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Objectives of good urban design

Objectives of good urban design

The 7 objectives of good urban design are well established. They are there to remind us of what to consider to create successful places. There is considerable overlap between the objectives and they are mutually reinforcing. These are:

Character                                                                            a place with its own identity: to promote character in townscape and landscape by responding to and reinforcing locally distinctive patterns of development, landscape and culture.
Continuity and enclosure   

a place where public and private spaces are clearly distinguished: to promote the continuity of street frontages and the enclosure of space by development which clearly defines private and public areas. 

Quality of the public realma place with attractive and successful outdoor areas: to promote public spaces and routes that are attractive, safe, uncluttered and work effectively for all in society, including disabled and elderly people.
Ease of movementa place that is easy to get to and move through: to promote accessibility and local permeability by making places that connect with each other and are easy to move through, putting people before traffic and integrating land uses and transport.
Legibilitya place that has a clear image and is easy to understand: To promote legibility through development that provides recognisable routes, intersections and landmarks to help people find their way around.
Adaptabilitya place that can change easily: to promote adaptability through development that can respond to changing social, technological and economic conditions.

a place with variety and choice: To promote diversity and choice through a mix of compatible developments and uses that work together to create viable places that respond to local needs.


Aspects of development form

The urban design objectives are by themselves abstract. They only have an impact on people's lives when translated into physical development. The form of buildings, structures and spaces is the physical expression of urban design. There are 8 recognised features that form the main characteristics of physical development. We call these the 'Aspects of development form'. They are:


Layout - urban structure                                                                                                                                                         The framework of routes and spaces that connect locally and more widely, and the way developments, routes and open spaces relate to one other.The layout provides the basic plan on which all other aspects of the form and uses of a development depend.
Layout - urban grain                         The pattern of the arrangement of street blocks, plots and their buildings in a settlement. The degree to which an area's pattern of blocks and plot subdivisions is respectively small and frequent (fine grain), or large and infrequent (coarse grain).
Landscape    The character and appearance of land, including its shape, form, ecology, natural features, colours and elements, and the way these components combine. This includes all open space, including its planting, boundaries and treatment.
Density and mix                                                                 The amount of development on a given piece of land and the range of uses. Density influences the intensity of development, and in combination with the mix of uses can affect a place's vitality and viability. The density of a development can be expressed in a number of ways. This could be in terms of plot ratio (particularly for commercial developments), number of dwellings, or the number of habitable rooms (for residential developments).
Scale - height              Scale is the size of a building in relation to its surroundings, or the size of parts of a building or its details, particularly in relation to the size of a person. Height determines the impact of development on views, vistas and skylines). Height can be expressed in terms of the number of floors; height of parapet or ridge; overall height; any of these in combination; a ratio of building height to street or space width; height relative to particular landmarks or background buildings; or strategic views.
Scale - massingThe combined effect of the arrangement, volume and shape of a building or group of buildings in relation to other buildings and spaces).Massing is the three-dimensional expression of the amount of development on a given piece of land.
Appearance -details       The craftsmanship, building techniques, decoration, styles and lighting of a building or structure.This includes all building elements such as openings and bays; entrances and colonnades; balconies and roofscape; and the rhythm of the facade.
Appearance - materialsThe texture, colour, pattern and durability of materials, and how they are used. The richness of a building lies in its use of materials which contribute to the attractiveness of its appearance and the character of an area.


The above principles encourage developers to ask a series of questions that go deeper than generalisations. They should be used together to help developers gain a better understanding of a 'place' and how any new development can best respond to this. The end result of such a process should be better designed places.