Methodology of Urban Design

Methodology of Urban Design
Rainer Mayerhofer, Vienna TU Wien - Örtliche Raumplanung, Department für Raumentwicklung, Infrastruktur- und Umweltplanung email Phone/fax numbers (format: +43-1-5033647) Keywords: Characteristic of areas; Quality of urban design, visual criteria; image; genius loci; priorities: maintain existing high quality vs. creating new qualities

In a 3-year research program "Characteristics of Urban Design – shown on the example of Vienna" (1) featuring a wide-spread typology including rural structures, the authors not only tried to transform the typology of Kevin Lynch for European cities but also attempted to develop the latter by defining those criteria allowing a more or less objective evaluation of aesthetics in urban design. As you will see, there is a combination of physical criteria and social criteria, as well as quantitative criteria and qualitative criteria. This method has since been used for the analysis of towns and parts of towns (2-5), as well as for a university study program for planners (6) and in Austrian planning practice. There had been only minor changes in the original concept by this testing over a period of nearly 20 years.

1 Demarcation of areas with typical structure
This definition is traditionally based on functional, political and statistical units. A definition of areas from the point of view of urban design has to take account of the fact that the inhabitant has to identify with his/her surroundings in order to be able to take an active part in the design of this environment.

1.1 Types of area
For the demarcation of areas with typical structure, some basic general criteria with a strong influence on urban design were selected: Direct criteria: • pattern of the city (from the map) • periods of building development • topography • prevailing land use • classes of building heights Indirect criteria: • image • history (genius loci) • names

1.2 Borderlines of these areas
For the demarcation of these areas the following borderlines can be derived: • borders of areas with identical characteristics • barriers like railway lines, high-traffic roads, rivers, etc. • borders of built-up area against green areas, agriculture, etc. • transition zones towards other land uses

Rainer Mayerhofer


Methodology of Urban Design

2 Characteristics of areas
with typical structure in accordance with the following structural indicators, which can be derived from current maps, historical maps and aerial views or by survey and analysis of the locality: • accessibility • configuration of plots and proportion of buildings • land use of plot and building • green elements in public and private space These characteristics are a summary of all these structural indicators within the respective borderlines.

3 Characteristics of streets
For each type of area with typical structure significant streets (as the essential public space) were selected from a more or less complete photo-documentation, to characterise their special type: • those with a cumulation of indicators and • those with representative features of this type. The essential elements shaping the appearance of the street to varying degrees of intensity were highlighted in the selected photos. The following design factors were derived from this graphical analysis, leading to the description of the characteristics of streets.

4 Design factors
The shape of (urban) space is the overall term for all criteria and factors affecting forms of spatial importance. The multifariousness of these criteria reflects the variety of characteristics in urban design. Space is defined by its borders and qualified by the natural and built elements within the visual field of the inhabitant within the public zones. 4.1 The borders of space sum up the totality of solid forms and surfaces which surround the visual field in all dimensions. Public streets/squares are characterised by the following built and natural elements: • Front-line (basic line of space-bordering surfaces – straight, curved, etc., which defines the widths of streets and squares);

Fig. 1, 2: Front-line • Building typology (open, semi-detached or closed arrangement of buildings or groups of buildings along front-line);

Fig. 3: Building typology
Rainer Mayerhofer

Fig. 4: Building height 2

Methodology of Urban Design

• •

Building height (together with front-line defines the profile of treets and squares by number of storeys, building classes or absolute height); Fences (can substitute buildings to varying degrees of intensity – walls, grids, etc.);

Fig. 5: Fences • •

Fig. 6: Relief

Relief (of weak, medium or strong effect) where there are no built borders to the space; Vegetation (forest borders, tree-lined avenues, rows or groups of trees, single trees, hedges, etc.)

