Prospect-refuge Theory Revisited: A Search For Safety In Dynamic Public Spaces With A Reference To Design
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Prospect-refuge theory (Appleton 1975) is based on habitat theory (Darwin 1958) which states that the ability to see (prospect) but not be seen (refuge) is basic to many biological needs. According to Appleton, the ability to see without being seen increases perceived safety which increases the esthetic pleasure experienced in the environment. Wekerle and Egan (1991) state that the perception of safety is necessary for feelings of enjoyment and comfort in urban open space. Appleton's hypothesized factors--prospect and refuge--are known to affect people's perception of how safe an environment appears to be. This thesis studies perception of safety in dynamic public spaces by observing commuters at a chosen rapid transit railway station in North Texas, Park Lane, as they opt for ideal design conditions that successfully offer them refuge or prospect. Step one of the study consists of observations of commuter behaviors during peak hours and at off-peak hours at a selected station. Step two of the study consists of return questionnaires distributed to commuters at the same station. The questionnaire analyzes commuters' preference for chosen prospect-refuge design features at the station which enhance the feeling of safety during peak hour and off-peak hour wait periods. This study gives a chance for landscape architects to apply Appleton's theory to a dynamic public space, thereby examining those landscape design options which affect comfort and perception of safety for users of certain dynamic public spaces.