Open Access Te Herenga Waka-Victoria University of Wellington
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Exploring the potential of Urban Leftover Spaces

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posted on 2021-12-08, 07:36 authored by Azhar, Jasim

A city’s spatial environment emerges from the ongoing negotiation between the constructed environment, urban processes, and bodily experience. Many spaces do not represent a static notion but are continually challenged and reconstituted, including spaces that appear to be ‘leftover’. The ability to recognise leftover spaces in the urban context is an integral part of the urban redevelopment process, where structured and layered approaches become useful in understanding how to transform these spaces into places. Consequently, leftover spaces in the urban fabric can be seen both as having potential and as threatening. Researchers have pointed out the issues, conditions, and importance of the positive utilisation of leftover spaces. These spaces can be designed, transformed, and integrated into the main urban fabric to achieve environmental and social gains. Creative and flexible design should lead to psychologically healthy places by improving the image of a city from within. However, there is insufficient information available on how to go about designing such spaces.  The revitalisation and aesthetic quality of leftover spaces could expand the dynamism of a city through strategic design interventions. This study explores how the visual perception of leftover spaces in Wellington City that influences both personal experiences and their potential usage could be enhanced. The research aims to investigate the potential of different types of urban leftover spaces, which could be used in a more effective way than they are present. The mixed methodology undertaken in this study seeks to inform planning initiatives by knowing what people feel about leftover spaces and their aspects that need improvement. This research, therefore, examines how such leftover spaces are defined and can be redesigned to become part of a built environment. The research thus consists of three studies starting with an initial visual preference study to understand human perceptions that could lead to better design solutions. The second study explored the differences in design preferences among participants coming from different fields of study, forming the main visual preference study. Visual preferences can guide behaviour and the emotional responses of different users in the redesign of such spaces and their essential attributes. Lastly, focus group discussions were held with built and non-built environment participants. To sum up, the results revealed that providing more vegetation is a critical design attribute for such spaces. The study contradicts theories that hold there are differences in the ways built and non-built environment experts perceive the environment.


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Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

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Author Retains Copyright

Degree Discipline


Degree Grantor

Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington

Degree Level


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

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Victoria University of Wellington Item Type

Awarded Doctoral Thesis



Victoria University of Wellington School

School of Architecture


Gjerde, Morten; Vale, Brenda