Urban Design

Can Your City Change Your Mind?

November 16, 2016
The design of our spaces can heal us, hurt us, and alter the way we think.

There’s a significant chance that the room you’re in right now is controlling your mind. The room—if you’re like most North Americans, who’ve been found to spend roughly 90 percent of their time indoors, you’re probably in one—is exerting both strong and subtle influences on the way your brain functions. It may be making you anxious, or sad, or distracted, or highly efficient, or inexplicably tired, affecting not only your cognitive abilities and mental processes, but your emotional state, mental stability, and physical well-being.

Specifically Speaking

March 30, 2010
California's general plans get more prescriptive

In California, general plans define where growth should happen and what types of land use should be permitted in cities. But despite the “general” in their name, the plans are assuming an increasing amount of prescriptive detail, especially in terms of urban design. Cities like Los Angeles, Long Beach, Santa Monica, and Sacramento are taking their general plans along a design-heavy path, well beyond the traditional zoning and land use–based requirements.

Improving On The Ambiguity of Privately Owned Public Spaces

February 12, 2009
Cities are filled with spaces intended for the public -- but many of them are clearly owned and operated by the private sector. Though cities bend rules to get these spaces built, the public benefit is often outweighed by the cost. The challenge now is to make them better.

The difference between what is public and what is private is usually pretty clear. A city park is available to everyone. Your neighbor's living room is not. But the line dividing public and private can blur, and when it does, spaces get ambiguous, and questions arise. Who can use them? What are they for? Who's in charge of them?

To Re-Imagine Cities, Re-Imagine Urban Design

November 13, 2008
Oil is running out and the climate is changing. How this impacts cities will largely be determined by how the urban design field reacts.

By name, the field of urban design is only about 50 years old. It was born at the 1958 "Conference on Urban Design Criticism" held at the University of Pennsylvania, attended by such legendary urban thinkers as Jane Jacobs, Kevin Lynch, Lewis Mumford, Ian McHarg and Louis Khan – each before publishing the seminal works that cemented their places in the history of urban planning practice and theory. They gathered together to discuss a new vision for American cities, one in response to the wide-scale urban renewal focus that was destroying communities across the country.

The Importance of City Management

November 7, 2008
When addressing urban problems and climate change impacts, some officials say city management may be even more important than city design, which is interesting to hear at a conference about urban design.

This isn’t something you’d expect to hear from a group of urban designers, but the message is important. Unless there is a framework for redefining city form, any significant progress is unlikely to happen.

PlaNYC, New York City’s sustainability plan, is one example. With a clear and segmented shopping list of goals and programs, PlaNYC takes a very exacted approach to defining how the city should go about becoming sustainable...