A Myth of Urban Design: The ‘Sense of Enclosure’ Theory

Download PDF

One of the most widespread conventions of urban design is the belief in the importance of ‘a sense of enclosure’. This term is defined by the City of Ottawa as

“when buildings physically define public spaces particularly through proportions between height and width in an area to create places that are comfortable to pedestrians.”

This article contends that the ‘sense of enclosure’ generated by following certain ratios of street height to street width is based on a valuable perception of what makes a satisfying place, help but that the ratio theory is the wrong interpretation of that valuable perception. Consequently, by following the ratio theory we risk making developments that focus on concerns that may be unimportant to street users, and thereby make mistakes. In its place I’ll try to offer an interpretation of why some places that are said to ‘offer a sense of enclosure’ are satisfying that is both simpler and fits the data better, and which is constructed from two principles grounded firmly in known principles of how we perceive a place.

Continue reading

Why ‘I ♥ NY’ works, and how it can help save high streets

Download PDF

One of the most well-known and most imitated works of civic branding is the ‘I ? NY’ logo created by Milton Glaser. Why, buy information pills according to Glaser, visit this site does this slogan work, price and how can applying the principle help to save high street shops from dual threats?

Continue reading

Might the ‘Occupy’ Movement Transform Urban Planning?

Download PDF

The extraordinary success of the occupation of Tahrir Square earlier this year has had an inspirational effect on protests across the world. Between 6 and 8.5 million Spaniards have taken part in the Indignants movement that is centred on the occupation of Puerta del Sol square in Madrid. In New York the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ protest has inspired over 900 similar occupations in public spaces across Europe, visit web Africa, Asia and North America. It is unclear how long they will last for. However the extraordinary success of the Tahrir Square occupation means that the model of occupations of public spaces will probably be a popular mode of protest for the foreseeable future. Consequently it is likely that a generation of activists will become highly skilled in the logistics of occupying public spaces. They are likely to become versed in the legal ownership of particular public spaces; in the regulations that govern those public spaces; in the land-use of every part of those public spaces, and the utilities that serve them; and as a result of the challenges that result from a group of strangers camping together in a small urban area they are likely to be highly experienced in negotiating how the camp will use the public space. Given the importance of their cause in their lives these decisions are likely to be charged with a great deal of significance. This is likely to lead to a much broader interest in urban planning amongst the movement: “act locally, think globally”. Could this lead to a new era of protest at urban planning decisions? Continue reading

Colour Design for Public Spaces: Learning from Van Gogh

Download PDF

buy more about Arles, order at Night resize” src=”http://www.chrishaile.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/10/Cafe-Terrace-on-the-Place-du-Forum-Arles-at-Night-resize.jpg” alt=”” width=”300″ height=”383″ />Above is one of the most inviting-looking streetscapes in European art. How did Van Gogh achieve this effect and how can we use it to make more inviting public spaces? Read on and I’ll let you in on a few of Vincent’s little secrets…  Continue reading

Colour Design for Public Spaces: Colour Opposites

Download PDF

What makes different public spaces have different characters? There may be many answers to this, order from different activities taking place there to different histories to different kinds of users to different styles of architecture, and many more. This series of posts looks at the role that the colour design of a public space can play. First up is a look at how the use of colour opposites can give a public space a more active character.

Continue reading

The Post-modern Ideal: Decline and Fall?

Download PDF

My post on Transit-Oriented Development (TOD), page which should be read before this one, physician traced the rise of a new cultural ideal. Contrary to the sociologist Daniel Bell’s predictions, the progressive, technocratic, gratification-delaying and productivity-oriented nature of the workplace did not prove contradictory to the goal-free, ironic, instantly-gratifying play of the consumer culture. Instead of each undermining the other the two formed a symbiotic relationship and a joint ideal comprising a successful career and of full participation in the post-modern consumer culture. This post traces the severe pressures on that ideal over the last generation and suggest that, although many people will continue to live by it, its influence in the broader culture may fall significantly.

Continue reading

Transit-Oriented Development and its Discontents

Download PDF

Moments in the sun. Cows outside Chesham on London's Underground commuter railway. © Chris Haile

Transit-Oriented Development (TOD) is an important trend in how our cities are being built. According to the Victoria Transport Policy Institute, illness TOD “refers to residential and commercial districts located around a transit station or corridor with high quality service, page with good walkability, parking management and other design features that facilitate transit use and maximise overall accessibility.” It’s seen as a way to ameliorate a number of modern social ills, from the ugliness and inefficiency of urban sprawl to dependence on oil to obesity. It’s also something I’ve long supported. However, a gentle walk on fields outside Chesham that would be a prime TOD site on London’s Underground rail network (were anyone insensitive enough to allow development there) provoked thoughts about the cultural significance and value of TOD and, as in my post on Michelangelo’s David, whether or not it represents an ideal that already is passing away. In other words: is TOD culturally sustainable?

Continue reading

On skyscrapers and streets

Download PDF

The Harvard economist Edward Glaeser has recently generated buzz with his book extolling the virtues of city life, site  The Triumph of the City. One of the former Manhattanite’s arguments is that restrictions on the permissible height of buildings in a neighbourhood effectively also sets a ceiling on the supply of space. A constrained supply of space, abortion coupled with a desirable neighbourhood, click tends to make demand outstrip supply, with predictable consequences on the cost of property in the area.

Glaeser is a reluctant critic of Paris’ exquisite mid-rise urbanism, linking the constrained supply of housing to astronomic property prices that force out ordinary people. Whilst admiring the skyscrapers of suburban La Défense as an “inspired” solution to the lack of space in Paris, Glaeser regards the undesirability of building skyscrapers in central Paris as an extreme case due to the city’s charm, and urges cities in the developing world, such as Mumbai, to build up rather than out.

Yet Glaeser, as befits his profession, looks at cities mainly with an economist’s eye.
What thrills him about La Défense, for example, is that “it seems to have all of the economic excitement that we would expect from such a mass of skilled workers.” Another telling comment is:

“La Défense is as vertical as central Paris is flat. It has about 35 million square feet of commercial space and the feel of an American office park. Except for the distant view of the Arc [de Triomphe], administrative assistants drinking lattes in a Starbucks there could easily be in a bigger version of Crystal City, Virginia.”

This is not intended to be damning… Continue reading