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Abstract Purpose The fast development of urban movement infrastructures has created neglected urban places in cities. This study aims to provide users’ preferences for designing lost spaces that are a by-product of elevated urban highways (UHs) and bridges to develop a conceptual model for better environmental design. Design/methodology/approach This research is conducted by a combination of both qualitative and quantitative methods. In the first phase, to explore the citizen’s environmental preferences based on the Q-sort technique and in-depth interviews, the ideas of 50 users were considered up to data saturation. The preferences of people for designs under urban bridges were extracted by content analysis in the qualitative phase. In the quantitative phase, to validate these preferences, the extracted themes and sub-themes were examined by 144 experts in design studies using the web-based questionnaire based on the first phase outcomes. The validity of the model was confirmed by confirmatory factor analysis in SPSS22 and Lisrel software. Findings The findings show that users’ preferences emphasize design strategies such as safety and security, physical coherence, visibility, vitality, richness, a sense of belonging and comfort to the design of lost spaces. Overall, this study highlights an empirical study into user’s needs and expectations of lost urban spaces. Originality/value The findings show that users’ preferences emphasize design strategies such as safety and security, physical coherence, visibility, vitality, richness, a sense of belonging and comfort to the design of lost spaces. Overall, this study highlights an empirical study into user’s needs and expectations of lost urban spaces.

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... Still's (2013) research on crowd disasters found that the design element was the fundamental causality in over half of the incidents and concluded that an appropriate risk analysis of crowds needs to be undertaken to significantly reduce fatalities and serious injuries. This was also identified by Lak et al. (2019) and Ibem et al. (2013), who suggested that appropriate design strategies, which consider participants' preferences, improve the quality of places in different contexts and reduce safety risk. Similarly, Badiora and Odufuwa (2019) highlighted the importance of developing environmental designs for enhancing crowd safety. ...
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