strategic urban design

Strategic urban design is a creative, collective process of re-imagining a functional urban region. It involves debating, refining and agreeing the urban region’s identity and its story of change. Strategic urban design facilitates and guides collective decision making by establishing a relational cross-boundary framework.

Some of the characteristics of strategic urban design are that it articulates a story of change, it is results orientated, it presents connections and opportunities and it works across a range of spatial forms and time horizons. Like the concept of place, it is scalable and works across a range of geographical areas, marrying specific place potential with generic targets and highlighting infrastructural opportunities.

This a description from the University of Greenwich Urban Renaissance Institute Final Report.

CABE also recognised the role of strategic urban design and its focus on the activity of design, evidence based links to analysis and evaluation, the synthesis of spatially led but socially grounded city creations with the quality of environment linked to economic advantage.

The components of strategic urban design are design thinking, visualising, measurement and learning, managing growth and moderating decline, all through an iterative process that allows for programmes and projects to be reconsidered in the light of changing decisions.

placemaking

The term genius loci usually refers to a location’s distinctive atmosphere, or its spirit of place. The idea that design or action should always be adapted to context is one of the most widely agreed principles of urban design, town-making or landscape architecture.

The clues to successful urban design and regeneration lie in the nature and character of places and – quite often – in their people. Approaches which drop external, un-rooted solutions into a locality without regard for local circumstances usually fail.

We use skills and specialist techniques to draw out this underlying potential and express it as a positive shaping force in urban design solutions and town-making processes.

spatial design strategy

So many developers and practitioners – including some local authorities – view built heritage as a constraint on regeneration or development. The belief is that it holds back change and cannot ‘pay its way’. We consider most heritage – whether built or natural, in the forms of streets, parks – to be a real or potential asset, which needs investment and time to mature and release long term value for its community.

Heritage is more than just bricks and mortar. It often encapsulates the spirit of a place, the layers of meaning and identity wrought by successive generations of human habitation. It is also embodied energy and disposing of it in a thoughtless manner for short term gain is ultimately a negative approach.

design guidance

Our work has given us a broad perspective on recent initiatives in new residential design and implementation through design briefing, design guidance and design coding. Each is different and each has seen varying degrees of success.

The reality of so much commercial development – whether for housing or other uses – is that developers seek to extract the maximum value at the earliest possible stage, without recognising that a greater value can be created by establishing a strong identity and quality over time.

To create a strong sense of place that is more than just a collection of individual buildings, it is necessary to orchestrate the elements within some constraining parameters which reinforce each other, creating strong place-identity. Ideally, this should be drawn from context. This does not mean religiously replicating an assembly of traditional buildings, internal layouts, or external materials. Rather it means understanding, appreciating and drawing from the positive aspects local areas and building these into something contemporary.

Attractive, desirable quality places – which are socially inclusive, rather than exclusive – are the key to fostering successful areas in the long term and design guidance can help to achieve this, for example through:

  • the opportunity to create a special places through careful orientation and attention to the landscape setting
  • asserting a distinctiveness and strong identity
  • determining the spatial structure of streets and buildings
  • optimising community benefits and viability if possible
  • flexibility and evolution in the approach

We have considerable academic and practical experience of using the various forms of guidance to achieve the best results in different circumstances. This is demonstrated in our work on Supplementary Planning Guidance for Scottish Borders Council, in the Twechar Design Guide for the Twechar Regeneration Group and East Dunbartonshire Council as well as for Orkney Islands Council and Glasgow City Council.

research

old map of tripoli

We carry out research into aspects of urban design for a range of clients. We have particular experience of mapping the historical development of towns and cities in the UK and presenting these as animations. We have also sourced exemplars and mapped trends in urban development for proposals for new towns in the Middle East.

We also produce assessments of the effects (or not) of regeneration initiatives particularly in relation to physical or environmental projects. We have undertaken research for RUDI (Resources for Urban Design Information)

training

Inverness City Vision Training

Training is central to our activities – keeping ourselves in touch with best practice and successful place-making throughout Europe and America is the first part – passing on this information to others is the second part. We develop CPD (continuous professional development) modules within our network of consultants and pass these on to others.

We take a holistic view of training preferring to blur boundaries between historic professions in order to achieve greater success. We have trained communities in the basics of urban design and in design guidance. We can provide training for professionals, elected members and for communities.