ATLAS Guide
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T2: Achieving Quality in Urban Design

DesignUrban design is the art of creating quality places for people. Since its creation ATLAS has promoted the idea that creating quality places is critical to achieving successful growth. In our view consistently promoting the highest practicable standards of urban design will not only help towns to consolidate and improve the quality of their built environments, it will also help them over time to attract discerning investors and improve their prosperity.

Urban design is concerned with all the ways in which places are experienced by the people who live and work in them. It is therefore concerned with all aspects of development form including: layout; landscape; density and mix of uses; scale and appearance. By Design (see below) provides a fuller definition of each of these aspects, as well as explaining how they relate to the objectives of urban design. Of central importance are the ways in which proposed new places respond to their contexts. Hence urban design aims to ensure that the overall form, character and function of new developments are appropriate for their contexts and for their role within the town or city in question.

Urban design is concerned with much more than the physical characteristics of places, hugely important though they are. It is also concerned with how well places work and how much they contribute to improving quality of life. In the round urban design is concerned with how well places perform socially, economically and environmentally.

As a consequence urban design is critical to securing the Government’s objectives for sustainable development. By insisting upon the highest practicable standards of urban design the planning system can promote and facilitate the sustainable patterns of urban development required by the NPPF, which states that “The Government attaches great importance to the design of the built environment. Good design is a key aspect of sustainable development....” (NPPF para 56).

More detailed explanations of urban design can be found in a number of sources but ATLAS considers that its essence is succinctly captured within the Urban Design Compendium, which explains that “Urban design is about creating a vision for an area and deploying the skills and resources to realise that vision”.

For ATLAS scale projects master planning is a key part of the urban design process. Our towns and cities explained how “Master plans are about setting out a vision for an area undergoing change and a strategy for implementing that vision. They are about taking the initiative in terms of design, layout, houses, jobs and services… Critically, they must show local people what an area might look like in the future.”

This topic paper begins to explore some key aspects of urban design that are of particular relevance to large scale projects.

Last Updated on Wednesday 28/03/2012 - 02:30PM

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