Our recent Urban Design Professional Practice Network discovery survey sheds light on elements necessary for successful urban design and definitions that best represent our members’ views of urban design as a profession. Our total PPN membership is almost 1,800, and we had 125 respondents, representing 7% of members. As an informal survey, it gives us insight into how our members view urban design. This now offers us a tool as we begin to look to the future of our PPN, finding ways to maximize the collective creativity and knowledge we have within our ranks.
The first question asked willing participants to rate a list of pre-selected design elements based on importance in the successful design of urban places. No definitions were provided for each of these elements; participants were left to define, and ultimately rate, each element on their own.
Over the next several months, I would like to explore these elements and the many characteristics they include. For instance, connectivity topics may include people, vehicles, transit, flora and fauna; social equity: equal opportunities and obligations, but also equity of available basic goods and services; placemaking: for me, this is the easiest to express, but one that is more difficult to consciously define. I look forward to engaged discussions focused on all the elements, and hearing your perspectives in the coming months.
The second portion of the survey focused on the definition of urban design as a profession. Participants were given nine (9) definitions that are readily available online and were asked to rate them based on relevance.
This question required a bit more consideration and comparison between the different choices. The definition that scored highest, coincidently or fortuitously, includes many of the highest rated urban design elements. The three highest-rated definitions are listed below, and all nine will be posted on the Urban Design PPN LinkedIn page for further review.
Q4 – Urban design is about making connections between people and places, movement and urban form, nature and the built fabric. Urban design draws together the many strands of placemaking, environmental stewardship, social equity and economic viability into the creation of places with distinct beauty and identity.
Q7 – Urban design demands a good understanding of a wide range of subjects from physical geography to social science and a general knowledge of disciplines such as real estate development, urban economics, political economy and social theory.
Q2 – Urban design involves the arrangement and design of buildings, public spaces, transport systems, services, and amenities. Urban design is the process of giving form, shape, and character to groups of buildings, to whole neighborhoods, and the city.
As noted above regarding the design elements, I look forward to an engaged discussion about how we consider these definitions and reflect on the collaborative insight we as landscape architects can bring to this specialized area of practice, continuing to be seen as leaders in the practice of urban design and planning.
The Urban Design PPN survey results were presented during the PPN meeting at the 2017 ASLA Annual Meeting and EXPO. The full presentation by Keith Billick, PPN Chair, and PPN members Ken McCown, ASLA, and Peter Salamon, Associate ASLA, is now available on the Urban Design Professional Practice Network’s Resources page.
by Keith Billick, ASLA, Urban Design Professional Practice Network Chair