Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Urban design

Urban design concerns the arrangement, appearance and functionality of towns and cities, and in particular the shaping and uses of safe public space. It has traditionally been regarded as a disciplinary subset of urban planning, landscape architecture, or architecture and in more recent times has been linked to emergent disciplines such as landscape urbanism. However, with its increasing prominence in the activities of these disciplines, it is better conceptualized as a design practice that operates at the intersection of all three, and requires a good understanding of a range of others besides, such as urban economics, political economy and social theory.
Urban design theory deals primarily with the design and management of public space (i.e. the 'public environment', 'public realm' or 'public domain'), and the way public places are experienced and used. Public space includes the totality of spaces used freely on a day-to-day basis by the general public, such as streets, plazas, parks and public infrastructure. Some aspects of privately owned spaces, such as building facades or domestic gardens, also contribute to public space and are therefore also considered by Urban design theory. Important writers on, and advocates for, urban design theory include Christopher Alexander, Michael E. Arth, Edmund Bacon, Peter Calthorpe, Gordon Cullen, Andres Duany, Jane Jacobs, Jan Gehl, Kevin Lynch, Roger Montgomery, Aldo Rossi, Colin Rowe, Robert Venturi, William H. Whyte, Bill Hillier, and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk.
While the two fields are closely related, 'urban design' differs from 'urban planning' in its focus on physical improvement of the public environment, whereas the latter tends, in practice, to focus on the management of private development through planning schemes and other statutory development controls.
Public spaces are frequently subject to overlapping management responsibilities of multiple public agencies or authorities and the interests of nearby property owners, as well as the requirements of multiple and sometimes competing users. The design, construction and management of public spaces therefore typically demands consultation and negotiation across a variety of spheres. Urban designers rarely have the degree of artistic liberty or control sometimes offered in design professions such as architecture. It also typically requires interdisciplinary input with balanced representation of multiple fields including engineering, ecology, local history, and transport planning.
Much urban design work is undertaken by urban planners, landscape architects and architects but there are professionals who identify themselves specifically as urban designers. Many architecture, landscape and planning programs incorporate urban design theory and design subjects into their curricula and there are an increasing number of university programs offering degrees in urban design, usually at post-graduate level.
Urban design considers:
  • Urban structure – How a place is put together and how its parts relate to each other
  • Urban typology, density and sustainability - spatial types and morphologies related to intensity of use, consumption of resources and production and maintenance of viable communities
  • Accessibility – Providing for ease, safety and choice when moving to and through places
  • Legibility and wayfinding – Helping people to find their way around and understand how a place works
  • Animation – Designing places to stimulate public activity
  • Function and fit – Shaping places to support their varied intended uses
  • Complementary mixed uses – Locating activities to allow constructive interaction between them
  • Character and meaning – Recognizing and valuing the differences between one place and another
  • Order and incident – Balancing consistency and variety in the urban environment in the interests of appreciating both
  • Continuity and change – Locating people in time and place, including respect for heritage and support for contemporary culture
  • Civil society – Making places where people are free to encounter each other as civic equals, an important component in building social capital
Click here for more reading on Urban Design: Urban Design by Alex Krieger and William S. Saunders.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Landscape Architecture

Landscape architecture deals with the design of outdoor as well as public spaces to achieve environmental, aesthetic, and behavioral outcomes. Landscape Architecture takes into consideration the social, ecological, and geological conditions of a space and then carefully accentuates or manipulates the space into a design that causes a desired outcome with those in or around the space. The scope of the profession includes urban design, site planning, City or urban planning, environmental restoration, parks and recreation planning; green infrastructure planning and provision, all at varying scales of design, planning and management. A practitioner in the field of landscape architecture is called a landscape architect.

What Landscape architects do? (Source:

Landscape architecture encompasses the analysis, design, management, planning, and stewardship of the natural and built environments. Types of projects include:
  • Academic campuses
  • Conservation
  • Corporate and commercial
  • Gardens and arboreta
  • Historic preservation and restoration
  • Hospitality and resorts
  • Institutional
  • Interior landscapes
  • Land planning
  • Landscape art and earth sculpture
  • Monuments
  • Parks and recreation
  • Reclamation
  • Residential
  • Security design
  • Streetscapes and public spaces
  • Therapeutic gardens
  • Transportation corridors and facilities
  • Urban design
  • Water resources.
Landscape architects have advanced education and professional training and are licensed in Landscape Architecture in 49 states of the 50 states.

For an extensive history on Landscape Architecture and its cultural and architectural background: Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History by Elizabeth Barlow Rogers.

Friday, December 4, 2009


Sustainability, in a broad sense, is the capacity to endure. It can be defined in biological terms as the ability of an ecosystem to maintain ecological processes, functions, biodiversity and productivity into the future.

With that being said; “nearly 80 percent of U.S. residents live in urban environments and such areas are continuing to grow. How and where urban development occurs can affect ecosystem quality and services, habitat protection, water resources, energy consumption, and indoor and outdoor air quality.”

The U.S. National Environmental Policy Act of 1969 declared as its goal a national policy to "create and maintain conditions under which [humans] and nature can exist in productive harmony, and fulfill the social, economic and other requirements of present and future generations of Americans."

Sustainability is being pushed so we can develop ways to reduce use of natural resources and improve indoor environments while reducing emissions from buildings of greenhouse gases and other harmful pollutants.

One of the leaders in this movement is the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). They have developed programs and resources for helping states and local communities promote urban sustainability by supporting smart growth projects, green building and infrastructure design, energy efficiency in homes and commercial buildings, and development of sustainability metrics for urban development.

Many companies are now pursuing the goal of sustainability realizing that protecting the environment makes good business sense. Many EPA programs have anticipated and contributed to advancing sustainability concepts, some of the most prominent of these programs are: EnergyStar and WaterSense.

There are many different ways in we each of us can contribute to living a more sustainable lifestyle. Here are some EPA sites with suggestions and tips on how you can contribute to sustainability in your roles as a consumer and citizen, and as a steward of the environment:
For more information about how you can help make a sustainable community: Toward Sustainable Communities: Resources for Citizens and Their Governments by Mark Roseland.

Sustainability News

Check back for more news later


I just wanted to take a moment to send a personal message out to all those in the fields of Landscape Architecture, Gardening, Horticulture, and Urban Planning/Urban Ecology. I created Landscape Connections for the purpose to share my love and passion for Landscape Architecture and Design, and Urban Ecology. I was a Landscape Architecture Major at Utah State University and currently study Urban Ecology at the University of Utah. I am working to compile as much information in the four previously mentioned fields as possible. If you have any further information, or would like to either add information or see information posted to landscape connections please let me know.