Environment-behaviour studies of plaza use in the United States have relied upon traditional methods of behavioural mapping, behaviour setting observation and time lapse photography. The results have been useful for the evaluation of the design of these urban public spaces. However, a theory of plaza use that departs from urban design principles or that includes the sociocultural dimensions of plaza, plays a culturally significant role in the expression and cultural representation of urban life and as such requires a more contextual and interpretive theory and method to understand the meaning of this important part of everyday behaviour. Further, the political and economic dimensions of plaza design and construction are linked to historical and colonial power relations that still have meaning today. This presentation outlines an ethnographic approach to the environmentbehaviour study of the plaza and suggests that such a meaning-centred and culturally sensitive theory/method provides a more adequate perspective for the study of the complex problem of urban public space in the Third World.