Commentary

The knowledge of case studies is important. While every situation faced by an urban designer is unique, many generic problems are addressed. The typology presented here demonstrates commonalities both in product and process types. Architects and other design professionals rely heavily on precedents, much more heavily than they do on abstract theoretical constructs of how the world functions. Every now and then a new paradigm is unveiled. The most recent in urban design is that of the New Urbanism, or Smart Growth, with its transect design paradigm (Ellis, 2002). The fundamental issues in urban design, however, remain remarkably the same. How we address them will differ over time and will depend on what we learn from experience, our own and from that of others.

The issues raised in this chapter are recurring ones. They have engaged the attention of city planners and urban designers, in particular amongst design professionals, over the span of time covered in this book. They will do so in the future. New concerns will certainly arise. Some will have stamina; others will be ephemeral. The consideration of what the nature of the public interest is, the way of defining it and designing based on that definition, will remain central to the work of urban designers in democratic countries.

Design professionals have many roles. One is certainly the public role of bringing the attention of both politicians and the lay-public to the opportunities for improving the built environment of cities. It is an activist role. There are architects and landscape architects vitally concerned with the future state of our planet who are strong advocates for designing 'with nature in mind'. There are those who are concerned with problems of particular population groups, particularly those whose voices are seldom heard in thinking about designs. They enrich the debate about what should be done about the public realm of cities. Ultimately, however, urban design is an act of will on the part of developers, public and private, and what a society encourages and allows them to do. Political fortunes and what the market dictates or allows will guide their actions. Urban design will continue to support and intervene in the operation of both the 'capital web' of investment decisions and the 'invisible web' of legal decisions that shape urban development. The design professions have much to offer in designing and redesigning cities and their precincts provided they understand the ways in which both these webs function. And provided they learn from past experience.

Afterthoughts: Urban design - field or discipline and profession?

Although it is difficult to reconstruct with precision the urban design history of the past 50 years, those who first used the term 'urban design' were concerned with large-scale multi-building architectural projects. These projects were necessitated in Europe by the devastation of World War II and in the United States by the changes taking places in cities as a result of new technologies, increased wealth, and changing ways of life and social values. Decolonization in Asia and much of Africa sparked new town and housing projects. Urban design was thought of as architecture particularly in Europe. Little distinction was made between city planning and architecture. The problem was that many politicians and architects alike saw the nature of cities and city life within an intellectual framework far removed from everyday life. Well-intentioned though much architectural thinking may have been, many of the projects simply did not work out well when built and inhabited and so were heavily criticized. In response the fields of architecture and city planning went in different directions.

The mainstream of architectural thought sought solace from the criticism of scholars, practitioners and critics such as Jane Jacobs (1961), Marshall Kaplan (1973), Peter Blake (1977) and Brent Brolin (1976) in the development of postmodern theories of aesthetics. City planners, particularly those in academia, turned their attention to the social and economic problems of cities that they considered more important. Luckily, a cadre of architects and planners and, on any extensive scale only much more recently, landscape architects, retained an interest in the qualities of the physical environment of cities. They focused their attention on how design can enhance or diminish the opportunities for people to achieve the positive aspects of what they are motivated to achieve.

This book has been about the efforts of these design professionals and many lay-people to improve the quality of cities in more than a piecemeal manner. True, some such efforts for and with people, young and old, rich and poor, and of different cultural backgrounds have achieved very little in providing the affor-dances that would help them fulfil their aspirations. At the same time, other such efforts have been highly successful particularly when they have dealt with life as lived. Many social policy and planning efforts have also been highly successful but others have been abject failures. Throughout these ups and downs, well-executed urban designs continued to make important contributions to people's quality of life. They give people enjoyment and a sense of pride and will do so in the future (Dreier et al., 2001). The proviso is that urban design needs to be based more on an empirical rather than a purely rationalist foundation. Rationalist thinking will, however, make us consider future possibilities that are departures from failing traditions.

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.

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