Urban Design A Discipline

The hallmark of a discipline is a body of unique literature, journals and its own processes of socializing new members into its ranks - into its norms of behaviour. The question then arises: 'How large does a unique body of knowledge and how exclusive do its norms of behaviour have to be for a sphere of activity to be regarded as an independent, if not exclusively so, discipline?' What evidence do we have?

Most of the items listed in the 'References and further reading' fall within the domain of a variety of existing disciplines. The list also includes part of an increasing number of books devoted to urban design. There are now a number of intellectually challenging journals, relatively young, devoted to urban design. Some have 'urban design' in their names, but the leading North American journal on urban design is called Planning because it also includes material on social and economic concerns, land-use planning as well as urban design! Europe has many journals dealing with 'urbanism' that cover urban design concerns. At the same time the number of journals devoted to urban design is considerably outnumbered by journals in the traditional design fields that include articles on urban design projects. True, many of these journals cover projects superficially and purely from their own professional viewpoint but they do bring attention to urban design projects being developed around the world.

The next question is: 'How are professionals inculcated with the norms of professional action and behaviour?' There are a few institutes and professional societies devoted to urban design but anybody can join them. The Urban Design Group in the United Kingdom is a loosely knit coterie of people with a common interest. It has regular meetings, organizes lectures and has its own journal. There is an Institute for Urban Design in the United States based and functioning mainly in New York, and similar loose groups of like-minded professionals around the world. The Congress for the New Urbanism is a powerful professional and lobbying group in the United States but with a worldwide membership and following. It has a manifesto, holds conferences and advocates 'smart growth'. It promotes its aspirations and values to professionals, public officials and lay-people. No legal bodies comparable to boards of architecture, however, control admission to a 'profession' of urban design.

'Urban designer' is not a protected title in the way 'architect' is (although in many places this legal protection is under review as other groups claim expertise in designing buildings). Most professional design societies have sections devoted to urban design, in much the same way that psychological societies have a section devoted to the study of environmental psychology. Urban design is professional work. It will be individual professionals and the educational institutions that guide the development of the field and, perhaps, the discipline of urban design.

Almost all, if not all, substantial urban design education is offered beyond undergraduate level. Until recently most such urban design programs required training in architecture for admission. This demand has changed as the skills required of urban designers have become more clearly defined. The prevailing belief amongst designers is still, however, that no special training or knowledge beyond that offered within the traditional design fields is necessary to be able to create good urban designs. The position is that if one is a well-trained city planner, a landscape architect or architect one can carry out urban design activities without any additional knowledge - that if one can design a building well, one can design a spoon or a city well (Vignelli Associates, 1990). It is a dubious claim.

Many observers (e.g. Schurch, 1999) see urban design as lying at the intersect of the interests of the three main professions concerned with the layout of the environment - architecture, landscape architecture and city planning, to which I have added civil engineering as shown in Figure 12.1a. This position reinforces that taken here. From the observations I have made above, however, my inference is that urban design while overlapping these fields has developed its own area of expertise. Its relationship to the traditional design fields now looks more like in Figure 12.1b. It has become what it should never have become - a discipline in its own right. In doing so, however, it allows the other three fields to pursue their own interests without worrying about the complex issues of urban development and urban quality beyond their traditional concerns.

Rightly or wrongly, urban design is increasingly taking on the form of a discipline. Like many other disciplines, such as those under the umbrellas of medicine or the social sciences, it is occurring where its interests intersect those of traditional fields. It draws on and helps to create urban geography, engineering, environmental psychology, climatology and the management sciences. No single person can encompass all this knowledge and bring it to bear on decision-making

Figure 12.1 The traditional view (a) and the present state, (b) of the field of urban design in relation to the other design fields.

Figure 12.1 The traditional view (a) and the present state, (b) of the field of urban design in relation to the other design fields.

and designing. In whatever way urban design may or may not develop as a discipline, in action it will remain a collaborative task.

It will draw on the expertise of the three traditional design fields but it differs from them in that it has become more development oriented, more socially oriented and more conscious of the politically volatile nature of decision-making at the urban level. Professionals with a committed interest in urban design are, because no one else is doing it, slowly developing their own empirical knowledge base, their own organizations and their own journals. This book has focused on their professional efforts and has sought to outline, for the moment at least, the scope of concern of those who have made a commitment to urban design as one vehicle for improving city life as it evolves.

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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