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Urban Design Reader

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Urban Design Reader

Edited by
Matthew Carmona and Steve Tiesdell


Architectural Press is an imprint of Elsevier Press

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First edition 2007

Copyright 2007, Matthew Carmona and Steve Tiesdell.

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British Library Cataloging in Publication Data

Urban design reader
1. City planning
I. Carmona, Matthew II. Tiesdell, Steven

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

A catalogue record for this book is available from the Library of Congress

ISBN-13: 978-0-7506-6531-5
ISBN-10: 0-7506-6531-9

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07 08 09 10 11 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


Introduction 1

Section One Understanding urban design 5

1 Places matter most 9
F. Tibbalds
2 Ambiguities of urban design 12
A. Madanipour
3 Urban environments as visual art or as social settings? A review 24
R. K. Jarvis
4 An integrative theory of urban design 33
E. Sternberg
5 Postmodern urban form 43
A. Loukaitou-Sideris and T. Banerjee
6 A procedural explanation for contemporary urban design 52
R. Varkki George

Section Two The morphological dimension 59

7 What is lost space? 63
R. Trancik
8 The grid as generator 70
L. Martin
9 Typology: an architecture of limits 83
D. Kelbaugh

Section Three The perceptual dimension 99

10 On the identity of places 103
E. Relph
11 Reconsidering the image of the city 108
K. Lynch
12 The social production of the built environment: architects,
architecture and the post-Modern city 114
P. L. Knox
vi Contents

13 Invented places 126

J. Sircus
14 Learning from Disney World 130
S. Zukin

Section Four The social dimension 139

15 Three types of outdoor activities; Outdoor activities
and quality of outdoor space 143
J. Gehl
16 The uses of sidewalks: safety 147
J. Jacobs
17 The future of public space: beyond invented streets and reinvented places 153
T. Banerjee
18 The character of third places 163
R. Oldenburg
19 The rise of the private city 170
P. Goldberger

Section Five The visual dimension 177

20 Townscape: introduction 181
G. Cullen
21 Path-portal-place 185
E. White
22 What makes a good building? 199
S. Cantacuzino/The Royal Fine Art Commission
23 A report from the front 204
P. Buchanan

Section Six The functional dimension 209

24 Functionalism 213
J. Lang
25 The life of plazas 226
W. H. Whyte
26 Needs in public space 230
S. Carr, M. Francis, L. G. Rivlin and A. M. Stone
27 Understanding transactions 241
R. MacCormac
28 Cities as movement economies 245
B. Hillier

Section Seven The temporal dimension 263

29 Images in motion 267
P. Bosselmann
30 The presence of the past 293
K. Lynch
31 Shearing layers 302
S. Brand
Contents vii

Section Eight Implementing urban design 307

32 The built environment 313
P. Knox and P. Ozolins
33 The politics of urban design 319
S. McGlynn and P. Murrain
34 Heroes and servants, markets and battlefields 323
I. Bentley
35 Private-property decision makers and the quality of urban design 332
A. Rowley
36 The debate on design review 344
B. Case Scheer
37 The inner city 352
A. Duany, E. Plater-Zyberk and J. Speck

