The Place Inventory is a tool for studying the physical features of a public space and how these features shape the experiences of visitors.
It includes two parts: a mapping exercise in which you will take stock of the physical features in a space that support public life (including seating, lighting, and plant life) and a qualitative survey about the overall look and feel of the space.
To use this tool, simply spend time in a public space and inventory, map, and fill out a survey about what you observe, according to the directions provided on the worksheet. We recommend using the Place Inventory with other tried and true tools, such as Stationary Activity Mapping, to overlay your evaluation of a space’s physical features and quality of experience with the kinds of social activity taking place there. Gaining a better understanding of this interplay will help you think through what kinds of interventions might improve the space.
For example, you might record that the only seating on a popular city street is at private restaurants and cafes, which you must be a customer to access. But Stationary Activity Mapping reveals a latent need for more seating: visitors to the space can be found hanging out on steps, planters, and short walls. Given the width of the street, you might conclude that the addition of public benches would allow for more non-customers to sit and people-watch, as well as make the space more accessible for older adults and other visitors who need to take a break from moving around.
Our public life tools are free for all to download, use, and remix to meet your project’s needs. If you use this tool, we would love to hear from you!