Urban planner Anthony Fioravanti is adamant about what makes a city safe, wherever it is in the world: civic pride. “If there’s an attitude that ‘This is our city, this is our place’, it makes everyone behave as if they have a stake in it,” he says. “That attitude creates a safe environment.” That’s where his role as vice president of design and planning at both Related Urban and Gulf Related comes in. In Fioravanti’s opinion, nothing fosters pride like good design.
Flow of people is crucial to the success of large schemes. Experientially, first of all, a successful project should be alive and animated. “Think about it – nobody ever enjoyed the time they got stuck in traffic,” he says. Projects should be busy; this can be encouraged by good sightlines, ease of access, enjoyable paths of travel, impromptu discoveries and access to information. Secondly, flow is important economically: if people can intuitively circulate, they will use the property, enjoy themselves and then return. “That’s good for business and good for community,” says Fioravanti.
Planning each Related Urban mega-project, which often integrates retail and residential, as well as restaurants, cafés and other food outlets, can take up to three years. “At Hudson Yards, we had to be strategic about circulation,” he says. Locating Neiman Marcus and a restaurant collection on the upper floors draws flow vertically, and offsets the mixed-use scheme’s density. “Technology, from touch-screen totems to site-wide digital wayfinding that supports visitors’ and residents’ movement and navigation, will also be present,” he says. “The content is interactive and updated in real time so it acts like a giant smartphone.”
Wayfinding, in Fioravanti’s opinion, enables not only flow, but also safer urban environments. “We want to promote discovery,” he says, “but if customers are confused about their location, they feel unsafe. It’s a balance, which can be struck through clear wayfinding, as well as good sightlines and quality open spaces. These design elements help to activate the public realm, especially if complemented by retail placement and events, which become foundational to placemaking as they create a sentiment of amity and community.”
Good flow also relies on a project’s connection to the wider city. The goal is to prevent visitors feeling they have left the urban ecosystem to enter a development. “Individual developments need to recognize their position in the broader and more complex city. It’s a balance of using the language of scale and spaces that exist in a city and extending that through the project, then tweaking it so that you feel you’re in a place of high design and quality,” says Fioravanti. “One of our main goals in designing Hudson Yards, for instance, was the ability to seamlessly move from the city’s greater circulation network into and through the development.”
It all comes back to civic pride and the sense of community it creates. “You need to feel like you’re sharing an experience with people, even if you’re there for different reasons,” says Fioravanti. “You are getting a juice on the way from yoga, someone else is getting a bagel and coffee on the way to work – it’s the feeling that you’re aligned with them in using the space. It creates a sense of camaraderie, which is why we live in cities to begin with – to be part of a larger community”