What is Urban Design?
“The art of creating and shaping cities and towns...”
The word design is used as a verb as well as a noun. It refers to the process and activity of designing as well as the end result and/or product. Much confusion takes place unless this clearly understood. The process
The process of designing (certainly in urban design) has two aspects. One aspect is the process of making decisions and choices which directly affect the physical forms and qualities of a city or town. Those decisions and choices are made by people who are usually regarded as designers but it also includes surveyors, engineers, architects, landscape architects and many others. Where are the streets and roads? How wide are they? Where are the buildings placed, what form are they? What are the landscape elements? Where a road or a sewer is placed will affect the form and arrangement of a place, sometimes for centuries. The other aspect is the process of making decisions which do not immediately bear upon the physical forms of the built environment but nevertheless affect it very significantly. This part of the process is the making of laws, regulation and plans usually by non-designers. It also includes how the community is involved in urban decision making. An example is the regulations affecting the formal consumption of food and drink out on the footpath. If a bicycle is defined as a vehicle then it will not be allowed in places intended only for pedestrians. How those regulations work will have a major impact on the urban design quality of a place. How decisions are arrived at will bear upon their end outcome and effectiveness. This part of the process also includes politics. The outcome (the product)
The other part of urban design is the end result. This is usually seen as the physical arrangement of a city or town (the product). However, it would be more desirable to think in terms of outcomes rather than products. The outcomes may be buildings which enclose spaces (physical) or a particular quality (outcome) such as a street which has life and vitality. It may also be a convenience because certain amenities and services are well arranged. Thus it would be preferable to talk of outcomes or end results rather than products. Urban design is thus an activity and an end result. We must take care that we are clear which component we are referring to. It may be better to keep in mind the objective of urban design which is to make good urban places.
Urban design considers:
* Urban structure – How a place is put together and how its parts relate to each other * Urban typology, density and sustainability - spatial types and morphologies related to intensity of use, consumption of resources and production and maintenance of viable communities * Accessibility – Providing for ease, safety and choice when moving to and through places * Legibility and wayfinding – Helping people to find their way around and understand how a place works * Animation – Designing places to stimulate public activity * Function and fit – Shaping places to support their varied intended uses * Complementary mixed uses – Locating activities to allow constructive interaction between them * Character and meaning – Recognizing and valuing the differences between one place and another * Order and incident – Balancing consistency and variety in the urban environment in the interests of appreciating both * Continuity and change – Locating people in time and place, including respect for heritage and support for contemporary culture * Civil society – Making places where people are free to encounter each other as civic equals, an important component in building social capital
ELEMENTSUrban Design involves the design and coordination of all that makes up cities and towns:
Buildings are the most pronounced elements of urban design - they shape and articulate space by forming the streetwalls of the city. ...
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