Digital Water Curtain as 21st Century Urban Furniture

Street furniture refers to objects and facilities located in urban public spaces that provide various services and functions to the public. It is one of the essential elements of the urban environment that contributes to humans and their activities.

The Digital Water Curtain integrates all the characteristics that must have a 21st century urban furniture element.

Of all the urban landscape elements, street furniture has the closest contact and interaction with humans. Although comparatively small in scale, street furniture plays a significant role, along with other urban landscape elements such as architecture and urban space, in determining the quality of an urban environment and in representing the image of a city.

Under the influence of rapid urbanization and globalization, global warming, and a growing emphasis on humanism, urban landscape design (including street furniture) is facing unparalleled challenges and requirements in the 21st century.

Street furniture design involves a wide range of concerns, including function, environment, and meaning. The  21st  century  onwards  (today  and  the  coming  future):  a  new  era  of information and technology, when urban landscape design is facing unparalleled challenges.

The 21st Century is known as the new era of information. The continuously and rapidly developing technology, transportation system and internet increase and enhance the contact among people throughout the world.

Today and the incoming future, with the continuous development of cities and technology, urban landscape will become a more and more complicated system with numerous kinds of considerations. More importantly, people are at the core of urban design; cities and urban landscapes are designed to satisfy different human needs and solve different human problems in cities.

The people-oriented principle is the primary principle, core idea of urban landscape design and it serves as a foundation for other principles. Urban landscape is created for both the physical and psychological needs of human beings. A desirable living environment should be able to satisfy different physical activities, and also provide psychological commitment and recognition.

City is constructed for inhabitants; inhabitants are the owners of the urban life. Besides providing a safe, healthy, convenient, and comfortable urban environment and ensuring the security of life and joyful social activity, urban design needs to consider human feelings toward the urban environment (space, feature, image) in terms of contextual, spatial, cultural, psychological, aesthetic aspect, to heighten the quality of urban environment and create an aesthetic, modern and entire urban space.

Public participation refers to the idea that the designers do not design for the public but design with the public. Communication is essential in the design process. Designers should learn and understand the needs and values of the inhabitants as well as the context and background of the place from the public, whilst the inhabitants should learn and understand the techniques and related knowledge of designing an environment from the designers. There are different levels and ways to develop public participation, for example, public forums, special public working groups, public visit to the place of development, exhibition, discussion of design concepts, and public interviews.

Urban designers should have comprehensive understanding of the context, meaning and spirit behind the urban landscape, to integrate them with current needs and technology in order to adapt to the modern society. The concept of sustainable development is already a significant consideration of today’s urban development. Sustainable development  aims  to  maintain  a  harmony  of environment, society and economy.

The premise of street furniture design is that it should be “people-oriented.” It is the core idea of street furniture design and located in the centre of the model. Based on this premise, three main principles are developed: function, unity, and identity. The three principles are in balanced positions and linked in the model. It implies that the principles are equally important, and coordinate and interflow with one another.

Society, technology, and urban landscape are continuously developing. Humans and their needs and urban life also change with time. Therefore, street furniture should continuously evolve to adapt to the ever-changing situation. New culture and technology may influence street furniture design with the addition of new elements, whereas antiquated elements ought to be abandoned in the process of evolvement.

Another important aspect of the people-oriented premise of street furniture design is how the public will make use of street furniture. Street furniture is placed in public places for diverse groups of people to use. However, it is not possible to control how individuals will use and treat street furniture. Flexibility and freedom should be included in street furniture design to achieve the highest fulfillment of using street furniture in different ways. On the other hand, citizenship education helps to guide the public in using street furniture in an appropriate way to avoid causing human harm or damage to street furniture.

Sustainable development refers to development in which the ecological environment is considered equally with economic and social development Constructing an “ecological city,” requires urban designers to factor in the environment during the design process. An ecological city is one in which the natural and human environments are in harmony so that humans, society, and the natural environment can survive and grow equally and sustainably. Because street furniture is part of the urban environment, its design should be committed to sustainable   development, which   benefits   human   survival,   thus fulfilling its people-oriented premise.

Besides being used for energy saving, natural energy/element can be applied in street furniture in other ways to increase the diversification of street furniture design to enrich urban life and experience. It causes no wastage and pollution to the environment but on the other hand adds value and function to street furniture. Natural elements like plantings and Digital Water Curtains can be introduced or used as part of the street furniture to have harmonious coordination of both natural and artificial landscape elements.

