Urban design generally occupies a middle position between architecture and planning. Rather than focusing on the design of the individual structure, the urban designer concentrates on the massing and organization of buildings and on the spaces between them. The physical focus of the urban designer may be somewhat smaller than that of the planner, who is often concerned with the entire city or even the city as part of a larger metropolitan system.

The urban design process is broken into four main phases: (1) analysis, (2) synthesis, (3) evaluation, and (4) implementation. Judging a particular piece of urban design is always a somewhat subjective matter. However, there are some generally accepted criteria, including the following: [1]

  • 4. Easy orientation for users
  • 5. Compatibility of land uses
  • 6. Availability of places to rest, observe, and meet
  • 7. Creation of a sense of security and pleasantness.

The urban designer, in producing a design that not only looks good but also functions well, must consider many factors beyond the purely physical. These include financial, political, psychological, and sociological considerations.

This chapter summarizes neotraditional design (the New Urbanism) and the edge city as opposing visions of urban design. It then briefly touches on visions of the future of the city by Le Corbusier, Frank Lloyd Wright, and Paolo Soleri. It concludes with a note on the current interest in sustainable design and the observation that perhaps the greatest challenge to urban design in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries has been that of reconciling urban places to that most antiurban of technologies: the automobile.

  • [1] Unity and coherence 2. Minimum conflict between pedestrians and vehicles 3. Protection from rain, noise, wind, and so on
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