Preface

An exposition of the different, but intimately related, dimensions of urban design, this book is an updated and revised version of a book originally published in 2003. Focusing neither on a limited checklist of urban design qualities nor, it is hoped, excluding important areas, it takes a holistic approach to urban design and place-making and thus provides a comprehensive overview of the subject both for those new to the subject and for those requiring a general guide. To facilitate this, it has an easily accessible structure, with self-contained and cross-referenced sections and chapters, enabling readers to dip in for specific information. The incremental layering of concepts aids those reading the book cover to cover. Urban design is seen here as a design process, in which, as in any design process, there are no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answers, only ‘better’ and ‘worse’ answers, the quality of which may only be known in time. It is, thus, necessary to have a continually questioning and inquisitive approach to urban design rather than a dogmatic view. The book does not seek to produce a ‘new’ theory of urban design in a prescriptive fashion. Instead it expounds a broad belief in e and attitude to e urban design and place-making as important parts of urban development, renewal, management, planning and conservation processes. Synthesising and integrating ideas and theories from a wide range of sources, the book derives from a comprehensive review and reading of existing literature and research. It also draws on the authors’ experience teaching, researching and writing about urban design in schools of planning, urban studies, architecture and surveying.

our contention was that an urban design awareness and sensibility should inform all parts of the curriculum. The same is true of schools of architecture, property, real estate and landscape. Second, from a need to prepare undergraduate lecture modules presenting ideas, principles and concepts of urban design to support the programme’s design studio teaching. Although many excellent urban design books existed, it soon became apparent that none drew from the full range of urban design thought. The writing of these modules generated the idea for the book and provided its overall structure.

The Book’s Structure
The book is in three main parts. It begins with a broad exposition of what is meant by ‘urban design’. In Chapter 1, the challenge for ‘urban design’ and for the ‘urban designer’ is made explicit. The chapter deliberately adopts a broad understanding of urban design, which sees urban design as more than simply the physical or visual appearance of development, and an integrative (i.e. joined-up) and integrating activity. While urban design’s scope may be broad and its boundaries often fuzzy, the heart of its concern is about making places for people e this idea forms the kernel of this book. More precisely, it is about making better places than would otherwise be produced. This is e unashamedly and unapologetically e a normative contention about what we believe urban design should be about rather than necessarily what at any point in time it is about. We therefore regard urban design as an ethical activity e first, in an axiological sense (because it is intimately concerned with issues of values) and, second, because it is, or should be, concerned with particular values such as social justice, equity and environmental sustainability. Chapter 2 outlines and discusses issues of change in the contemporary urban context. Chapter 3 presents a number of overarching contexts that provide the background for urban design action e the local, global, market and regulatory. These contexts underpin and inform the discussions of the individual dimensions of urban design principles and practice in Part II. Part II consists of Chapters 4e9, each of which reviews a substantive dimension of urban design e ‘morphological’,
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Motivation
This book comes from two distinct sources. First, from a period during the 1990s when the authors worked together at the University of Nottingham on an innovative undergraduate urban planning programme. Its primary motivation was a belief that teaching urban design at the core of an interdisciplinary, creative, problem-solving discipline, planning (and other) professionals would have a more valuable learning experience and a better foundation for their future careers. Although in many schools of planning urban design is still figuratively put into a ‘box’ and taught by the school’s single urban design ‘specialist’,

