Accessed: 17th January, 2011
  10. While the comments in the survey were revealing as to the negative perception as well as positive memories of the space; there is an overwhelming desire within the community to see the spaces restored; however most of the survey was not entirely relevant to the aims of this study.




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All drawings and photos produced by Suzanne O’Donovan, 2011/2012 unless otherwise stated below:

Fig. 3: Gehl, J (2011) Life Between Buildings. London: Island Press. p. 138
Fig. 5: Cullen, G (1971) The Concise Townscape. Oxford: The Architectural Press. p. 17
Fig. 6: Krier, L (1990) as cited in Carmona et al (2003) Public Spaces Urban Spaces: The Dimensions of Urban Design. Oxford: Architectural Press. p. 71
Fig. 7 Gehl, J (2011) Life Between Buildings. London: Island Press. p. 156
Fig. 8 Whyte, W. (1980) The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces Washing DC: The Conservation Foundation, p. 19
Fig. 9 Hillier, B & Vaughan, L (2007) The city as one thing. Progress in Planning , 67 (3) p. 220
Fig. 10: Somerset House  http://bishaka.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/07/ SomersetHouseSummerSeries.jpg
Fig. 12: Plymouth Central Library cited in Scutt, W (2010) Drakes Place Gardens and Reservoir,  Plymouth: Conservation Statement prepared by Win Scutt on behalf of Plymouth University
Fig. 13: Architect’s Representation of improvements as proposed in the HLF Application. Friends of Drakes Place Association (2012) Drakes Place Gardens & Reservoir. Available at: http://sites.google.com/site/drakesplaceplymouth/



apendix 1


apendix 2



The following are initial practical recommendations that have come from the analysis and discussion in the main body of the paper.  Further exploration is required to fully test the viability of some of these as well as explore other, more creative opportunities that can contribute to reinstating the liveliness and vibrancy of the gardens and reservoir.

Short-Term Recommendations

1. Remove the Campus Map from the gardens railings on Sherwell Lane [it is assumed the public consultation board will be removed as a matter of course]

2. Increase the seating offer within the gardens – a mix of park style benches and benches with tables. Offer seating within the colonnade – it is a sheltered sun-trap but more critically, seating within the colonnade offers an edge position as opposed to open space – a factor identified as preferable to most people.

3. Increase the variety of seating opportunities in the reservoir – make use of the sheltered south and east facing undercroft.

4. Promote the spaces within the university for events, classes, informal learning.

5. Create a weekly event that will attract staff, students and members of the public.  The mobile farm shop in Rolle Square is a good precedent for a weekly event on campus that specifically attracts visitors to the space.  Could the event be linked to activities within the university – outdoor talks, performances, exhibitions and sales of student art; exercise/dance classes; lunch-time tai-chi….

Medium-Term Recommendations [Assuming that the HLF Funding is granted]

1. Accessibility: While opening the North East corner gate is listed as priority, in order to ensure maximum opportunity for the public to access the space; re-opening the central main gate to the reservoir is highly recommended.  Re-opening access from the western link between the Nancy Astor Building and Estates may increase access and footfall, however, as discussed in Appendix 2, this will not drastically impact on natural through-movement.

2. Visual Connectedness from North Hill: Remove the tree that blocks the view from the North Eastern corner of the reservoir – this is especially critical if only the north eastern entrance is to be opened.  Plant more trees in its place.

3. Visual Connectedness from Sherwell Lane: Create visual links which might guide the walker from Sherwell Lane – a suggestion of ‘something’ at the top of the steps ie. flags, sculpture.

4. Visual Links between the Promenade and the Gardens: seating opportunities along the promenade should offer choice of vantage over the gardens and church or waterside views.  The mature trees within the gardens will be visible from the reservoir – however could clever lighting or light sculptural elements provide links to the promenade?

5. Evening events: as well as regular day-time events – is there an opportunity to create a positive image of these spaces in the evenings?  Performances, outdoor cinema, summer balls…

6. Sherwell Church & Chaplaincy: Could a social and physical link be formed between the Sherwell Centre and the gardens?  At present, the kitchen of the chaplaincy has window frontage to the gardens thus it seems a logical conclusion to perforate the wall and offer outdoor seating for patrons of the cafe (creating activity and co-presencing in the gardens).  Is there an opportunity for outdoor services, ie. weddings in the gardens?


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