Bibliography 361
Index 363

The built environment
Paul Knox and Peter Ozolins

The built environment in context ability to anticipate cultural change, also serve to
promote the circulation of capital.
The built environment gives expression, meaning, Another important role of the built environment is
and identity to the entire sweep of forces involved that of legitimation. A major theme in the literature
in peoples relation to their surroundings. It pro- on architectural history is the way that architecture
vides cues for all kinds of human behavior, and it is has repeatedly veiled and obscured the realities of
symbolic of all kinds of political, social, and cultural economic and social relations. The physical arrange-
elements. As a result, a building or other element of ment and appearance of the built environment can
the built environment of a given period and type help to suggest stability amid change (or vice versa),
tends to be a carrier of the zeitgeist, or spirit of its to create order amid uncertainty, and to make the
time. Every city can therefore be read as a multi- social order appear natural and permanent. Part of
layered text, a narrative of signs and symbols. If we this effect is achieved through what political scien-
think in this way of the city as a text, the built envi- tist Harold Lasswell (1979) calls the signature of
ronment becomes a biography of urban change. power. It is manifest in two ways: (1) through a
As Lewis Mumford put it: in the state of build- strategy of awe, intimidating the audience with
ing at any period one may discover, in legible script, majestic displays of power inherent in urban design
the complicated process and changes that are taking and (2) through a strategy of admiration, aimed at
place within civilization itself (1938: 403). Thirty diverting the audience with spectacular and histri-
years later, sociologist Ruth Glass was to characterize onic design effects. It must be recognized, however,
the city as a mirror . . . of history, class structure and that it may not always be desirable to display power.
culture (1968: 21). Both comments point to the way Legitimation may therefore involve modest or low-
that the built environment reflects the underlying profile architectural motifs. On the other hand, it is
relationships, tensions, and contradictions in society. by no means only high architecture that sustains
Yet the built environment not only reflects the under- the social order. The everyday settings of workplace
lying structures of societyit also serves as one of and neighborhood also help to structure and repro-
the means through which they are sustained and duce class relations.
legitimized. In this context, one of the most obvious
roles for the built environment is in helping to stim-
Meaning and symbolism
ulate economic consumption through product differ-
entiation that is aimed at particular market segments. When we focus down from high-level generalizations,
The designer, by virtue of the prestige and mystique we find that people often endow buildings with
socially accorded to creativity, adds exchange value meanings in ways that can be highly individualistic
to a building through his or her decisions about and often independent of their class or power. If,
design. Thus, architects professional values and then, the built environment communicates different
career structure, which reward innovation and the things to different people, or groups of people, we
314 Urban Design Reader

have to look more closely at questions of communi- own objectives, motivations, resources, and con-
cation by whom, to what audience, to what purpose, straints, and all connected with one another in sev-
and with what results. The first distinction to make eral different ways. In a city of any size, there will be
here is the difference between the intended meaning hundreds of major landowners, dozens of developers,
of the built environment (on the part of designers and scores of builders. Some agents will act for them-
and their clients) and its perceived meaning as inter- selves within the web of the development process;
preted by others. Often, of course, both intended others will be representing groups of people, large
and perceived meanings coincide. Lasswells signa- corporations, or public agencies. Some agents may
tures of power, for example, often serve to reassure play more than one role at a time. Landowners may
the rich, strong, and self-confident while reinforcing be actively involved in subdividing and building, for
feelings of deference among the poor and the weak. example; while city governments may act as both
Nevertheless, some of the poor and the weak may regulators and entrepreneurs. As long as we bear
be provoked and radicalized by such symbolism. these caveats in mind, it is possible to sketch the
The point is that much of the social meaning of the agents that are typically involved in the creation of
built environment depends on the audience. Mean- the built environment (see, for example, Baerwald,
while, of course, designers and developers precon- 1981).
ceptions of the audience(s) help to determine the
kinds of messages that are sent in the first place. It is
therefore very important to look more closely at the
roles and objectives of the various actors involved in Landowners stand at the beginning of the chain of
the design and production of the built environment. events involved in the design and production of the
built environment. While different types of landown-
ers behave in rather different ways, all of them influ-
The design and production of the ence the outcome of the city building process in
built environment two broad ways: (1) through the size and spatial
pattern of parcels of land that are delivered to spec-
While architecture and urban design are important ulators and developers and (2) through conditions
in contributing to the character of the built envi- that they may impose on the subsequent nature of
ronment, much of the decision making about what development. In terms of the size and spatial pattern
kind of structure gets built, when and where, is in the of land parcels, much, of course, depends on the
hands not just of architects and urban designers but initial pattern of land holdings. The large ranchos and
of others, such as developers and politicians. It is mission lands around Los Angeles, for example, have
useful to think of the design and production of the formed the basis of extensive tracts of uniform sub-
built environment as a process that involves a vari- urban development, while in cities along the Atlantic
ety of actors or decision-makers, each with rather seaboard of the United States, where the early pat-
different goals and motivations. As they interact with tern of land holdings was fragmented, development
one another over specific development issues, they has been more piecemeal.
constitute an organizational framework for the evo- Because many landowners often sell only part of
lution of the built environment. their holdings at a time, they have a strong interest
One of the attributes of the built environment in what happens to the land they sell. In the past, it
that makes it especially interesting is that it reflects, was very common for landowners to sell off parcels of
through its very creation, the decisions of form-givers land with contractual provisosrestrictive covenants
such as landowners, financiers, developers, builders, that limited the nature of subsequent development.
politicians, and bureaucratic officials, as well as mem- Such covenants usually discriminated against low-
bers of the design professions. The built environment status groups and socially undesirable land uses,
must be seen as the culmination of land develop- sometimes in a very explicit way. With changed social
ment processes that involve all of these key actors. attitudes and tougher laws against discrimination,
Understanding the built environment requires us to restrictive covenants are now somewhat less com-
identify the key actors, their motivations and objec- mon, but they have by no means disappeared.
tives, their interpretations of market demand, and Rather, the practice has been to frame them obliquely,
their relationships with one another. stipulating minimum plot sizes or residential densi-
In any given case, the creation of the built environ- ties, for example, and so ensure development for
ment is the result of a variety of agents, all with their more affluent users.
The built environment 315