Policies and proposals drift off course. for those with urban design expertise and place-making sensibilities e from the public and private sectors around the world. and the processes (‘means’) by which this happens. controlled and communicated. instead. An Emerging and Evolving Activity It is only recently in the UK that urban design has been recognised as an important area of practice by the existing built environment professions. It is important to appreciate how urban designers (primarily those in or working for the public sector. Aspiring urban designers. Examining the planning history of cities such as San Francisco and Portland clearly demonstrates this. as in the UK. In Part III e Chapters 10e12 e implementation and delivery mechanisms for urban design are explored e that is. These six overlapping dimensions of urban design are the everyday substance of urban design. especially those still in education. ‘social’. however. the Congress for the New Urbanism. More generally. Furthermore. the final chapter brings together the various dimensions of the subject to emphasise the holistic and sustainable nature of urban design. We ¨ live in the ‘real world’ and what appears entirely rational on paper is much more difficult to achieve on the ground. ‘visual’. Urban design is only holistic if all areas of action e morphological. can often produce exciting visions and design proposals for the development of urban areas and the creation of (seemingly) wonderful public places. perceptual. This growth has been matched by a range of new urban design courses at both graduate and undergraduate levels. As urban design is a joined-up activity. Urban design is a growing discipline. with local communities participating in the design. recent initiatives at both public and professional levels have combined to give urban design a new prominence e in the public sector. this separation is for the purpose of clarity in exposition and analysis only. management and reshaping of their own local environments. Stressing that places matter most. view of urban design and place-making. ‘functional’ and ‘temporal’. for example. There is increasing demand for urban design practitioners e or. and even more recently that it has been recognised by central and local governments. . enable and sometimes compel better quality urban design in the form of higher quality development and/or better places for people. they also evolve and develop through the implementation process. In the USA e in certain states at least e urban design has often been more fully conceptualised and better integrated into the activities of the established built environment professionals. by greater recognition in planning. But this is a romantic. while the cross-cutting contexts outlined in Chapter 3 relate to and inform all the dimensions. Rather than what urban design is or should be. functional and temporal e are considered together. the focus is how decisions become outcomes (‘ends’). urban design is the focus of well-developed grassroots activity. visual. with the connections between the different broad areas being made explicit. social. highlight the breadth of the subject area. The six dimensions and four contexts are linked and related by the conception of design as a process of problem solving. how urban design is procured. The qualities of such visions may seem entirely self-evident and the case for their immediate implementation overwhelming.viii Preface ‘perceptual’. thereby stressing the nature of urban design as a process moving from theory to action. This has been marked by central government through urban design and place-making becoming more central elements of the planning remit. but also others) can encourage. more simply. The chapters are not intended to delimit boundaries around particular areas of urban design and. perhaps naıve. the reality is that implementation often fails in some way. In addition. through the spread of design review as a means to promote better design through planning action and through the professions with the emergence of. Seen differently.

people-friendly. development. it is intended that this book will enable the design. even in the seven or so years since the first edition of this book was written. like architecture and planning. whether ‘knowing’ or ‘unknowing’ (see Chapter 1). As a field of activity. and any omissions that e through our ignorance or lack of appreciation e we have not included. over time. . Urban design has developed quickly and continues to evolve. enhancement and preservation of successful. it is a policy and practice-based subject. vital and viable environments or. Hence. sustainable and cherished places. and by a new demand from both private and public practitioners wanting to develop appropriate skills and knowledge. All urban designers. conversely. alienating. poor quality. urban design has been the subject of much recent attention and has secured its place among established built environment professions as a key means to address interdisciplinary concerns. or simply monotonous environments. It is hoped that the structure adopted by this book will continue to stand the test of time and that. This book draws on that now extensive conceptual underpinning to present many of the key contributions aimed at beneficially influencing the overall quality and liveability of urban environments. by contributing to the better understanding of good urban design. In this position. benefits from an extensive and legitimising theoretical underpinning. which. it will be able to incorporate other advances in thinking on the practice and process of urban design. by a number of new urban design journals.Preface ix architectural and surveying (real estate) education. need a clear understanding of how their various actions and interventions in the built environment combine to create high quality.

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Part I Defining Urban Design .

