Urban Design 101
At the intersection of town planning and architecture, urban design helps shape places that work (or don’t) for people.
Legibility and layout are essential components of good urban design. So is a balance between buildings and open space.
The urban landscape includes a complex arrangement of building types, natural ecosystems, communities and activities. It also encompasses broader systems including infrastructure networks.
Principles of Design
The principles of design in urban planning are about the arrangement and presentation of structures, systems, components and spaces to create a unique and distinct whole. They can be influenced by trends in architecture and fashion, but the fundamental compositional principles of urban design are timeless.
This includes a range of issues affecting the quality and function of public and private spaces in cities and towns, including street furniture, paving and lighting. It also addresses the close-up appearance of surfaces, craftsmanship, texture, colour and sustainability.
Effective urban design provides a number of benefits. For example, it improves public health by encouraging people to take more physical activity and reduce their exposure to pollution and environmental hazards. It can also boost local economies by attracting business and tourism and increasing property values. Finally, it contributes to global sustainability by reducing the energy consumption of buildings and cities. It is therefore important to understand how to make the most of these potential advantages.
The site analysis phase is an important step that establishes a foundation to base the design and planning phases of a project upon. It explores the site’s climatic, geographical, historical, social and infrastructural contexts to help form a strong design basis for work.
Site analysis can be conducted using a variety of tools, including the use of Google Street View or aerial photographs, as well as local government websites that provide information on land ownership, zoning regulations and infrastructure. Field visits to the site itself are also helpful, as it’s a great opportunity to observe existing spatial relationships and how people move around the space.
It’s also an opportunity to identify any constraints that may influence the design, for example solar orientations and views. The results of site analysis are usually presented as annotated images, early drawings of the site, maps, diagrams and sketches. They should be clear and concise to communicate a sense of understanding of the site.
Site planning is the process of creating a plan for land use that meets both your needs and those of the surrounding community. It can also include addressing local laws and regulations like zoning requirements.
During the site planning phase, you need to take into account your project’s existing structures and the site’s topography. You need to create a diagram of the site that’s drawn to scale and include all relevant dimensions. A site plan should also include the legal recorded property lines and a compass designation of the cardinal north, south, east, and west.
As part of the site planning process, it’s often a good idea to organize meetings with neighbors. This is an excellent opportunity to address any concerns and build relationships that will benefit both your project and the neighborhood in the long run. Additionally, it’s a great way to get an outside perspective on your work.
Urban design brings together the building designs, infrastructure and open spaces to create a place. It is where buildings are placed in the landscape – in a way that is respectful of their context and the space around them – and where they are connected to each other.
Whether creating new site specific policies for a Local Plan, or explaining an area development framework, urban design describes the future form and character of a place in spatial terms. This helps to convey the benefits and other ripple-out effects of future change to the local community, and allows objections to be considered early on.
From artists’ impressions, photomontages or 3D models, illustrative urban design can show how a future development might look. This is important in allowing people to have a real and meaningful stake in the future of their environment, and to participate with confidence in the process. This is also a crucial tool in helping to build consensus and buy-in.