Speculators equal, developers will opt for what is easiest to pro-

duce and what is the safest bet in terms of effective
Speculators seek to buy relatively low-priced land
demandthe middle of the market. Only a few will
just before it begins to appreciate rapidly in value
have both the nerve to gamble on innovative proj-
and to sell it just as it reaches a peak. Sociologists
ects and the ability to persuade financiers and cus-
John Logan and Harvey Molotch (1987) identified
tomers that the potential outweighs the risks. In
three very different kinds of speculators (or, as they
terms of residential development, this conservative
called them, place entrepreneurs). The first is the
approach translates into housing for the typical
serendipitous entrepreneursomeone who has
household (or, at least, the developers idea of the
inherited property or who has bought it with a par-
typical household).
ticular use in mind and then finds that it would be
Through the 1960s and 1970s this approach
more valuable sold or rented for some other use.
resulted in a preponderance of three-bedroom, single-
The second is the active entrepreneurthe indi-
family suburban housing, with little provision for
vidual who hopes to anticipate changing patterns
atypical householdswho were effectively excluded
of land use and land values, buying and selling land
from new suburban tracts. Only in the 1980s, when
accordingly. The prototypical active entrepreneur is
marketing consultants caught up with the social shifts
a small- or medium-scale investor: individuals (not
that had made the typical household a demo-
corporations) who attempt to monitor the invest-
graphic minority, did developers begin to cater for
ments and disinvestments of bigger players, using
affluent singles, divorcees, retirees, and DINKs
local social networks to find out who is going to do
(dual-income, no kids), adding luxury condomini-
what, when, and where. The third is the structural
ums, townhouses, artists lofts, and the like to their
speculatorthe bigger player who relies not merely
standard repertoire.
on an ability to anticipate changing patterns, but
For most commercial and industrial development,
who also hopes to influence or engineer change for
on the other hand, the main criterion is the availabil-
his or her own benefit. This individual may attempt,
ity of sufficient land in an appropriate location; site
for example, to influence the route of a freeway or the
costs are a secondary consideration. Indeed, as urban
location of a rapid transit stop, to change the zon-
sprawl has accelerated and development compa-
ing map or the master plan, or to encourage public
nies have become larger, the whole question of the
expenditure on particular amenities or services.
availability of land has increased in importance, even
for residential developers. Some companies create
land banks, partly as a speculative venture but mainly
to ensure a supply of developable land (many of the
The principal role of developers is in deciding upon parking lots on the edge of downtown areas, for
the nature and form of new projects, platting large example, are in fact held primarily for their specula-
parcels of land into smaller lots, installing the infra- tive value rather than for their earning capacity as
structure necessary for a particular use (e.g., streets, parking lots). Larger companies, with a compelling
curbs, and gutters, sewer and water mains, gas and need to acquire land at a rapid rate (in order to keep
electric lines), and selling the lots to builders. These their organizations fully employed), search out and
activities generally fall under the descriptive label of bid for suitable land before it has been put on the
subdivision. Many development companies, how- market (and before any thought has been given to
ever, have extended their activities well beyond the project conceptualization): a tactic known in the
business of subdivision to include land assembly and trade as bird-dogging.
speculation, design, construction, and marketing. The final phase of predevelopment activities is
Because it is developers who must decide upon the that of determining feasibility. Typically, this phase
type of project to be undertaken on a particular site, requires coordination with local planners in order to
they can fairly claim to be the single most important check on compliance with zoning ordinances and
group of form-givers. legal codes, approaching community leaders in order
Site selection and project conceptualization to gauge reactions to the proposed project, under-
stand together at the very beginning of the devel- taking detailed market analyses, drawing up alterna-
opers role. This first step is clearly very important to tive schematic designs (schematics), investigating
the outcome of the city-building process, since the any special technical issues arising from these
developer is inscribing his or her judgment and inter- schematics, and projecting costs and revenues for
pretation onto the landscape. Other things being each of them.
316 Urban Design Reader

