Urbanwords: the website of The Dictionary of Urbanism



Browse the additional and amended entries by initial letter:



Abbey of Thélème An ideal city conceived by François Rabelais (c1495-1553) and described in his Gargantua and Pantagruel, published in 1532.
abidance Abiding by (or conforming to) a code (an urban design code, for example).
accurate visual representation (AVR) A picture showing a proposed building or structure alongside what already exists, for use in evaluating a development proposal. Types of AVR include - Esther Kurland explains - a visibility study (a simple depiction of the shape of a proposal shown on digital photographs), approximate photomontage (a rendered computer model of a proposed building or structure combined with a photograph of its surroundings), accurate silhouette (an accurate description of the position, shape and size of a proposal, shown on a high-resolution photograph), accurate photomontage (an accurate depiction of the position, shape and size of a proposal but with selected architectural details shown on a high-resolution photograph), and accurate photo-reality (an accurate depiction of the position, size, shape and external appearance of a development proposal).
acoustic ecology (also called soundscape ecology) The study of how sound expresses relationships between people and places. R Murray Schafer pioneered such studies in Vancouver in the late 1960s.
acropolis The symbolic centre of a Greek city, where its most important civic and sacred buildings were located. The best known is in Athens.
active community Defined by the Department of Communities and Local Government in the 2000s as one ‘in which citizens are empowered to lead self-determined, fulfilled lives, and in which everyone regardless of age, race or social background has a sense of belonging and a stake in society’.
actus (Latin) A road wide enough for a pack animal (Laurence, 1999). Compare iter, semita and via.
ad valorem tax Set according to the value of a property.
address v. 1 To be designed to relate to. A building is sometimes described as having been designed to 'address' adjacent buildings, meaning that it reflects the form of its neighbours in some way. 2 To face. Example: 'The buildings have been reoriented to address the open space'. Both (closely-related) meanings of the word are used mainly by architects. See also respond.
administration block See jenkins' law.
advanced stop line Enables cyclists to position themselves ahead of the traffic during a traffic light's red phase.
after-sprawl A form of development that might otherwise be called sprawl or suburban sprawl. It has been used by the Belgian architect Xaveer de Geyter and others to avoid defining the urban form in terms of not being the 'centre' part of what they see as the obsolete centre-and-periphery dichotomy (Nielsen, Albertsen and Hemmersam, 2004).
agora-feature An urban space that gives a sense of openness.
airport city Schipol, Amsterdam's airport in the Netherlands.
Alice, The Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia. Originally named Stuart, Alice Springs was renamed in 1933. The springs were named after the wife of a superintendent of telegraphs, the town having been founded in the 1870s as a staging point for the overland telegraph line. The Aboriginal community knows the place as Mparntwe.
Almere A new town in the Netherlands begun in the late 1960s on reclaimed land east of Amsterdam. Steve Rose (2004) reports that 'a Dutch politician was recently described by his opponent as "100 per cent Almere", implying that he was small-minded, petty and provincial'.
almo An arm's length management organisation - one that manages a council's former stock of council housing at arm's length from the council.
Alweg design A type of monorail developed by the Alweg company.
amenity open space That which is not intended for any specific recreation or leisure uses.
annexation (US) 1 A town or city extension. 2 The act of extending the boundaries of a town or city by adding land from adjoining, unincorporated territory.
anti-social behaviour order (ASBO) (UK) An injunction served by the police or a council on a person over 10 years old causing harassment, alarm or distress to a household or a neighbourhood. In 2004 Camden Council in north London took the unusual step of serving an ASBO on the chief executives of music giants Sony and BMG, whose posters had been flyposted over the borough. See also hoodie.
anyplace (US) The UK equivalent is anywhere.
anywhere (UK) The US equivalent is anyplace.
Arcadia 1 An ideal rustic setting. A plan for the landscape of the River Thames in London between Teddington and Kew was published in 2003 with the title Arcadia in the City. Arcadia, a mountainous district in the Peloponnese, was celebrated in Ancient Greece as a region where people led a simple pastoral life, and enjoyed music and dancing. The Roman poet Virgil wrote of Arcadia in his Eclogues. Tom Stoppard's play Arcadia concerns mathematics, chaos theory and nineteenth-century theories of landscape design. 2 A small town in Wisconsin, founded as a farming community in 1855. See also city of arcadia.
architecture of reassurance Buildings and places designed and managed to give the impression of being comfortingly familiar, clean, friendly and safe.
architrash Buildings of absolutely no merit.
around the way (US) From the neighbourhood.
aspirational Being something that people aspire to. Example: ‘We need to create distinctive places where people feel they belong – places that are aspirational, but also inclusive’ (2005).
astroturf organisation One that poses as a grassroots body but is really a front organisation pursuing the narrow interests of a political party or tendency, or a sector of industry. While it may invite subscriptions from individuals, the funding is likely to depend on dominant business or political interests without whose contributions the group would soon wither. Such organisations exploit the ignorance of media outlets that are eager for cheap news but have relatively weak skills in checking the credentials of those who issue press releases. AstroTurf is the trade name for a brand of artificial grass.
at sixes and sevens In disorder. The phrase is often said to have arisen from a long-running dispute about the order of precedence for the City of London's Livery Companies. This was finally settled in 1515 by agreeing that the Merchant Taylors and the Skinners would take sixth or seventh place in alternate years, which they have done ever since. Michael Quinion (2004) convincingly disputes this etymology, referring to a citation from Chaucer to show that the phrase was already well established in the fourteenth century. He suggests that it almost certainly derives from the technical terminology of hazard, a dice game that was popular in late medieval times.
Athens of Germany Weimar, where Goethe and Schiller lived.
Athens of Ireland Belfast.
Athens of the New World Boston, Massachusetts.
Athens of the West Cordoba, Andalusia, Spain, so called in the middle ages.
Australian development A quaintly old-fashioned reference to a place of which it can be said that everyone knows where it is, but no one wants to go there.

The detritus of automobiles, including rubber dust created from the wear of tyres, poison gases from tailpipes, oil, antifreeze and other fluids dripping from underneath cars, and roadside mounds of material such as old batteries, tyres and fan belts. The urbanist Stephen Goldsmith coined the term in 2001. He was planning director for Salt Lake City, Utah, working with the mayor to stop a proposed inter-city highway that would bring tens of thousands more cars into the city. ‘The impacts to water and air quality would require the city to process the autoguano, some of which (like rubber dust) is not manageable,’ Goldsmith recalls. ‘The word creates an immediate image for people who otherwise don’t see the beast for what it is. “Autoguano” is particularly illustrative when I speak to people about all the stuff the car brings into their attached garages, as though it were a filthy pet invited into the house. Since most attached garages in the US connect directly to the kitchen, an awareness of the health risks is easy for people to digest when the word is introduced.’

automopolis A city dominated by the motor car. Example: '3,400 die on the roads every year, but both politicians and citizens shruggingly accept this as the price of living in a modern automopolis' (Lawson, 2003).



When I’m working on a problem, I never think about beauty. I think only how to solve the problem. But when I am finished, if the solution is not beautiful, I know it is wrong.
Buckminster Fuller

illustration from the Dictionary of Urbanism