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URBAN DESIGN International (2003)
Within the International debates about the roles and relevance of planning and architecture, urban design is trying to find its place and clarify its contribution to city making. The products and the practice of urban design vary significantly in different global and socio-economic contexts and in relation to varying theoretical foundations. In South Africa, as in other developing countries, urban design is only beginning to feature as a valid mainstream concern within city development and among built environment practitioners. This paper presents the case of the City of Cape Town’s Dignified Places Programme as an example of implementation-focused urban design undertaken in a context where the conscious design and management of the public realm does not feature on the agendas of cash-strapped, basic needs-focused local government. The design and construction of new public spaces is the focus of this programme, but a parallel objective is to place the central concern of urban design – the quality of the public environment – squarely on the agenda of local government in Cape Town. The paper outlines the urban context in which it is being implemented sketches the issues that prompted its initiation and traces its theoretical origins focusing on the linkages between this theory and practice. The paper gives an account of the origins, objectives and strategy as well as the design principles that directed the form and location of the projects in the Programme. The paper finally reflects on the key successes and challenges of the programme and attempts to tease out lessons for both the theory and practice of urban design.
Journal of Urban Design (2009)
This study attempts to comprehensively and objectively measure subjective qualities of the urban street environment. Using ratings from an expert panel, it was possible to measure five urban design qualities in terms of physical characteristics of streets and their edges: imageability, enclosure, human scale, transparency and complexity. The operational definitions do not always comport with the qualitative definitions, and provide new insights into the nature of these urban design qualities. The immediate purpose of this study is to arm researchers with operational definitions they can use to measure the street environment and test for significant associations with walking behaviour. A validation study is currently underway in New York City. Depending on the outcome of this and other follow-up research, the ultimate purpose would be to inform urban design practice.
Journal of Urban Design (2015)
Drawing on some results of a broader research project, this paper aims to discuss the relation between urban design and creative dynamics in cultural districts. Appropriation and production of public spaces in three ‘creative quarters’ are analyzed, through a photographic approach, covering material aspects, human appropriation and symbolic dimensions in these areas. Discussing the boundaries of public spaces and their relevance for creative activity (through the conviviality and sociability they promote), it is argued that urban design characteristics and specific place morphologies significantly influence the appropriation of these areas and the development of specific creative dynamics.
Environment and Behavior (2010)
Urban sociologist Ray Oldenburg defines a third place as a place of refuge other than the home or workplace where people can regularly visit and commune with friends, neighbors, coworkers, and even strangers. Because little is known about the place-based physical qualities of third places that support sociability and place attachment, this article examines how four urban design characteristics distinguish third-place businesses from other businesses on the Main Street. The article discusses a study conducted at Main Streets in two cities and one town in Massachusetts. As part of the study, visual surveys measured urban design qualities of businesses on the Main Streets, and interviews helped determine user perceptions. The findings suggest that third places are relatively high in both personalization (distinctiveness, recognizability) and permeability to the street, but seating and shelter provisions are perhaps the most crucial urban design characteristics that contribute to sociability on the Main Street.
City & Community (2014)
There are numerous ways in which people make illegal or unauthorized alterations to urban space. This study identifies and analyzes one that has been largely ignored in social science: explicitly functional and civic-minded informal contributions that I call “do-it-yourself urban design.” The research, which began as an investigation into more “traditional” nonpermissable alterations, uncovered these cases—from homemade bike lanes and street signs to guerrilla gardens and development proposals—that are gaining visibility in many cities, yet are poorly accounted for by existing perspectives in the literature. This article examines the existing theories and evidence from interviews and other fieldwork in 14 cities in order to develop the new analytical category of DIY urban design. I present findings on the creators of these interventions, on their motivations to “improve” the built environment where they perceive government and other development actors to be failing, and on the concentration of their efforts in gentrifying areas. This introduces the possibility of conflict and complicates their impact. I argue that DIY urban design has wide-ranging implications for both local communities and broader urban policy.
Journal of Physical Activity and Health 2006 (2006)
Although a number of environmental and policy interventions to pro- mote physical activity are being widely used, there is sparse systematic information on the most effective approaches to guide population-wide interventions. Methods: We reviewed studies that addressed the following environmental and policy strat- egies to promote physical activity: community-scale urban design and land use policies and practices to increase physical activity; street-scale urban design and land use policies to increase physical activity; and transportation and travel policies and practices. These systematic reviews were based on the methods of the inde- pendent Task Force on Community Preventive Services. Exposure variables were classified according to the types of infrastructures/policies present in each study. Measures of physical activity behavior were used to assess effectiveness. Results: Two interventions were effective in promoting physical activity (community-scale and street-scale urban design and land use policies and practices). Additional information about applicability, other effects, and barriers to implementation are provided for these interventions. Evidence is insufficient to assess transportation policy and practices to promote physical activity. Conclusions: Because com- munity- and street-scale urban design and land-use policies and practices met the Community Guide criteria for being effective physical activity interventions, implementing these policies and practices at the community-level should be a priority of public health practitioners and community decision makers.