Having completed the predevelopment activities, As a result, large builders are inevitably concerned
the developer moves into implementation: finan- almost exclusively with construction for mass-market
cing, marketing, design, and construction. Financing suburban development. Medium-sized companies
involves convincing others of the projects feasibility. cannot afford to pay the interest on large parcels of
Typically, the developer, just like the would-be home- developed land, so their preferred strategy is to
owner, must put down part of the cost: the devel- maximize profits by building at high densities (con-
opers equity. The remainder is sought from a bank or dominiums, apartment blocks) or by catering for
from some other backer or consortium of backers the high-profit luxury end of the market (where the
pension funds, insurance companies, and the like mass-production orientation of the big companies
who may themselves require certain changes in the is a handicap). This strategy leaves small firms to use
nature of the project. The development industry is their more detailed local knowledge to scavenge for
highly leveraged, meaning that the developers custom building contracts and smaller infill oppor-
equity often works out to be a much smaller propor- tunities, whereupon they will assemble the neces-
tion of the overall cost than the homeowners equity. sary materials and labor and seek to build as quickly
The design and construction phase begins with as possible, usually aiming at the market for larger,
the development of the project design based on the higher quality dwellings in neighborhoods with an
approved schematic design determining building established social reputation.
materials and methods, then production of detailed
contract drawings, followed by a bidding process in
which general contractors are invited to bid for var- Consumers
ious aspects of the engineering, construction, and
Consumershouseholds, industrialists, retailers, and
landscaping. Speed of operation is essential during
so onrepresent the demand side of the develop-
this phase. Interest has to be paid on construction
ment process. Consumer preferences and consumer
loans based upon a balance outstanding that
behavior develop in a social context that is funda-
increases as the project proceeds. Any delays in pro-
mentally competitive, though peoples preferences
ducing revenue from a project can result in signifi-
are frequently created or manipulated by powerful
cant losses due to increased interest payments,
investors and their associates working through
particularly when such delays occur toward the lat-
advertising, public relations, and the mass media. It
ter stages of construction. Once the construction is
should also be stressed that people need not always
completed, the developer has to search for and
react individuallyas consumersto the choices
manage tenants, collect rents, and generally main-
available to them: they may affect the development
tain and administer the projects; or sell to new own-
process collectively, through citizen-group protests
ers. This is the facilities management stage of the
over specific development projects, through involve-
ment in pro-growth, no-growth, or slow-growth pol-
itics, or through involvement in residents associations.
As we have seen, developers sometimes extend
Real estate agents, financiers, and
their operations to include building; more often
other professionals
than not, however, general building contractors will
be engaged by developers. At the same time, many Real estate agents, financiers, and other professionals
small- and medium-sized building firms will under- are essential to the development process as facilita-
take their own speculative land acquisition and tors, intermediaries, and specialized experts. A wide
development functions. Much depends, as with range of professionals is involved, including survey-
development companies, on the size and internal ors, market analysts, advertising companies, lawyers,
organization of the company. The typical large title insurance companies, appraisers, property man-
builder reduces costs through direct purchasing of agers, engineers, ecologists, and geologists. The
materials in bulk, the maintenance of large inven- most important of them, however, are mortgage fin-
tories, the development of efficient subcontracting anciers and real estate agents, who stand at the cen-
relationships, the retention of a specialized labor ter of the magic circle of exchange professionals.
force, the use of federal financial aid and housing Their activities go well beyond the actual creation of
research, and the use of mass-production methods the built environment to encompass continuing
on large parcels of land. processes of neighborhood change.
The built environment 317

