The aim of the Bell Street Mall Place Study was to firstly observe activities, test design ideas, and then make recommendations for future built work based on the success of the design ideas.
The project, at its core, is a social science experiment, and like any scientific experiment, it has to consider the scientific method. In the first phase, we researched, defined the problem, determined a hypothesis, and designed the experiment. The second phase we implemented the experiment, and the third phase we evaluated the experiment and made recommendations.
The experiment was divided into two parts; a control study and activation study. There were three activations events that were part of this study, one in Summer, one in Autumn and one in Winter. The activations Tract created were temporary and pop-up in style; they included pianos, movies, seating, hammocks, games, art, interactive chalkboards, activities such as yoga, hula hooping classes, markets, fashion parades and more.
The studies collected quantitative data though pedestrian counts and observations using CCTV footage, and qualitative data through interviews recorded on video and in surveys. The data collected on the control study days was compared with the activation study days.
The findings proved that the activations attracted over 25% more people to the space, people stayed 15% longer, and the users' behaviours changed from less desirable behaviours (smoking, leaving the space), to more positive behaviours (socialising, play, entering retail/dining spaces). The study concluded with recommendations to make permanent aspects of the temporary activation installations.
These recommendations were highly supported by the community and retailers as they were a key part of the process. They have a higher chance of success because they have been tested and proven to attract people. This may not have been the case in a traditional design project.
It is a rare opportunity to work on a project such as this. This project was a true collaboration between Council and Tract at the forefront of urban design and placemaking best practise. It was a great privilege to work on this project. This study was a unique opportunity to design with the community, and empower them to become stewards of city design.