“Consult the genius of the place,” the poet Alexander Pope urged his friend the Earl of Burlington in 1731. His advice holds true today: landscape design, or the making of a place, should always be adapted to the context in which it is located. This has led to the use of the term “Place” as shorthand for the unique character of a particular location that should be respected and, if possible, enhanced in any physical works that are intended to make somewhere more attractive.
Pope explained how to identify the first of the five objectives that we consider essential for a successful street: an attractive place. He went on to list the features to consider: the hills, woods, rivers, the sense of scale, and the resulting human emotions and responses.
We accept that a place can be inspiring, spacious and exhilarating, somewhere to go for recreation but a place can be forbidding, dark and dingy: somewhere to avoid. Or it can be welcoming, comfortable and reassuring, where we might like to live.
In addition to serving a clear purpose and having a practical convenience, there are many characteristics that can make a place attractive: the pleasant contrasts between a city centre and a rural village, pleasant memories triggered by old buildings. Some places have been specially designed to be attractive with prestigious buildings or purposely designed outdoor spaces and streetscapes.
But can ordinarystreets, including roads and lanes contribute to and enhance the distinct attractiveness of a city, a town, a suburb or the countryside?