What is “urban design” anyway?

What is “urban design” anyway?


TOP think the Urban Design Protocol (2004) offers a good definition:

“Urban design is concerned with the design of the buildings, places, spaces and networks that make up our towns and cities, and the ways people use them. It ranges in scale from a metropolitan region, city or town down to a street, public space or even a single building. Urban design is concerned not just with appearances and built form but with the environmental, economic, social and cultural consequences of design. It is an approach that draws together many different sectors and professions, and it includes both the process of decision-making as well as the outcomes of design.”

For us laypeople, good urban design outcomes include things like:

  • a range of building sizes and density – from high density around transport hubs, medium density throughout most cities, and of course there will still be lower-density areas for many years to come.
  • visually attractive buildings that enhance and enliven the streetscape, e.g. building closer to the street edge is often better for the feel of the street than having lifeless yards and houses set well back.
  • good public transport hubs surrounded by shopping areas, cafés, and other amenities.
  • expansive, high-quality cycling networks.
  • more parks and shared open spaces as part of or near new high-density and medium-density housing.
  • cool-looking bridges, public art, and other things that help us enjoy public spaces.