Designing the City: Towards a More Sustainable Urban Form

Designing the City: Towards a More Sustainable Urban Form

Designing the City: Towards a More Sustainable Urban Form

Designing the City: Towards a More Sustainable Urban Form


This book looks at current urban problems in cities and demonstrates how effective urban design can address social, economic and environmental issues as well as the physical planning at local level. The book is highly visual and illustrates the topic with a variety of sketches, line drawings, axonometrics, and models. The author draws upon the valuable experience gained by the City of Glasgow and compares its solutions -- successful and less successful -- with projects in a variety of European countries.


Urban design is a rather unfortunate term describing greatly confused responsibilities of people supposedly involved in the design of the city's 'public realm'. Urban design in the uk is a professional hybrid, a relatively recent invention intended to mediate between the responsibilities of urban and regional planners and architects.

A fruitful discussion of the enhancement of the physical form and spatial structure of the city must be based on a much clearer understanding of what urban design is or should be, what responsibilities it has or should have, and what its levels of intervention with the city are or should be. This first chapter develops a definition of urban design that results from an understanding of some problematic characteristics of form and structure of the city region, the city and its districts, all of which are believed to require urgent improvement.


What Urban Design is or What it Should Be

There seem to be as many definitions of urban design in the uk as there are urban designers. l shall not go into a detailed investigation, which has been done elsewhere (Madanipour, 1996), but almost all these definitions see urban design as bridging the gap between planning and architecture. in the 1960s these two disciplines 'most immediately concerned with the design of the urban environment' (Gosling and Maitland, 1984, p. 7) decided to split. They developed separate university courses, with planning focusing on land-use patterns and socio-economic issues and architecture on the design of buildings. the gap of responsibilities between the two disciplines soon became apparent and urban design came into existence as an attempt to cover issues for which neither planning nor architecture claimed responsibility: the design of public spaces.

Urban Design in the UK: the Theory

The frequently adopted definition of urban design is that it is

concerned with the physical form of the public realm over a limited physical area of the city and that it therefore lies between the two well-established design scales of architecture, which is concerned with the physical form of the private realm of the individual building, and town and regional planning, which is concerned with the organisation of the public realm in its wider context

(Gosling and Maitland, 1984, p. 9)

There are problems with this definition. One is that it does not seem to recognise that much of what is called the 'public realm', the city's public streets and squares, is actually physically bounded by elements of the 'private realm', by private buildings. the design of streets and squares cannot ignore the design features of those private buildings that form the edges of these spaces. Urban design, though primarily responsible for the design of public streets and squares, must therefore set at least some rules for the design of those elements of the private realm that are involved in the formation of the public realm. Simiiarly, parts of the city's public realm, the public buildings and monuments, are designed not by the urban designer but by the architect. and this makes matters more complicated because inevitably the urban designer's responsibility overlaps at the micro-scale of operations with that of the architect, as the architect's does with that of the urban designer.

Another problem with this definition is that it does not specify what the 'public realm' is. in the traditional city the public realm, which Leon Krier called 'Res Publica', includes all public monuments, halls, memorials and public works the vertical features of which

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