The Value of Urban Design aims to establish whether there is a persuasive case for urban design - the design of the buildings, places, spaces and networks (both public and private) that make up our towns and cities, and the ways people use them.
Is there value to be gained through good urban design? What kinds of value does it offer, and how can New Zealand's towns and cities benefit? The Value of Urban Design seeks to answer these questions by:
The Value of Urban Design has been commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment (the Ministry), with the Wellington City Council and the Auckland Regional Council. It is one of several documents that support the Ministry's New Zealand Urban Design Protocol (March 2005).
It is intended to assist both the public and private sectors. Public agencies will find it helpful in formulating policy, setting development objectives and evaluating projects that affect the urban environment. It will also assist developers and property investors to gain an understanding of the less tangible costs and benefits of the urban developments they initiate.
Urban design involves many people including practitioners (architects, engineers, planners, landscape architects and many more), local and central government agencies, property developers and investors, community groups and the public. They have varying interests, perspectives and criteria by which they assess the merits of urban design activity.
Furthermore, many kinds of 'value' can be considered - economic, environmental, social or cultural; tangible or intangible. The benefits (and costs) of good urban design often accrue to the wider community; therefore, many stakeholders have an interest in what takes place at both the micro scale (street and building design) and the macro scale (eg, patterns of land use).
Urban design remains an art as much as a science, involving concepts that are sometimes elusive, such as character. It involves both public urban space and parts of the private domain, and concerns the urban environment at a range of scales. Urban design is also context-specific. There is relatively little robust evidence about New Zealand urban design initiatives. Overseas examples of successful (or poor) urban design initiatives may reflect conditions that do not exist in New Zealand. Caution has been exercised in drawing conclusions for New Zealand solely on the basis of overseas evidence.
Taking into account these constraints and based on the extensive evidence consulted, The Value of Urban Design reaches the following broad conclusions about the benefits urban design might offer in the New Zealand context:
In reaching these broad conclusions, The Value of Urban Design examined evidence relating to eight core elements of urban design. These elements - and the key economic, social and environmental findings for each - are summarised below.
Definition: the distinctive identity of a particular place that results from the interaction of many factors, including built form, people, activity and history.
Key findings: Urban design that respects and supports local character can:
Definition: the physical conditions facilitating access within a region, city, town or neighbourhood.
Key findings: Well-connected cities, towns and neighbourhoods can:
Definition: the concentration of population and activity in an urban area.
Key findings: Urban design that promotes a higher density of buildings and public spaces (in conjunction with other conditions, such as mixed use, good building design and adequate open space) can:
Definition: where a variety of different living and working activities are in close proximity within a neighbourhood.
Key findings: Urban design that supports mixed-use neighbourhoods (in conjunction with other factors including connectivity and a relatively high intensity of different uses) can:
Definition: the capacity of urban buildings, neighbourhoods and spaces to adapt to changing needs.
Key findings: Urban design that addresses adaptability can:
Definition: all parts of the physical environment of towns and cities that the public has access to, and that form the setting for community and public life.
Key findings: An urban design approach that emphasises quality in the public realm can:
Definition: integration between and within organisations involved in urban policy, planning and implementation, as well as integration of the different urban design elements.
Key findings: An integrated approach to decision-making can:
Definition: the public consultation process, and other forms of involvement in urban design projects, such as surveys or design workshops.
Key findings: User participation in urban design activity can: