Programs pursued as a means of improving the urban environment and achieving certain social and economic objectives. Evidence of urban planning can be found in the ruins of ancient cities, including orderly street systems and conduits for water and sewage. During the Renaissance, European city areas were consciously planned to achieve circulation of the populace and provide fortification against invasion. Such concepts were exported to the New World, where William Penn, in founding the city of Philadelphia, developed the standard gridiron plan—the laying out of streets and plots of land adaptable to rapid change in land use. Modern urban planning and redevelopment arose in response to the disorder and squalor of the slums created by the Industrial Revolution. The urban planner best known for his transformation of Paris was Georges-Eugène Haussmann. City planners imposed regulatory laws establishing standards for housing, sanitation, water supply, sewage, and public health conditions, and introduced parks and playgrounds into congested city neighbourhoods. In the 20th century, zoning—the regulation of building activity according to use and location—came to be a key tool for city planners. Seealso Pierre-Charles L'Enfant.
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Urban design theory deals primarily with the design and management of public space (i.e. the 'public environment', 'public realm' or 'public domain'), and the way public places are experienced and used. Public space includes the totality of spaces used freely on a day-to-day basis by the general public, such as streets, plazas, parks and public infrastructure. Some aspects of privately owned spaces, such as building facades or domestic gardens, also contribute to public space and are therefore also considered by Urban design theory. Important writers on, and advocates for, urban design theory include Edmund Bacon, Gordon Cullen, Jane Jacobs, Christopher Alexander, William H. Whyte, Kevin Lynch, Aldo Rossi, Robert Venturi, Colin Rowe, Peter Calthorpe and Jan Gehl.
While the two fields are closely related, 'urban design' differs from 'urban planning' in its focus on physical improvement of the public environment, whereas the latter tends, in practice, to focus on the management of private development through planning schemes and other statutory development controls.
The scale and degree of detail considered varies depending on context and needs. It ranges from the layout of entire cities, as with l'Enfant's plan for Washington DC, Griffin and Mahony's plan for Canberra and Doxiadis' plan for Islamabad (although such opportunities are obviously rare), through 'managing the sense of a region' as described by Kevin Lynch, to the design of street furniture.
Urban design may encompass the preparation of design guidelines and regulatory frameworks, or even legislation to control development, advertising, etc. and in this sense overlaps with urban planning. It may encompass the design of particular spaces and structures and in this sense overlaps with architecture, landscape architecture and industrial design. It may also deal with ‘place management’ to guide and assist the use and maintenance of urban areas.
Much urban design work is undertaken by urban planners, landscape architects and architects but there are professionals who identify themselves specifically as urban designers. Many architecture, landscape and planning programs incorporate urban design theory and design subjects into their curricula and there are an increasing number of university programs offering degrees in urban design, usually at post-graduate level.
Urban design considers:
A revival of urban design in Europe is associated with the Renaissance and, especially, the Age of Enlightenment. Spanish colonial cities were often planned, as were some towns settled by other imperial cultures. These sometimes embodied utopian ambitions as well as aims for functionality and good governance, as with James Oglethorpe's plan for Savannah, Georgia. In the Baroque period the design approaches developed in French formal gardens such as Versailles were extended into urban development and redevelopment. In this period, when modern professional specialisations did not exist, urban design was undertaken by people with skills in areas as diverse as sculpture, architecture, garden design, surveying, astronomy, and military engineering. In the 18th and 19th centuries, urban design was perhaps most closely linked with surveyors and architects. Much of Frederick Law Olmsted's work was concerned with urban design, and so the (then-new) profession of landscape architecture also began to play a significant role in the late 19th century.
Modern urban design can be considered as part of the wider discipline of Urban planning. Indeed, Urban planning began as a movement primarily occupied with matters of urban design. Works such as Camillo Sitte’s City Planning According to Artistic Principles (1889), and Robinson’s The Improvement of Cities and Towns (1901) and Modern Civic Art (1903), all primarily concern urban design as did the wider City Beautiful movement in general.
'Urban design' was first used as a distinctive term when Harvard University hosted a series of Urban Design Conferences from 1956 . These conferences provided a platform for the launching of Harvard's Urban Design program in 1959-60. The writings of Jane Jacobs, Kevin Lynch, Gordon Cullen and Christopher Alexander became authoritative works for the school of Urban Design.
Gordon Cullen's The Concise Townscape, first published in 1961, also had a great influence on many urban designers. Cullen examined the traditional artistic approach to city design of theorists such as Camillo Sitte, Barry Parker and Raymond Unwin. He created the concept of 'serial vision', defining the urban landscape as a series of related spaces.
Jane Jacobs' The Death and Life of Great American Cities, published in 1961, was also a catalyst for interest in ideas of Urban design. She critiqued the Modernism of CIAM, and asserted that the publicly unowned spaces created by the 'city in the park' notion of Modernists was one of the main reasons for the rising crime rate. She argued instead for an 'eyes on the street' approach to town planning, and the resurrection of main public space precedents, such as streets and squares, in the design of cities.
Kevin Lynch's The Image of the City of 1961 was also seminal to the movement, particularly with regards to the concept of legibility, and the reduction of urban design theory to five basic elements - paths, districts, edges, nodes, landmarks. He also made popular the use of mental maps to understanding the city, rather than the two-dimensional physical master plans of the previous 50 years.
Other notable works include Rossi's Architecture of the City (1966), Venturi’s Learning from Las Vegas (1972), Colin Rowe's Collage City (1978), and Peter Calthorpe's The Next American Metropolis (1993). Rossi introduced the concepts of 'historicism' and 'collective memory' to urban design, and proposed a 'collage metaphor' to understand the collage of new and older forms within the same urban space. Calthorpe, on the other hand, developed a manifesto for sustainable urban living via medium density living, as well as a design manual for building new settlements in accordance with his concept of Transit Oriented Development (TOD). The popularity of these works resulted in terms such as 'historicism', 'sustainability', 'livability', 'aesthetic', 'high quality of urban components', etc. become everyday language in the field of Urban planning.
Better urban design adds value: Matthew Carmona, who led the research resulting in the recent Value of Urban Design report, explains how good urban design can deliver better social, environmental, and economic value -- and bring about a sea-change in private and public development investment decisions. (Feature).
Oct 01, 2001; In a contemporary development climate, commercial pressures often seem to militate against long-term investment in design...