Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

Canadian Urban Design Practice: A Review of Urban Design Regulations

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Urban Research

Canadian Urban Design Practice: A Review of Urban Design Regulations

Article excerpt


Cet article examine Ia nature et la portee de la pratique du design urbain au Canada. L'etude est basee sur une enquete des reglements municipaux concernant le design urbain des municipalites canadiennes ayant une population de 25,000 habitants et plus. Les reglements de design urbain sont des outils municipaux qui contribuent A la qualite physique et visuelle de l'espace urbain. Les planificateurs municipaux qui ont repondu a l'enquete ont indique le processus de reglementation du design urbain, les facteurs qui ont contribue a determiner les reglements et les principes de design urbain qui sont A la base des reglements. De plus, ils ont identifie les aspects du design urbain qui sont reglementes et les individus impliques dans l'evaluation des reglements. Les resultats montrent que la majorite des municipalites canadiennes ont des reglements de design urbain en place, bien que la majorite d'entre eux portent sur le centre-ville et les quartiers/lieux. Les municipalites ont tendance a souligner les caracteri stiques historiques architecturales et portent peu d'attention a de certains defis de base: sauvegarde contre le climat froid ou toutes autres conditions environnementales et le respect de la diversite culturelle. L'etude revele egalement que les reglements de planification des provinces, bien qu' influant, ne fournissent aucun conseil clair en ce qui concerne les reglements de design urbain et implementation.

Mots clefs : Conception urbaine; Reglements; Villes canadiennes; Climat; Environnement; Diversite culturelle.


This article examines urban design practice in Canada and takes stock of its nature and scope. This is accomplished through a survey of urban design regulations in municipalities across the country with populations greater than 25,000. Urban design regulations are municipal tools for shaping the physical and visual quality of urban spaces and the built environment. Municipal urban designers responding to the survey had to indicate how urban design is regulated, state factors that determined the substance of regulations, and select design principles that underlie the regulations. In addition, they identified design features that are regulated and individuals involved in design review. The results show that the majority of Canadian municipalities have urban design regulations in place, although mostly for their downtown and historic areas. Municipalities tend to emphasize historic architectural characteristics and do not attend to certain basic challenges such as providing safeguards against cold climate, carin g for sensitive environmental conditions and respecting cultural diversity. The study also reveals that the provincial planning statutes, although influential, provide no clear guidance as to what urban design regulations should entail and how they should be implemented.

Keywords: Urban Design; Regulations, Canadian Cities, Climate, Environment, Cultural Diversity.


Canada is a mosaic of rich and diverse cultures and architecture. This composition comprises the simple coastal settlements of Atlantic Canada; the solid gray limestone buildings of old Montreal; Toronto's Victorian, Richardson Romanesque and Edwardian architectural remnants juxtaposed with early-modem architectural pieces; vibrant Chinatowns; the simple, austere buildings of the flat Canadian prairies; the northern vernacular settlements, and the ornate bank buildings all across the country. Rapid changes in our lifestyles, needs and choices in the recent past have resulted in an eclectic mix of built forms and urban spaces where new and old exist together. We either appreciate or criticize the designs of the urban spaces we live in but we rarely understand what shapes these spaces. How do we preserve or alter them? Who determines the appearance of these buildings and the public spaces formed by them? …

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