A wide variety of urban design products have been produced through the procedures of all-of-a-piece design. Both public and private interests have initiated them. Increasingly they have involved close cooperation between the two sectors of the economy. Given an overall vision, the degree of control over the design of their individual components has varied considerably. Tight building design guidelines were used in places such as Seaside and Paternoster Square; much looser ones were applied in schemes such as Darling Harbour, and largely advisory ones in Glendale. The goal of all of the guidelines has been to create some level of visual unity, and pedestrian and other user amenity while allowing for diversity.

The quality of urban designs varies considerably. Market-driven schemes such as La Défense and Canary Wharf are based on ease of development within the framework of an international money market largely uninterested in local concerns. They have proven good enough to sell once some basic design flaws were eliminated but they have also missed opportunities. With the wisdom of hindsight it is clear that they have incurred substantial opportunity costs - other designs could have met their ends better and, at the same time, have catered to a wider range of needs. The designs meet their goals but how good were the goals? Should one of the goals of these two projects have been to provide a greater variety of uses from the outset?

A recent study drawing on considerable empirical evidence (i.e. from Garvin, 1995; Punter and Carmona, 1997; Punter, 1999, 2003) has attempted to develop a

Table 8.2 A model describing the likely degree of implementation of urban design guidelines

Level of clarity

Steps in guideline development and application

Steps in guideline development and application

Level of clarity






Written and

Single authority,

Likely to be






guidelines that are


and less

objectives and

publicly reviewed

to enforce

battered by


in meetings prior

regulations, in


criteria based

to acceptance



on empirical




Objectives and

Written and

A centralized



illustrated and

agency or well



placed on public


but subject to


display in

multiple agencies

the whims of

in general


under single


terms using

Feedback in



words such

written form

as appropriate


Written and

Multiple agencies



illustrated but not

at the same time



subject to any

or in sequence

depending on


public review

architects' and



Battery Park City


Darling Harbour



Battery Park City


Darling Harbour

Adapted from Soemardi (in progress).

predictive model of the context in which urban design guidelines are implemented or not (Soemardi, in progress). The level of clarity in formulating, communicating and administering the guidelines defines whether guidelines will enable the objectives of a scheme to be met. Political pressures and governmental corruption can be intervening variables.

Table 8.2 defines the characteristics of guidelines by level of clarity at each phase of their use in urban design projects. Those projects that are high on all three dimensions are those that are implemented while those that are low are unlikely to be implemented in accordance with stated objectives. Those that are a mixture of high, medium and low levels of clarity will be partially carried out and will partially fall by the wayside. Much, however, depends on the strength of the design ideas, the distribution of power amongst the stakeholders involved and the perceived necessity for coordinated action.

All the case studies presented in this chapter were a response to a perceived need for some level of coordinated action. The goal has been not only to have economic growth and design quality in mind but also to manage that growth.

Development can be managed through the creation of special districts, the selective use (in existing areas) of building moratoria, land-use controls, design guidelines and/or controls, and through the design review process. In commenting on the Rauchstrasse scheme, Rob Krier wrote:

In order to achieve a coherent total image in an urban development plan of this size, the concept of the block must be clearly formulated in geometrical terms and should not embody exaggerated structural fantasies that represent only an individual artistic conception. For the sake of unity, each of the architects taking part must [exert] as much discipline as possible (Krier, 1988: 83).

The case studies show that internationally renowned architects are willing to work within strict guidelines if their purpose and the overall project's objectives are clear and make sense. The guidelines have to be based on a clear logic and on empirical evidence that they will work in achieving a design's objectives. Creating a sense of unity through controlled chaos is more difficult than a sense of unity through similarity!

There are a number of expressions of concern about the degree of control that exists in some of the all-of-a-piece urban designs included in this chapter and, in particularly the seeking of unity in designs. Many of the best-loved areas of cities in the world with extraordinarily high property values have a remarkable unity in design but to many critics this search for unity today represents an old-fashioned idea in an era of individualism. In terms of the total production of new segments of cities, business areas and new residential suburbs, the number that falls into the all-of-a-piece urban design category is low. One critic (Postrel, 2003) suggests that 'if you get the lots right, and the blocks right and the street right and the setback right, somebody can build a crummy' building and the ensemble is still fine. She is probably correct. I would add 'if you get the nature of ground floor uses right!'

The question comes back to the rights of individuals to do their own thing in democratic societies. In looking back at the turbulent history of his master plan (and implicitly the nature of all-of-a-piece urban design) and the evolving design of the World Trade Center site, Daniel Libeskind notes:

Although [the site design is] not literally what was in my original images, it [i.e., the original design] shows a robustness and a new kind of idea about a master plan . . . It's the reverse of the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin, which is just a bunch of architects following exactly what was on paper . . . the superficial has changed not the principles. . . This is the art of making a master plan rather than an 18 th century plan that is obediently followed. We're not living in Haussmann's Paris. We have a pluralistic society . . . I'm not [even] the architect of [Freedom] Tower [after the collaboration with David Childs] (cited in Lubell et al, 2004).

Architectural style does not really matter in the design of cities, the urban character does. No doubt this position will be open to debate (see Chapter 11).

The mechanism to achieve a sense of unity is primarily the Gestalt law of similarity although the other Gestalt laws of visual organization can also be applied (see Lang, 1987). In urban design similarity has generally been assumed to be a matter of style. It has, however, been suggested that instead of a 'skin-deep' stylistic unity that there should be a 'critical reinterpretation' of the 'underlying system' of unity in each building (Mitchell, 2003). The trouble is that unless this is explained to observers, the unity is not seen. There is, however, a unity in chaos too!

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

Homeowners Guide To Landscaping

How would you like to save a ton of money and increase the value of your home by as much as thirty percent! If your homes landscape is designed properly it will be a source of enjoyment for your entire family, it will enhance your community and add to the resale value of your property. Landscape design involves much more than placing trees, shrubs and other plants on the property. It is an art which deals with conscious arrangement or organization of outdoor space for human satisfaction and enjoyment.

Get My Free Ebook

Post a comment