Moore v. Nash

Fall 2019

Moore v. Nash

Ethographic Observation
Fly on the Wall

Purpose of the Study

To observe the flow and usage of two central squares in downtown Raleigh, North Carolina: Nash Square and Moore Square.

Why this location?

History, location, and design—Nash and Moore Square originated in 1792 and their designs have shifted in form, function, and purpose through the centuries. Most recently, Moore Square underwent a 13 million dollar renovation which has created a distinct visual and spatial contrast from its neighboring Nash Square whose last redesign was in 1940. Both of them are centrally located downtown two blocks from each other. The North and South sides of each square run adjacent to Martin (on the south end) and Hargett (on the north end) streets. In between the two squares are three blocks separated by Wilmington and Fayetteville Street. It takes between five to ten minutes to walk from square to square.

Both squares are flanked on the west and east by one way streets, though Nash’s streets are considerably busier (Dawson and S. McDowell vs. Moore (S. Blount and S. Person). They are also located amidst businesses and restaurants downtown. Each consists of open green space, large oak trees, and park benches and function as open air meeting spaces for people downtown. Because of their proximity and differences in landscape and design, I wanted to spend a day observing patterns and usage of the squares.


I began my study with preliminary research on how to define public space and what sorts of things to look for in ethnographic observation. I wanted to choose a time where there were no scheduled events to view the squares on more democratic terms. I specifically chose not to come during a weekday as Moore was scheduled an artisanal fair that weekend, which would have skewed my results.

Initial Observations

Friday morning, I entered the location by sitting in the squares, casually, recording general observations and notes. I sketched out a map of each park, listed and counted the type of furniture and general amenities and infrastructural qualities. I then spent about 30-40 minutes in each place watching people, recording their behavior and walking patterns—searching for things to notice and focus on in the space. After I accumulated that data, I went into a coffee shop and mapped out a more legitimate observational sheet that could allow for efficiency recording ease.

Detailed Observations

Once I had the sheets sketched out in my notebook, I went to Nash Square first, and observed for 30 minutes from 2:30 pm - 3:00 pm. I then walked to Moore Square and observed from 3:08 pm - 3:38 pm. I returned to each square later that evening and observed Moore from 6:30-7:00 pm and Nash from 7:10 - 7:40 pm. I spent a total of three and a half hours in the parks—the first hour and a half I made initial observations and refined my observation sheet; the last two hours I spent documenting observations.

The following day I compiled and typed my data up in google sheets. I made four sheets: Moore Observation #1, Moore Observation #2, Nash Observation # 1, and Nash Observation #2. I redrew my maps so they were eligible and then I did some math.


I categorized my findings according to the three focus areas and divided them into day/night and Moore/Nash.
  • Who uses the park
  • How they use the park
  • General traffic flows

In addition to these markings, I have detailed descriptions of each square’s environment as well as visual infrastructure: their design, layout, tree coverage, number and types of furniture, public services, and other amenities.

I analyzed each square separately as its own entity, compared each square with each other, and viewed them together cumulatively. In addition gathering quantitative data such as person counts and visual routes, I also had some qualitative data on the sheets such as sounds, smells, and conversations I overheard.

Environmental Conditions

During the day observations, it was 53 degrees, breezy, and partly cloudy. During the night it was 42 degrees, breezy and dark.

Amenities + Descriptions

Out of the 115 visitors total that day, 69% visited Moore Square and 31% visited Nash Square. Out of the 80 park visitors during the day, 65% visited Moore Square and 35% visited Nash Square. Out of the 35 park visitors at night, 77% visited Moore Square and 23% visited Nash Square. More men than women frequented Moore and Nash Square that day by almost twice as much. Children only visited the parks during the day.

Moore Square reveals a 34% decline in visitors at night than during the day: 23% decrease in men, 14% decrease in women, and 100% decrease in children. There are more men than women during the day and night and no children visitors at night. Nash Square shows a similar decline in park visitors with a 55% decrease from day to night: 37% less men, 73% less women, and 100% less children. There are an equal number of men and women during the day and more men visitors at night with no children at night.

Given the number of amenities Moore Square has over Nash, it is not surprising that more people frequented that Moore square. Moore has more options: tables, wifi, moving chairs and tables, more sitting space, bathrooms, and a restaurant. A visitor can comfortably spend more time in Moore Square. Nash Square is designed for shorter periods of use as it does not have amenities such as bathrooms, eateries, or wifi. During that day, it was particularly cold, so the exposed lawn was most likely appealing to visitors of Moore Square over Nash, which is covered in large Oak and Magnolia trees which create shade. The play toys, playground, exposed grassy mounds, and location near Marbles Kids Museum set Moore Square up to be a child-friendly park. I observed 11 total children, each unaccompanied by an adult. Some were elementary school age and some were middle school. The children were playing on the toys for the extent of my observation period (30 minutes), making it seem like they were using the square for idle time and recreation.

