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1 | Defining Urban Design

How might we best define urban design?

no simple definition

How might we best define urban design? no simple definition  No single definition of urban

No single definition of urban design exists

Taken separately and from a standard dictionary, the words ‘urban’ and ‘design’ have quite clear meanings, but not so much in the context of ‘urban design’

attempts at defining urban design

of ‘urban design’ attempts at defining urban design  In practice the term urban design is

In practice the term urban design is now used extremely loosely to encompass anything from the design of a building façade to proposals for an entire settlement, or from the management of the public realm and control of design through planning policy to the outcomes of the market led development process

In short whilst there is agreement that urban design exists there is considerably less agreement about what it is, and perhaps this is a good thing…

Some agreement about parameters is however required.

simple definitions of urban design

is however required. simple definitions of urban design  Two contrasting definitions of urban design 

Two contrasting definitions of urban design

Other recent definitions attempt to sum up the remit of urban design in simple terms

broader definitions of urban design

design in simple terms broader definitions of urban design  The definitions provide useful summaries of

The definitions provide useful summaries of urban design but fail to encapsulate its complex and multifaceted nature.

Broader definitions more successfully capture this complexity

Through analysing these definitions a number of reoccurring dimensions of urban design become obvious:

1. The time dimension

2. The scale dimension

3. The visual dimension

4. The perceptual dimension

5. The social dimension

6. The functional dimension

an agenda for urban design

an agenda for urban design  The diversity adds to the ambiguity of urban design 

The diversity adds to the ambiguity of urban design

Where do we draw the boundaries between these wide ranging but overlapping activities? According to the Urban Design Group (UDG), we don’t

Urban design has emerged as a discipline, primarily because it is able to consider the relationship between form and function of adjacent sites

To a certain degree it is in contrast to architecture, constrained by site boundaries and client intentions, and planning, which still does not deal with issues pertaining to the physical design agenda

1. urban design occupies the central ground and operates in interstices between institutions;

2. urban design is concerned with careful stewardship of resources of the built environment, particularly the public realm;

3. urban design is concerned with helping both the users and the producers of the urban environment;

4. urban designers must understand and interpret community needs and aspirations;

5. urban design operates within the procedures of urban development to achieve community objectives;

6. urban designers should be as much promoters and enablers as controllers of urban development.