When we think of cities, we think of buildings and skyscrapers and stray cats. For Amanda Burden, who spent 12 years as New York City’s director of urban planning, they’re primarily about people. They’re about where people go and where they meet — that’s the core of how cities work. And for the people, even more important than the buildings are the public spaces in between them. Those, to Burden, are what makes the cities come alive.
The central question she asks is, “What makes a public space work? What is it about unsuccessful places that keeps people away?” Burden, it turns out, was trained as an animal behaviorist, but she uses those skills to study how people interact with their spaces.
As New York’s chief city planner under the Bloomberg administration, Amanda Burden led revitalization of some of the city’s most familiar features — from the High Line to the Brooklyn waterfront (Ted). She exposes several different models of public open spaces in New York City, including the High Line, in order to illustrate which one works and which one does not, how people experience outdoor activities in those spaces, underlining that public spaces indeed have power.