Fig. 7: Vegetation

Fig. 8: Vegetation

4.2 Markers of space and space differentiation in terms of rough structural elements - the following qualities were defined: • • • • - Differentiation in terms of building height (weak, medium, strong) and - Differentiation in terms of building depths (enlargement, narrowing, door position) Position of building (eaves, gables, solitary or dominant position) and Length of front-line

Fig. 9: Differentiation

Fig. 10: Position and length of building

Rainer Mayerhofer


Methodology of Urban Design

Dominating roof

Fig. 11: Roofs • Profile of street

Fig. 12, 13: Profile of street 4.3 Markers of space and space differentiation in terms of fine structural elements - the following qualities were defined (3 built and 2 natural elements): Structure of building • corners (rectangular, slanted, curved, with risalite, projection, • tower, etc.) • fronts (risalites, projections, loggias, balconies, gables, etc.) • roofs (different forms of roofs, attics, garret-windows, • chimneys, etc.) Structure of facade • weak or strong order, symmetry, rhythm • basement, moulding, windows, etc. • ornaments, plastic elements, colour, construction, etc.

Fig. 15: Structure of building and fassade

Fig. 16: Structure of surface of street

Structure of surface of street (road and side-walk) • function of road • surface material • street furniture/movables
Rainer Mayerhofer


Methodology of Urban Design


Relief (topography of street/square) and vegetation in detail (avenue, row or group of trees, solitary tree, hedges, different functions of green space (public, private, etc.) 4.4 Continuity of space as an element of orientation: • • - continuity of the above-defined structural elements, - visual relations (effective from far distance, within the area or from near distance only)

Fig. 17: Continuity

Fig. 18: visual relation

On the basis of the above-described analysis, the character for each single "type of area“ (for Vienna 26 types were defined) was described verbally, by pictures and marked off in a plan.

Rainer Mayerhofer


Methodology of Urban Design

Fig. 19: Vienna: Types of area (part of citymap and legend)

For practical use further framework conditions were worked out for each single "type of area" from a twofold perspective – i) high-quality areas where the priority is to maintain a high quality of urban design and ii) heterogenic low-quality areas where the priority is to achieve a new higher quality of design. For that purpose two qualities have to be combined: quality of urban design and consistency in terms of compactness of space, building age and building heights. The place in the matrix is defined as follows: • • • High quality/consistent: More than 75% of buildings fulfil these requirements Prevailing high quality/prevailingly consistent: 50-75% of buildings fulfil these requirements Poor quality/inconsistent: less than 50% of buildings fulfil these requirements.

Fig. 20: Matrix of quality and consistency This method of analysis for built-up area planning has been tested as a decision-making instrument in several different case studies. Although – as already mentioned – there are 26 types of characteristic urban design in the case of Vienna these types have to be redefined in each new case. Therefore the framework conditions worked

Rainer Mayerhofer


Methodology of Urban Design

out for Vienna cannot be generally applied; they can serve as guidelines, but also have to be redefined in each individual case. As a general rule we can postulate that in areas where the priority is to maintain the given high quality of urban design, most of the indicators have to be complied with or at least applied in an adapted way in the case of a new building or even in renovation projects. In areas where the priority is to achieve a new high quality of design it is a question of building philosophy; either the principles of the local "genius loci" and spatial characteristics are respected, or they are superseded by a completely new, modern image of high quality.

F. Moser, R. Mayerhofer, D. Frei, (Vienna 1985), Charakteristik der Stadtgestalt (Forschungsbericht) / Methodology of Urban Design Mayerhofer, Moser (Vienna 1987), Stadtbildanalyse Gürtel/Europaplatz Wien, in: Gutachterverfahren Europaplatz, Die Wettbewerbgsausschreibung, (page 16-19) Brandenburg, Linzer, Mayerhofer, Moser, Schacht, Voigt, Walchhofer (Vienna 1993/94), Ökologische Funktionstypen (Forschungsbericht) Hierzegger, Voigt, Linzer, Mayerhofer, Walchhofer,, (Graz 1999), Räumliches Leitbild Graz R. Mayerhofer, A. Voigt, H. P. Walchhofer, (Wien 2003/04), Entwicklungskonzepte St. Pölten: Ratzersdorf ,St. Georgen Urban analysis in the following students' projects: Mattersburg (1986), Hornstein (1987), Kindberg (1988), Hainburg (1989), Bruck/L. (1990), Gars/K. (1991), Mödling (1992), Wilhelmsburg (1993), Vienna 22. district, peripheral areas (1993/94), Bad Vöslau (1995), Langenzersdorf (1996), Guntramsdorf (1997), Ternitz (1998), Gänserndorf (1999), Traiskirchen (2000), Brunn/G. (2001/02), Neusiedl/S. (2003)

Rainer Mayerhofer


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