Journal of Urban Design (2016)
This paper introduces ‘fourth places’ as an additional category of informal social settings alongside ‘third places’. Through extensive empirical fieldwork on where and how social interaction among strangers occurs in the public and semi-public spaces of a contemporary masterplanned neighbourhood, this paper reveals that ‘fourth places’ are closely related to ‘third places’ in terms of social and behavioural characteristics, involving a radical departure from the routines of home and work, inclusivity and social comfort. However, the activities, users, locations and spatial conditions that support them are very different. They are characterized by ‘in-betweenness’ in terms of spaces, activities, time and management, as well as a great sense of publicness. This paper will demonstrate that the latter conditions are effective in breaking the ‘placelessness’ and ‘fortress’ designs of newly designed urban public spaces and that, by doing so, they make ‘fourth places’ sociologically more open in order to bring strangers together. The recognition of these findings problematizes well-established urban design theories and redefines several spatial concepts for designing public space. Ultimately, the findings also bring optimism to urban design practice, offering new insights into how to design more lively and inclusive public spaces.
Resources, Conservation and Recycling (2012)
The climate of a city influences the ways in which its outdoor spaces are used. Especially public spaces intended for use by pedestrians and cyclists, such as parks, squares, residential and shopping streets, and foot- and cycle-paths will be used and enjoyed more frequently when they have a comfortable and healthy climate. Due to a predicted global temperature rise, the climate is likely to be more uncomfortable in the Netherlands, especially in summer, when an increase in heat stress is expected. As the phenomenon of urban heat islands (UHI) aggravates heat stresses, the effects will be more severe in urban environments. Since the spatial characteristics of a city influence its climate, urban design can be deployed to mitigate the combined effects of climate change and UHI’s. This paper explores these effects and tries to provide tools for urban design and strategies for implementation. Consequently, the applicability of the design tools is tested in a design for two existing Dutch neighbourhoods.
Journal of Planning Education and Research (2015)
Jane Jacobs's The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961) had an enormous influence on urban design theories and practices. This study aims to operationalize Jacobs's conditions for a vital urban life. These are (1) mixed use, (2) small blocks, (3) aged buildings, and (4) a sufficient concentration of buildings. Jacobs suggested that a vital urban life could be sustained by an urban realm that promotes pedestrian activity for various purposes at various times. Employing multilevel binomial models, we empirically verified that Jacobs's conditions for urban diversity play a significant role with regard to pedestrian activity.
Journal of Urban Design (2010)
Introduction to special issue. No abstract available.
Journal of Urban Design (1996)
This two-part essay analyses the changing nature of the public realm in the evolving edge of the American metropolis and the implications for urban design and planning. Many forces are changing the form and use of public space in cities--concerns for safety and liveability, increasing dependence on telecommunications, decline in public revenues, the privatization of many amenities, and an increasingly pluralist society. The essay specifically focuses on the historical influence of planning and design practices on suburban form: density levels, land use and zoning patterns, suburban layouts and streetscapes. Field surveys and morphological analyses of urban edge patterns from the San Francisco Bay area document the current state of the suburban public realm. The second part of the essay will examine how physical planning can contribute to restoring a more vibrant public realm amidst raging debates over its changing nature and relevance.
Journal of Urban Design (2010)
Thermal comfort is an important issue to be considered in the design of urban squares. This study hypothesized that thermal experience can be affected by the perception of spatial structures and materials, which can be influenced by urban design. Therefore, surveys were conducted in three Dutch squares (in Den Haag, Eindhoven and Groningen, respectively) to identify relationships between people’s long-term thermal experience and three factors: width of the square, spatial openness and appearance of materials. The results reveal that all three factors have an influence: Dutch people experience thermal discomfort when spaces are ‘too wide’, ‘too open’ and consist of ‘cold’ materials.
Urban designers and their design process remain largely outside the literature on public space. Either designers are cast as simple tools of capitalist social relations, producing exclusionary public spaces, or they figure as entrepreneurs that complement economic renewal schemes through beautification measures that bring business and jobs to the city. This paper analyzes both of these arguments, through an ethnographic analysis of the urban design process behind the redevelopment of a public square in Syracuse, NY. I argue that aesthetic considerations most often derive from economic and political pressures, pressures that draw upon the social contexts of urban designers within an international division of labor and their relationship to class struggle. Because public space serves such an important role in political and social life, its status as a product of urban design should therefore act as a crucial component in any discussion of rights to the city.