The aim of people-oriented design is to serve all different types of people, including male and female, old and young, and those with and without a handicap. It can be practiced through universal and non-handicapping designs. Universal design means that different types of users should be able to use street furniture conveniently and easily. Street furniture and humans influence one another. People create urban landscapes and street furniture to satisfy their needs; therefore, the construction and facilities are specifically designed for urban life.

Function is one of the main principles of street furniture design and can be divided into three sub-principles: (a) basic: usage, comfort, accessibility, arrangement and aesthetics; (b) technique: installation and maintenance; and (c) practice: safety, and urban policy and regulations. Street furniture should be able to satisfy the users’ physiological and psychological needs through its usage, comfort, quantity, accessibility, arrangement and aesthetics. The durability and stable performance of street furniture should also be guaranteed  in  order  to  maximize  its  function,  therefore,  the  concern  of  technique including installation and maintenance is needed. To make street furniture fully practical, it should be designed to provide a safe living environment and accord with urban policy and regulations of different countries.

The original function of street furniture is to satisfy psychological needs of people in public places. The appearance and style of street furniture should be thoughtfully designed to create a pleasing environment by providing artistic and visual comfort to the public. Aesthetics continues to be a fundamental consideration in street furniture design. People are always pleased with beautiful, interesting, and vibrant street furniture. Elegant street furniture also beautifies the environment and enhances the quality of the urban landscape. Some types of street furniture, such as plantings, fountains, water views and sculptures, are intended to be decorative, thus their aesthetic executions are particularly emphasized.

It is important to note that aesthetic is not about individual street furniture with bombastic and complex appearance and style. Street furniture should be considered with the total environment as a whole. The aesthetics of street furniture is about providing pleasing, colorful and inspiring environment to the public and their urban life. To achieve this, some simple and reasonable additional shaping on details (without creating pressure on the production cost) can efficiently increase the aesthetic level of street furniture and make them special from one another in different places.

Secure installation enables street furniture to adapt to the variable environment and maintain its best performance. Street furniture, such as the Digital Water Curtain are commonly installed by rooting it underground, or by locking it on the ground, or by providing it with a firm and solid foundation. These installations secure the stable placement and avoid collapse by natural or human forces.

An efficient maintenance system ensures the quality of street furniture. It includes systematic monitoring, sufficient cleaning and repairing, and immediate replacing of damaged street furniture. The maintenance duty shows the level of operation and the system of government or relevant parties that manage street furniture. Careful selection of materials and installation methods can lower the consumption of resources and the frequency of maintenance to minimize operating costs.

Street furniture is one of the significant elements of the urban landscape and contains a wide range of concern. Compared to other urban landscape elements, street furniture has the closest relation and interaction with users in contributing to the urban environment and urban life. Street furniture is also a way to improve the environment today where most of urban forms and spatial arrangements are shaped in cities.

Street furniture, as part of the urban landscape, is an important element experienced by residents and visitors, mostly on the streets and in other urban spaces. Therefore, well-designed street furniture, with an identity befitting the characteristics of its location, can protect and reinforce the diversity of localism/regionalism as well as ensure a high-quality and colorful urban environment and urban life. Enhancing the identity of a city or a district can also deepen its residents’ sense of belonging and sense of recognition. The identity of a place should be maintained not to promote tourism but rather to preserve the spiritual and cultural continuity of its people.

The Digital Water Curtain design as urban furniture comprises all requirements listed above, becoming a new nature element to be taken into account for urban designers. The DWC is very safe, respecting local regulations about water treatment, filtration and water quality. The materials are chosen to be unbreakable and tough to avoid easy breakage and damage, and slip-proof materials for pavers, stairs, and slopes are recommended to be placed around the wet area.

The Digital Water Curtain has sufficient lighting provided at night for security and spectacular illumination for the water wall displays. All control units are placed out of reach, impossible to vandalize, with insulating systems when connected with electricity. It is highly cost efficient and environment friendly with very low energy consumption, using energy saving LED lights and little water flow for the system, recirculating always the same water while the compensation tank might be refilled with rain water.

The DWC is highly interactive with the people through the use of interface drivers like smarphones and laptops. It can be used as an interactive billboard writing texts sent from a computer connected to internet.

The DWC can be used as video projection support to create a large size information and advertisement display.

The Digital Water Curtain is a 21st century type of fountain of new nature adapted to nowadays urban landscaping requirements. The DWC is open to interact with people through Controlidor software, updating it continuously, to be ready for new communication technologies, being at the same time a playful, refreshing and iconic landmark in the urban landscape.

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more information can be found at:

www.digitalwatercurtain.com

 

Aknowledgement:

Street furniture design principles and implementations : case studies of street furniture design

Author: Wan, Pak-hong