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it replaced the more traditional and narrower term ‘civic design’. embracing not only the city and town but also the village and hamlet. Tim Heath & Taner Oc. Kevin Lynch. Steve Tiesdell. Aldo Rossi. The term itself had been coined in North America in the late 1950s and is often associated with Jose Luis Sert.1 Gammel Strand. predominantly aesthetic. the ‘public’ places that people can use and enjoy. while ‘design’. 2003.1e1. has become primarily concerned with shaping urban space as a means to make. while design refers to such activities as sketching. As used generally within the field. Taken separately. ‘urban’ has a wide and inclusive meaning. that urban design is for people. Introducing and defining urban design. concern with the distribution of building masses and the space between buildings. convening an ‘urban FIGURE 1. DOI: 10. Christopher Alexander. As a term for the activity. contemporary urban design denotes a more expansive approach and. of course.3). Gordon Cullen. Four themes are emphasised in this definition: first. The third part discusses urban designers and urban design practice.Chapter 1 Urban Design Today This book adopts a broad understanding of urban design as the process of making better places for people than would otherwise be produced (Figures 1. Defining Urban Design Containing two problematical words.10001-X Copyright Ó 2010. colouring and patternmaking. with its field of opportunity constrained by economic (market) and political (regulatory) forces. Ian McHarg. The second part discusses the contemporary need for urban design. Typified by the City Beautiful Movement. or re-make. Published By Elsevier Ltd. the significance of ‘place’. urban design can be an ambiguous term. design’ conference at Harvard in 1956 and subsequently setting up the first American urban design programme at that university (see Krieger & Saunders 2009). Jan Gehl and others e became influential in shaping what would increasingly become known as urban design.1016/B978-1-85617-827-3. that urban design operates in the ‘real’ world. ‘urban’ and ‘design’ have clear meanings: urban describes the characteristics of towns or cities. a clutch of writers and designers e notably Jane Jacobs. is as much about effective problem solving and/or the processes of delivering or organising development. civic design focused on the siting and design of major civic buildings e city halls. as about narrow aesthetics or particular physical outcomes. 3 . UNDERSTANDING URBAN DESIGN From the early 1960s. Dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design. All rights reserved. Copenhagen (Image: Steve Tiesdell) FIGURE 1.2 St Andrews Square. Edinburgh (Image: Steve Tiesdell) Public Places – Urban Spaces. this chapter is organised into three main parts. a normative contention about what urban design should be rather than what it is at any point in time. and fourth. planning. reflecting the title of this book. Matthew Carmona. The first part develops an understanding of the subject. arranging. That urban design is about making better places than would otherwise be produced is. second. Evolving from an initial. the importance of design as a process. opera houses and museums e and their relationship to open spaces. third.

or should not be. for example. As Cuthbert (2007: 185) observes. then equally perhaps ‘nothing’ is urban design (see Dagenhart & Sawicki 1994). and the environmental management and social science tradition of contemporary planning. is typically defined in terms of architecture and town planning e Gosling & Maitland (1984) described it as the ‘common ground’ between these disciplines. a pattern-book subject. Indicating the potential scope and diversity of urban design. seen normatively. Tibbalds (1988a) suggested it was ‘Everything you can see out of the window. just visual/aesthetic in its scope. Thus. clarification and debate of its central beliefs and activities. relational definitions e those defining something in relation to something else e can help us to get closer to what it is. urban design is used to refer to all the products and processes of development. the last three concern urban design as a ‘process’. environmental management and protection. in practice. however.’ (Bentley & Butina 1991) l l l l l Should it be focused at particular scales or levels? Should it focus only on the visual qualities of the urban environment or. academic institutions offering education in professional areas inevitably also become territorial (see Table 1. drawing on the design tradition of architecture and landscape architecture. and. surveying. but others (often social scientists) fail to make this distinction. urban designers are interested in and engaged with both process and its products. (i) Discipline In terms of discipline. etc. big architecture. civic beautification.3 Chicago (Image: Matthew Carmona) Discussing definitions of urban design. address the organisation and management of urban space? Should it simply be about transforming spatial arrangements or should it be about more deeply seated social and cultural relations between spaces and society? Should its focus be its product (the urban environment) or the process by which it is produced? Should it be the province of architects. and attempting to sum up the remit of urban design in simple terms. Madanipour (1996: 93e117) identified seven areas of ambiguity: l l environment comes about. all urban development is ipso facto urban design. however.1). Urban design is not. if ‘everything’ can be considered to be urban design. for example. the interface between architecture. landscape architecture. it is frequently easier to say what urban design is not than precisely what it is. As we ‘consciously shape and manage our built environments’ (Madanipour 1996: 117). a particular professional territory (see below). is not simply an interface. frequently at the behest of professions. seen analytically. in the latter. while the fourth concerns the producteprocess dilemma. while the UK’s former Social Science Research Council located it at ‘. It encompasses and sometimes subsumes a number of disciplines and activities: architecture. property development. for the identification. While. planners or landscape architects? Should it be a public or private sector activity? Should it be an objectiveerational process (a science) or an expressiveesubjective process (an art)? The first three are concerned with the ‘product’ of urban design.4 PART | I Defining Urban Design FIGURE 1. furthermore. Although Mandanipour’s ambiguities are deliberately presented as oppositional and mutually exclusive. town planning. Urban design. Despite this. only urban development of sufficient merit or quality is urban design. in a more restricted sense it means adding quality to both product and process.’ While this statement has a basic truth and logic. In the former. To explore the source of some of this confusion. The real need is for definitions encapsulating its heart or core rather than prescribing its edge or boundary e that is. urban design can be considered in terms of discipline and geographical scale. urban design is the process by which the urban Urban design. it is e or should be e the process by which better urban environments come about. professions are always territorial. nor a narrow selfcontained discipline. Urban design’s scope is broad. There is. Confusion comes because those ‘in-the-know’ (designers) will often skip between these forms of use. small-scale planning. landscape architecture and town planning. only a public sector concern. urban engineering. It is not. . Another distinction that can be confusing is that between its use in a descriptive manner and its use in a normative manner. more broadly. little value in putting boundaries around the subject. it is often a matter of and/both rather than either/or.

