William H. Whyte (1917-1999), also known as Holly Whyte, paved the way for the placemaking movement. It was his research on which a lot of PPS’s and our work is based. His key work: The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces. A book that everybody talks about, but few find time to read. In order to help you get to the basics, we have derived the most important lessons from his book for you.

Educated as an sociologist, William Whyte (1917-1999) began working as an organizational analyst. While working with the New York City Planning Commission in 1969, he began to wonder how city spaces were actually working out and used direct observation to describe behaviour in urban settings. With use of cameras, movie cameras and notebooks, he introduced new ways of urban research and described the substance of urban public life in an objective and measurable way.

These observations were developed into the “Street Life Project”, an on-going study of pedestrian behaviour and city dynamics, leading eventually to the book and companioning movie The Social Life of Small Urban Spaces (1980). Whyte believed in public spaces as places where people and traffic come together. Whyte’s observations and ideas are still relevant for the way we use our cities and streets.