Plug-in urban design refers to the design and implementation of an infrastructure project in order to obtain some catalytic reaction. There are two types of plug-in urban design projects. The first type involves the provision of the infrastructure of, usually, a precinct of a city or suburb, and the selling of sites into which individual developers can plug buildings. The second type involves plugging the infrastructure into an existing urban fabric to enhance its amenity value.
Sometimes the process of building the infrastructure and then the fabric of a city or suburb is heavily controlled. Building uses are specified and design guidelines are created for each developer to follow. In this case, the process is really a variant of all-of-a-piece urban design. In other cases those property developers plugging their projects into the provided infrastructure are free to respond to the marketplace, as they will. The assumption in this case is that the market knows best what is in demand and thus appropriate to build.
The second type of plug-in urban design refers to the situation where elements of infrastructure are plugged into an existing city in the hope of spurring new developments or providing some public amenity. The elements of infrastructure may be links, places or buildings providing for special uses that will, it is hoped, have a catalytic effect on surrounding property development (Attoe and Logan, 1989). The skyway system in Minneapolis began in this way but, as is described in Chapter 10, it has become an integral part of almost any development in that city's centre.
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