described as place-making they can more easily envision their role and contribution. for example. Urban Planning The agent of the state in controlling the production of land for the purposes of capital accumulation and social reproduction. and that is focused on social interaction and communication in the public realm. and in providing space for the production. has asked: ‘. ground conditions. Despite some professions periodically making imperialist claims on the field. schools and religious buildings. urban design is typically collaborative and inter-disciplinary. In the latter.Chapter | 1 Urban Design Today 5 TABLE 1. assessing the local economy and property market. Described as urban design many non-professionals struggle to see their role. archaeology. etc. landscape. producing an urban design framework or masterplan. city-making: terms suggesting it is more than just (professional) ‘designers’ who create places and cities. drafting and illustrating design principles. it should be shared among many actors. making investment decisions. many consider that the very term ‘urban design’ places it too much within the purview of professional design experts engaging in self-conscious. more grandly. actors are involved in shaping the nature of place (place-shaping). they are rarely all embodied by a single professional. Urban Design An open system that uses individual architectural elements and ambient space as its basic vocabulary. Urban design can thus be considered the self-conscious practice of knowing urban designers. while all these skills are likely to be needed in.1 A Systems View of Professional Boundaries Architecture Definition The design of individual buildings. knowing design. developing as a consequence of multiple solutions to a problem. through establishing policy. involving an integrated approach and the skills and expertise of a wide range of actors. place-making is the self-conscious and unself-conscious practice of everyone. Urban design encompasses both. Indeed. and programming the development process?’ He contends that. urban form and transport. circulation and eventual consumption of commodities. often with conflicting interests and objectives. Cowan (2001a: 9). rather than imbuing the creative task of designing urban places in the hands of a single ‘all-knowing’ designer. social factors. George (1997) makes a similar distinction between first-order design and second-order design. ecology. managing and facilitating a participative process. in allocating sites for the collective consumption of social goods such as hospitals. and prefer the more inclusive term ‘place-making’ and. history. The best frameworks and masterplans are drawn up by a number of people with different skills working in collaboration. which profession is best at interpreting policy. Urban designers typically work within a context of multiple clients. Element (i) Structure (ii) Environment (iii) Resources (iv) Objectives (v) Behaviour Static þ human activity Three-dimensional (closed system) Materials þ energy þ design theory Social closure/physical protection Design parameters: artificially controlled environments Morphology of space and form (history þ human activity) Four-dimensional (open system) Architecture þ ambient space þ social theory Social communication and interaction Dynamics of urban land markets Government bureaucracy The political economy of the state Systems of legitimation and communication To implement the prevailing ideology of power Dynamics of advanced capitalist societies Source: Adapted from Cuthbert 2007: 189e90. appraising a site or area in terms of land use. at a larger scale. say. managing space. as political economy. but may not themselves be involved in any conscious design process. which are conceived primarily in terms of the design parameters of artificially controlled environments. An important distinction is between urban design (or place-making) as direct design (place-design) and urban design as indirect design or. Some urban design practitioners argue that ‘place’ is not e or should not be e a professional territory and that. First-order design involves direct .. rather than a single solution.

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