Public plazas are an integral part of urban life and they generally take familiar forms. Yet not all public spaces function as intended and, ultimately, not all are successful. The following comparative analysis of Dallas City Hall Plaza and Copenhagen’s Rådhuspladsen explores what makes public plazas “work.” More specifically, while, both plazas are architecturally similar, City Hall Plaza remains largely unused and desolate while Rådhuspladsen is bustling and lively. This multi-method project begins by exploring the historical development of public space in Dallas and Copenhagen and continues with an ethnographic study of each plaza. Findings suggest that the success of public plazas can be attributed to five recurrent themes: attraction and engagement, sustainability and nature, visibility, public transportation and pedestrian accessibility, and integration. By systematically comparing the two cases, we can identify modest design changes that can soften inhospitable public plazas and make them spaces that people will use and enjoy.


Volume 2 of the digital version of the Journal of Undergraduate Research corresponds to Volume 4 of the physical version. When citing an article please denote Volume 4 as recommended in the Recommended Citation.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 4.0 License