Many commentators on contemporary city life have remarked on how important 'aesthetics' have become to town centre redevelopment.  Landscapes are designed to look visually coherent and attractive; green spaces and public art are planned; benches and rubbish bins are designer items. However, very little attention has been paid to how people in these environments actually experience them. By undertaking large-scale surveys and observation in two middle-sized English towns, along with small-scale, more intensive research with individuals, this project aims to explore the users of town centres experience designed urban spaces.

The project has implications for the concept of aesthetics as it is usually used in debates about urban design. This project thinks about aesthetics as something created through encounters with all sorts of urban spaces and objects, not just designed or beautiful ones, but by all sorts of things and people in a range of different ways. Theorising this approach is the first aim of the project.

Its two further aims are to create a database of evidence about the people's experiences of the two town centres, and to experiment with some less conventional social science methods as ways of accessing people's sensory engagement with urban spaces.

Start date
09 September 2007
End date
08 April 2009
Grant holder
Professor Gillian Rose
Dr Monica Degen
Grant amount
Grant reference
Human Geography
Grant type