Urban Design For Dummies

December 16, 2010 at 12:03 pm Leave a comment

Darryl Chen, in Urban Design journal, offers this cheeky version of ten easy steps to create an urban-design plan for, well, anywhere:

(1) Site Analysis – Take postcard photos of things that you can find on the site, the more domestic the better – flowers, water, old buildings. Place photos in a grid and label this page: ‘Character’. This eases people into the report and proves that you have been to the site.

Oh, you haven’t? Don’t worry – that’s what the internet is for!

(2) Then take a few photos of things that are not normally on postcards – graffiti, children not smiling, an empty dark street … this demonstrates why you are here – to regenerate the place. Make sure the pictures are really bad or you might find yourself out of a job.

(3) State your objectives. Copy, or cut and paste the following:

  • Maintain the special character of the place.
  • Introduce legibility through clearly defined streets and squares.
  • Increase permeability and connectivity.
  • Introduce high quality public space.

(4) Draw the first plan. The first plan means nothing so don’t spend very much time on it.

Centre your site on the page at a regional scale (say a road map or regional view) and draw a line with an arrow to any airport, station or district centre that appears on your map. Phew! That’s the context out of the way.

(5)  Draw the second plan. The second plan is potentially controversial so make sure it is not too detailed and use bright coloured pens.

Divide the area up into about five chunks. Call these ‘Local Character’ areas.

At the meeting of the site boundary and the local street, mark with a dotted circle and designate: ‘Civic Gateway’. You don’t
have to say what that actually means, but if anyone asks, say something like: ‘an urban design gesture that marks the threshold into the new area’ …

(6)  Line every street with a continuous border between 10 and 20 metres wide. Make sure you leave a part blank for a square, preferably around the centre. You will end up with lots of squares and streets, but remember that’s what you said you were going to do in the objectives!

Colour the buildings darker near the centre and lighter as they become further away. Put these colours in a key called: ‘Building
Heights’ …

(7)  Along the side of the widest roads, draw a row of green circles evenly spaced apart. Psychological tests from the 1950s show that soft shapes are less threatening. Name parts of your plan with the names of existing historical buildings. … This is a special touch that can be understood by even the dumbest residents.

(8)  What will it look like? You might have to google this one. There are plenty of good images out there that say nothing. Make sure you select one picture of a park with families flying kites or looking nonthreatening, a street scene with people sitting outside a café, and a modern looking block of flats with young people on a balcony.

(9)   More googling. The next page of your report willbe filled with pictures arranged in a grid. Choose pictures of buildings and parks that you like and label this ‘Precedents’ (as though you were actually suggesting to built it like that – haha!)

(10)   On the last page list the names of local arts organisations, community contacts and professional consultants you never contacted through the course of preparing your report. …

Sum up your findings with a snappy statement line like: ‘The Masterplan offers an incremental strategy to deliver positive change.”


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