This thesis focuses on the active dialogue between the visual storefront/building edge and the adjacent public space. Pretoria's inner city arcades are the public spaces of the city. However, the current design of most of the defining edges presents very few opportunities for lingering. In most cases the dialogue between interior and exterior has died down, causing a loss in commercial activity. The study investigated how specific design features of the visual storefront edge influence the city dweller's experience of the surrounding public space and associated commercial activity. Insights gained through mapping and studying various arcades and thoroughfares were reworked for incorporation into a document - called Edge handbook - that provides guidelines for bringing the storefront edge to its full potential when seen in relation to its surrounding public space. The guidelines were implemented in a detailed design proposal for President Arcade. The reality of the inner city is that the arcades and thoroughfares are city dwellers' main form of public space, which thus calls for a redefinition of the economic retail ideal. It was found that the storefront edge cannot be seen as an entity separate from the surrounding public space and therefore does not justify merely giving the retail tenant as much clear display area as possible. The needs of the urban city dweller - for example, to observe a variety of activities and exert a choice in the level of exposure - must be considered and used to guide the design of the edge within an inner city arcade. The treatment of this edge can re-establish a sense of place, previously lost. A strong sense of identity associated with the edge can furthermore help to orientate the dweller within the urban fabric. This treatment also functions the other way around: a public space where city dwellers feel comfortable and which satisfies their social needs can make them more aware of the edges surrounding them. The design therefore cannot focus only on the public arcade space or the storefront edge, but it is the dialogue between the two that will determine if the space becomes a destination for the city dweller, rather than just another thoroughfare. Copyright
Dissertation (MInt(Prof))--University of Pretoria, 2010.