I can't resist the intersection (and thus its stylistic pitfalls). After all, it's not often (what about NEVER?) my dissertation research (space in literary representation of cityscapes – from Vergil’s Troy, Rome, and Carthage to Baudleaire’s, Balzac’s, and Flaubert’s Paris, Dicken’s London, and Fuentes’ Mexico City) applies to Mountainair. The town may be a "gateway to ancient cities" (why that & not "Geronimo's raiding path"?), but that slogan is the only thing even remotely urban about it. Even the transplants gravitating here lean to the provincial (despite self-images to the contrary).
Space is space. How used and by whom shapes its nature and our perceptions of it. Urban space gets the long look because of population density - more people using it, imagining it, defining it, contesting how it should be used. Yes, small town space is qualitatively different, perhaps a liminous space between symbolically loaded spaces of city and wilderness.
Yet a number of urban design principles apply here as well. Although research and findings by urbanist William H. Whyte, architect Kevin Lynch, and the Project for Public Spaces focus on urban space, their findings also apply to a
- Where did people sit, and what places did they avoid?
- How were their movements affected by sun, shade, water, flowers, trees, food, and types of available seating?
- What kinds of seating did they prefer?
- How did use patterns change over the course of the day?
- Did people use the space as single individuals or in groups?
- What elements of design invite them to move into the public space?
- What moved them to interact with others using the public space?
- Would they move out of the path of foot traffic to conduct conversations, and if so, would they move to quieter, more out of the way spaces?
- How did these public spaces relate to the commercial and civic buildings around them?
- Did they have a cross-fertilizing effect, generating foot traffic and more business, which might in turn generate users of the public spaces?
- If they were relatively unused, or used for undesirable purposes, did they cause people to stay away from the entire neighboring area?