Urban Design

illustration by Paul HoffmanThese articles and postings look at different ways in which design and our visual environment can shape the character of our cities and towns.

Available to Order & Download — Our Reprint Collection: Design & Aesthetics (19 articles)

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Housing is located a block away from Saratoga Springs' main street

Downtown Housing -Minus Parking +Plus Commercial

The residents and business owners of Saratoga Springs, New York, treasure their downtown. Two planning priorities: increase the amount of housing downtown and ensure retail on the ground floor of buildings.

Pattern Books: A Planning Tool

Pattern Books: A Planning Tool

“Pattern books” filled with historical and architectural data and guidelines can help cities and towns protect and enhance their identity. The push to create them often comes after a community creates a special redevelopment district, or witnesses buildings that seem out of place.

D is for Design

D is for Design

Urban designers established the foundations of American community and regional planning in the second half of the 19th century, and early 20th century. Their visions of a more ideal America kindled efforts that were realized in the community comprehensive plan and in other ways.

cartoon image of a hurdler

Downtown Hurdles

It should be no harder to develop downtown than elsewhere. Yet, as PCJ columnist Kennedy Smith argues, too many regulatory hurdles often face downtown development.

Typical commercial strip roadway corridor

Controlling Strip Development

One of the most common problems facing planners is how to deal with commercial strip development along major road corridors. Some approaches communities can consider to better deal with strip development.

sidewalk paving detail from Barcelona. photo by Wayne Senville

An Introduction to Urban Design

What do you see when you walk down the main street of your city? Are the buildings and public spaces interesting to look at? Do you feel comfortable and secure? In this well-illustrated 7 page article, planner and landscape architect Ilene Watson provides an introduction to urban design..

Giles County, Virginia, Courthouse

Public Buildings Should Set the Standard

Until the last half of the 20th century, key public buildings were almost always designed and built to be focal points of their communities. Unfortunately, in recent decades the trend has been to build cheaply in peripheral locations.

photo from Ilene Watson article on design guidelines

An Introduction to Design Guidelines

A growing number of cities and towns are using design guidelines to help preserve or reinforce the distinctive architectural character of certain areas or districts. Planner Ilene Watson explains what design guidelines are and how they can be used.