Living and naked streets

20140827 naked streets #1

Historically, streets within Western city centres were naturally shared spaces. It was only in the 1950s, when private vehicles began to dominate the street, that different road users became segregated into distinctive zones with pedestrians sidelined to narrow, restricted footpaths.[1]

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Part of the agenda behind the Streets Without Cars studio is to re-imagine the streetscape as a pedestrian-focused space, and explore the possibilities for alternative street development once the car is given less significance within the street hierarchy.

20140827 naked streets #3

The living street and naked street models are examples of alternative street development aimed at developing streets as public shared spaces which are safer, more social and pedestrian-focused.

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Living streets

The living street or woonerf model began as a movement in the late 1960s in Delft, The Netherlands, as a reaction to the dominance of cars impacting the traditional streetscape of the city. It was pioneered by Dutch engineer, Joost Vahl, and sanctioned in 1976 by the Dutch government as a new residential street model.[2] The main agenda behind living streets is creating streets as shared social spaces that facilitate a variety of uses, not primarily as a vehicular thoroughfare, but as a residential garden to be equally used by pedestrians, cyclists and cars.

The key principles of living streets are:

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The main operational and design features of living streets are:

20140827 naked streets #6

Naked streets

The naked street model was advocated in the 1970s by Dutch traffic engineer, Hans Monderman, appointed by the Dutch government to resolve the escalating traffic accidents within the town of Friesland, Netherlands.[3] The main agenda behind Monderman’s theory was to create safer, shared streets through the deliberate removal of conventional street paraphernalia such as traffic lights, curbs, road markings etc. This strategy creates a higher level of perceived risk of accident, and corresponding increase in risk-mitigation behaviour. It works to “exploit the natural skills of humans to negotiate movement, resolve conflict and engage not only with each other but with their context.”[4]

The key principles of naked streets are:

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The main operational and design features of naked streets are:

20140827 naked streets #8

The case study of Exhibition Road, London, is an example of how the living street and naked street models have been more recently applied to transform a previously vehicle dominated, cluttered street environment into a shared, safe and socially conducive street environment. The re-development was completed in 2012 by Dixon Jones and involved the removal of all street signage, a reduction in traffic speed to 20km/h, street art and furniture and continuous textured surface treatment.[5] Reviews of the changes after completion showed that:

  • Traffic volumes were expected to reduce.[6]
  • Increased pedestrian activity in the area.
  • Safer street environments.
  • Attractive public space.

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20140827 naked streets #10

This case study demonstrates how shared street models, such as living and naked streets, provide an outcome that can be beneficial to both pedestrians and vehicles. Both provide good examples for the Streets Without Cars studio, demonstrating the possibilities of creating better street environments where traffic movement and pedestrians can coexist.


  1. Introduction to the woonerf; Woonerfgoed; Delft.
  2. Bruce Appleyard and Lindsay Cox; At Home in the ZonePlanning; volume 72, number 9; 2006; p. 31.
  3. Hans Monderman interview with Sarah Lyall; The New York Times; 2005.
  4. Naked Streets; Re: Streets.
  5. Exhibition Road London redevelopment; E-Architect; 2014.
  6. Exhibition Road Phase 4 report; Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea; 2014.

Image Sources

  1. Morice Town Home Zone, copyright the The Neighbourhoods Blog.
  2. Car use figures in Australia, author’s own image.
  3. The argument for pedestrian-prioritised streets, author’s own image.
  4. Living and naked streets models, author’s own image.
  5. Living streets principles, author’s own image.
  6. Living streets operational and design features, author’s own image.
  7. Naked streets principles, author’s own image.
  8. Naked streets operational and design features, author’s own image.
  9. Exhibition Road, London, before redevelopment, copyright Olivia Woodhouse.
  10. Exhibition Road, London, after redevelopment, copyright The Daily Mail.

One thought on “Living and naked streets

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