Journal of Urban Design (2017)
In India, there are religious practices intersecting with the process of urbanization at various levels. This paper looks at the practice of tree worship which continues to be a part of everyday life here. Specifically, it looks at how the Peepul tree (Ficus Religiosa) shrine with its serpent stones and the raised platform around it (katte) contributes to the territorial production of urban space in the city of Bangalore. Based on a study of 10 kattes in the city, it finds that these urban spaces belong either to a process of territorialization by the local community or its deterritorialization by the government. The paper builds a theoretical argument for how the katte as a ‘human activity node’ contributes to an ‘urban web’ which is categorized here as the physical layer. It finds that the Peepul tree could enable a ‘network of relations’, termed as the social layer. It suggests that the information fields generated within these layers influences collective memory of the people. Finally, the paper argues that the two layers acting together can help formulate an urban design model that can minimize deterritorialization.
Urban Design International (2010)
This article uses the Brazilian city of Belo Horizonte as a case-study to show that beyond the centralized planning model that prevailed in the 1970s, a new model of urban intervention has developed, based on the participatory budget and focused on the most vulnerable portion of the Brazilian urban population: the favela dwellers. While larger Brazilian cities such as Sa ̃o Paulo and Rio de Janeiro have a deeper history of intervention in the favelas, this article focuses on Belo Horizonte as the polar opposite to the well-known model of Curitiba. If we agree that any real sustainable urbanism should be built upon a participatory community, the favela’s interventions carried on in Belo Horizonte might rise to the occasion as a promising alternative.
Journal of Urban Design (2007)
Current projects to upgrade public spaces in Western cities seek to produce secured space by improving safety and decrease feelings of fear, and to produce themed space by promoting urban entertainment or fantasy. This study examines how ‘fear’ and ‘fantasy’ influence urban design and management of two public spaces in Rotterdam, the Netherlands. It traces social antecedents for the development of secured and themed public space, such as a growing differentiation of urban lifestyles, and proposes a new technique for analysing public spaces. The case studies differ in design and management: one is secured, the other themed. However, each secured space contains an element of ‘fantasy’, and each themed space an element of ‘fear’.
This paper reports the findings from a research project that examines the relationship between urban design and the physical environment, and aspects of social and communal life in suburbs. Australian suburbs are perceived to be lacking in vitality and sociability. To address this, three suburban commercial streets were selected for investigation. Through documents and maps of the residents’ activities and behaviour, this study aims to identify the popular zones of activity and investigate the physical characteristics that encourage a sociable atmosphere in activity zones. The observation of activities in the three streets has been registered in tables relative to the date and time of occurrence. According to the behavioural mappings, the zones of activity are mostly shaped around pavement cafes and popular everyday food stores. Since more than half the activities have been observed to be initiated from the pavement cafes, this paper will investigate how the physical qualities of commercial streets such as the width of the pavements, personalization, soft edges and greenery have contributed to the pavement café culture in the selected neighbourhood centres.
Journal of Urban Design (2016)
How might the urban structure and public space of Christchurch change as a result of the 2010 and 2011 earthquakes? This paper will look at council and community led post-earthquake urban space projects in Christchurch, New Zealand, to investigate the potential reconfiguration of urban public space and structure and the balance of top-down and bottom-up design processes for the delivery of these projects. This will be achieved by comparing the performance of the urban public space and structure of the city during the post-earthquake emergency and recovery phases, with a view to understanding the contribution that these elements can make to the resilience of Christchurch. The paper will argue that Christchurch’s nineteenth century urban structure served the population well during the emergency phases of the disaster and that post-earthquake community-led initiatives model innovative capabilities which may enhance urban design practice in the future.
Urban Studies (2014)
This paper presents a morphological study of 100 main street networks from urban areas around the world. An expansion in the scale of main street networks was revealed using a unique heuristic visual method for identifying and measuring the lengths of main street segments from each of the study areas. Case studies were selected and grouped according to corresponding urban design paradigms, ranging from antiquity to present day. This research shows that the average lengths of main street segments from networks of historic (i.e. ancient, medieval, renaissance, baroque and industrial) and informal case studies are much smaller relative to those from networks of more contemporary case studies (i.e. Garden City, Radiant City and New Urbanism). This study provides empirical evidence in support of prior, observational claims suggesting a consistent pattern in the smaller scale of main street networks from traditional urban areas, termed the ‘400-metre rule’. Additionally, it makes the case for further empirical research into similarly recursive spatial patterns within other elements of urban form (i.e. plots, blocks, etc.) that, if discovered, could aid in future urban design efforts to help provide the framework for more ‘human-scale’ urban environments.