Government and regulatory agencies Developers of business and industrial parks, mean-
while, have begun to offer flexspacesingle-story
The built environment forms a staple of local poli-
structures with designer frontages, loading docks
tics and the focus of a good deal of local policy.
at the rear, and interior space that can be used for
Local governments enact building codes and zon-
offices, R&D labs, storage, or manufacture, in any
ing regulations. They also invest heavily in the built
ratio. Old product lines can also be treated in order
environment. Indeed, the dynamism of many com-
to enhance flexibility within the market. Business and
munities has depended since the early 1980s on an
industrial parks have been repackaged as planned
unprecedented form of growth-machine politics
corporate environments with built-in daycare facili-
and unprecedented partnerships between develop-
ties, fitness centers, jogging trails, restaurants and
ment companies and public agencies. City govern-
convenience stores, lavish interior decor, and lush
ments in many Western countries have increasingly
exterior landscaping.
shifted to a new civic culture of entrepreneurialism
In the residential sector, some developers have
that draws heavily on publicprivate partnerships,
repositioned themselves away from single-family
in which public resources and legal powers are
starter homes to build more multifamily projects
joined with private interests in order to undertake
(that, like business parks, are packaged with services
development projects. This shift has fostered a spec-
in this case, security systems, concierge services, exer-
ulative and piecemeal approach to the manage-
cise facilities, bike trails, and so on) or more expensive
ment of cities. Projects such as downtown shopping
homes for the move-up market. At the very top end
malls, festival marketplaces, new stadiums, theme
of the residential market are speculative homes differ-
parks, and conference centers have been subsidized
entiated by the most lavish designer features. New
by local governments (which in turn have leveraged
monster homes in upscale neighborhoods in US
additional funding from state and federal agencies)
cities typically stand on large lots, with circular drives
because they have been seen as having the capacity
and imposing gateways that create the unnerving
to enhance property values and generate retail
effect of a landscape full of expensive funeral homes.
turnover and employment growth.
The houses themselves average 600 to 1000 square
meters and have elaborate master bedrooms, bath-
rooms with whirlpool tubs, saunas or steam cabinets,
Market trends
exercise rooms, gourmet kitchens, libraries with
Like most other industries, the development industry computer centers, two-story foyers, and 3 meter high
has undergone some radical changes in the past 20 ceilings.
years. One of the most striking trends is the pursuit of Large, privately planned communities have also
product differentiation and niche marketing in the become popular with developers in many cities.
built environment. In the commercial sector, product They are a result of an extreme form of product dif-
differentiation has resulted in a variety of new for- ferentiation and carefully targeted niche marketing.
mats for hotels: luxury/full service, executive confer- By exploiting new and more flexible zoning regula-
ence resorts, extended-stay (with kitchen and laundry tions, developers can put together projects that
facilities en suite), economy-only, and all-suite. are attractive to a very profitable sector of the
Developers of office buildings in the United States residential market while retaining scope for flexibil-
responded to the booming business climate of the ity in the composition and timing of the develop-
1990s by producing self-consciously luxurious build- ment. Residents of such communities are offered
ings. Developments for retailing have similarly seen sequestered settings with an extensive package of
different formats for different market segments: amenities that typically include tennis courts, a golf
upscale downtown gallerias and malls, for example, course, swimming pools, play areas, jogging
and power centers (community shopping centers courses, an auditorium, exercise rooms, a shopping
located near regional shopping malls and dominated center, a daycare center, and a security system sym-
by specialized discount outlets). Another significant bolized by imposing gateways and operated by
new product line for developers is the specialized electronic card-key systems. The entire ensemble is
mall: a medical mall, for example, that is crafted to typically framed in a carefully landscaped setting
provide busy, affluent consumers with one-stop that might contain a lake stocked with waterfowl or
shopping that offers physicians, counselors, thera- a neo-conservationist assemblage of remnant wood-
pists, medical laboratories, pharmacies, outpatient land, an artificial wetlands environment, and plant-
facilities, fitness centers, health food stores, and cafs. ings of wild flowers. We can read these designer
318 Urban Design Reader

neighborhoods as the product of our times, the car- Glass, R. 1968. Urban Sociology in Great Britain, in
riers of our societys concern with materialism and Readings in Urban Sociology, R. E. Pahl (ed.). Oxford:
Pergamon, 2146.
social distinction. Lasswell, H. 1979. The Signature of Power. New York:
Clearly, the importance of design in the built envi- Transaction Books.
ronment is increasing. As one developer put it, My Logan, J. and Molotch, H. 1987. Urban Fortunes: The Political
buildings are a product. They are products like Economy of Place. Berkeley: University of California Press.
Scotch Tape is a product, or Saran Wrap. The pack- Mumford, L. 1938. The Culture of Cities. New York: Harcourt,
Brace and World.
aging of that product is the first thing that people Relph, E. 1987. The Modern Urban Landscape. London:
see. I am selling space and renting space and it has to Croom Helm.
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cially successful (quoted in Zukin, 1988: 4378). edn. New York: Henry Holt.
Weiss, M. 1987. The Community Builders. New York:
Yet, of course, design can beshould beso much Columbia University Press.
more than packaging. It involves languages and ide- Zukin, S. 1988. The postmodern debate over urban form,
ologies that go well beyond the orbits of developers Theory, Culture, and Society, 5, 43552.

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Blackwell. Reproduced by permission of John Wiley & Sons Limited.