I find it interesting that there were more men than women in each of the squares. Both squares are located downtown among businesses, and it appeared that many of the walkers were passing through the squares on a break, to get food, or to walk to their car. Though I did not include this in my documentation, I noticed more couples at night in Moore Square and more single individuals during the day. I also did not include a detailed demographic breakdown of skin color, but marked a much smaller percentage of people of color in both parks

Activities Findings

I recorded 89 total activities for both day and night, 56 of which were in Moore Square and 33 in Nash Square. The majority of activities in both squares were in the walking category as there were a total of 40 walkers during the day and 26 walkers at night. Sitting activities decreased from 15 during the day to 3 at night, and sports went from 5 to 0.

In terms of walking, I observed slower walking such as meandering and ambling during the day and faster walking at night. Nash Square in particular had 10 people meandering. Moore Square had a wider variety of walking styles with a relatively equal amount of fast, medium, slow, amblers, and walkers with pets. At night, most of the walking was strictly fast and medium pace with no ambling or meandering.

During the day, there were more sitters in Moore Square than Nash with 10 on benches in comparison to Nash’s 3 people. This is most likely due to the amount of available sitting space in Moore Square, which has a built in bench that loops around the pathways, providing a lot of sitting room for visitors. Nash Square has individual stand alone benches which can seat two to three people. Because of its lack of tree’s, Moore Square has a lot of sunlight, making it a warmer location for prolonged sitting in comparison to Nash’s tree covered landscape which would have been ideal on that day when the high was 53 degrees. One person I observed was laying out on the grass with her laptop out. I imagine on a warmer day I would have seen more people doing work in Moore.

I was able to record more people at Nash Square over Moore Square for a few reasons: Nash has fewer things to do, so it was easier to visually track. Visitors can either walk the pathways, sit on the bench or tufts of grass, or pause in the central area with the statue. At Moores Square there is a restaurant and bathrooms, and a playground that was hidden from my frame of reference. The central part of the square are two open grassy mounds which provides a good visual distance, but due to its asymmetrical nature, a lot of sitting and playing infrastructure is built into the corners of the square, making visitor activity less visible.

During the night and day in Nash Square, the heaviest foot traffic is along the diagonal that connects the corner of Dawson and Hargett to the corner of Martin and McDowell. There is some meandering and cutting across the grass but most people stay on the path. In Moore Square, there is a little more variety in footpaths, but similar to Nash Square, the map shows a predominant path which extends along the diagonal that connects Hargett to Person Street and Martin to Blount Street. Both of these paths show the function of a square to cut time for walkers as well as a more recreational use of meandering and running.

Main Takeaways

Though my observation was short and arguably not on the best day due to cold weather, I think it represents a snapshot of how the two squares are used downtown. Moore Square offers a lot more amenities and built infrastructure to allow for prolonged sitting, hanging out, working, eating, drinking, and playing. It is on the same block as Marbles Kids Museum which could attract children to the square as well as a music venue, and two well known restaurants bida Manda and Brewery Bhavana. I imagine when these restaurants fill up during the summer and go on a wait, visitors could frequent the square to get a drink, lounge, and pass the time by outside. There are many areas to be in Moore Square, each to serve a different function and purpose. There are also a lot of different seating areas: tables near the burger restaurant, movable tables and chairs alongside the park, and two large communal tables with 36 chairs total.

The appeal of Nash Square is in its large Oak and Magnolia trees, meandering narrow pathways, and tufts of grass. The central part of the square is a statute (unlike Moore Square, which does not have a central part). Nash Square is close to restaurants as well which could contribute to its visitors. Though Nash Square is well let at night, the trees could make a walker feel somewhat unsafe in which they might choose to walk around the park. Moore Square has wider pathways without trees so a walker could feel more visible and safe. One of the major differences I noticed with the two squares are the types of seating options and the inclusion or absence of wifi, eateries, and public bathrooms. Moore Square has public wifi titled “Raleigh Park Wifi” whereas Nash Square does not. That alone would draw more visitors to Moore over Nash. Both squares function as sitting and meeting grounds as well as walkable block cut throughs.

What I would have done differently

I recognize that the weather was a large factor in influencing the observational findings. If I had come a day prior where it was 70 degrees I am sure there would have been much more activity to record. In terms of who I tracked, I would have fleshed out my demographic section a little more and tracked skin color and age more astutely. I also would have tracked the amount of people walking around the perimeter of each square to have a comparison between those who walk around and those who enter the parks.

Given the large area I had to observe, I would have enlisted a helper (a person or technological aid) to cover more ground. It was impossible for me to truly see all activity or track all visitors alone making this data highly subjective and qualitative. I also would visit each park twice, the same day, same time, but different weeks to create a more stable time variable. Though I tried to view them back to back, I realize they were not viewed at the same time, so the comparison is slightly off. I also recognize that my initial interest in observing the squares resulted in an interest in Moore new design, so I went into the study with my own bias.

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