Urban Design

Urban design considers the area as a whole, otherwise known as masterplanning. Masterplanning can be a fun exercise using sketches and bubble diagrams to program the area. It shows zones, hard and soft edges, routes and carefully places uses (for instance housing, retail, park, industry) where required. It is at a city and local scale rather than a detailed technical scale. What begins as high level hand sketches can result in what we see built 5 or 10 years later.

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Masterplanning, Urban Design and Placemaking

The phrases “Urban Design” and “Masterplanning” are often used interchangeably. Masterplanning is often about laying out routes, spaces, zones and forms. It is about the experience of moving around the area, making it legible and linking places. This is where the term “Placemaking” comes from.

Here are some factors during placemaking / masterplanning
• how we access the spaces
• what we can see from where
• what each zone does
• experiential factors of place and space
• framing close and distant views
• enhancing, highlighting reducing or blending certain factors
• strengthening the design; softening the design
• refining the design
• using relief / contours to great effect
• understanding transitions and gateways
• using art and sculpture
• creating urban squares
• nodes, hard and soft edges
• places to pause
• creating gardens and places for nature
• creating boulevards
• separating movement uses eg. road for cars / tram / trees / parking / cycles / pedestrians
• working to strengthen and contrast neighbouring historic space
• working in phases
• thinking sustainability
• using levels
• thinking creatively

Bubble Diagrams

Bubble diagrams, or “programming” allows us to denote the factors list above across space. There can be a lot of factors to consider, so we start with some of the basics of contour, routes and uses. We gradually layer up the masterplan creating a more sophisticated design.

The process requires an understanding of the workings of cities from a civic layout perspective. Also and an understanding of the historic layering we see in today’s cities. Urban designers have a knowledge of how cities are changing from a global perspective, and what is changing. Urban design is what we require from our cities now and in the future. It makes us appreciate our heritage while criticising its’ practicality for modern use. It also helps us acknowledge the soul of civic history.

Residential Masterplanning

In the residential sector, urban design is generally the process of laying out housing on a site plan. Masterplanning can be an iterative process of costing and liaising with planners. There can be some back-and-forth between what the client would like to reap from the project and what the planners deem acceptable without over-development. Once the masterplan is agreed (usually via an outline planning application) then further planning applications provide more detail on specific buildings.

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