Sunny Spaces Make the Best Places – By: Kristen Palardy

Most true places are made due to the natural force conditions surrounding it, sometimes without the creator even realizing. In “The Social Life of Small Urban Places,” William Whyte discusses how places cannot be formed without the sun, wind, and trees being heavily taken into account. At University of Maryland, there is a small grassy area behind my apartment that has lots of plants and sitting space available, but it never tends to be filled with students. On the other hand, the schools main grassy area, McKeldin Mall, is almost always filled with students either sitting on benches or bringing blankets and sprawling out on the grass. I, along with seemingly everyone else from my apartment building, always go to the McKeldin Mall to meet up with friends or read a book instead of going to the apartments designated area. It would be much more convenient to just walk right outside of my apartment and most of my friends live closer to my apartment than the Mall, so why is everyone drawn away from what is easier?            

As Whyte says, “the quality of the experience [is] much greater when there is sun… the best time to sit beneath a tree is when there is sun to be shaded from” (42). Both of these lounge locations at my school have trees to sit beneath. However, the area behind my apartment is more often than not already blocked off from the suns rays due to the large building. The Mall has a long stretch of sunny land for most hours of the day, so the trees are seen as more useful shading opportunities. It is also the optimal place to watch the sun both rise and set, which Whyte mentions is a common characteristic drawing people to places. Another factor of the apartments’ area is that it only has the apartment building and two large trees to shield it from wind, which doesn’t do much. The Mall is lined with trees and buildings on either side so if you sit on the edges, you’re only likely to feel a slight breeze, if any. When people are relaxing in these “suntraps… physically and psychologically, they feel comfortable” (44). These are important factors that may be overlooked when creating spaces because we feel like the things create the place, when in reality it is the environment.

Image result for umd mckeldin mall sunset
McKeldin Mall
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