Urbanwords: the website of The Dictionary of Urbanism



Browse the additional and amended entries by initial letter:



Samuel Lewis Housing Trust A charitable trust set up in 1901 to provide housing for the poor, with funds bequeathed by the financier Samuel Lewis. The trust completed its first properties in 1910 in Islington, London. It continued to develop and manage rented properties, becoming one of the largest providers of rented accommodation in south east England. In 2001 it became the Southern Housing Group. See also peabody trust.
score 1 The total number of points counted. 2 A set of instructions directing someone to carry out an activity in a particular way. Lawrence Halprin used the term in the 1960s to describe a means of communicating the results of community design exercises.
score (Lowestoft) One of the steep LANES or ALLEYS leading from the High Street of Lowestoft down the sloping cliffs to the beach (originally the site of the Beach Village, the location of the town’s fishing industry and Britain’s most easterly community, since demolished).
second-generation traffic calming An approach to traffic engineering and urban design that breaks down barriers between people and vehicles. One of its advocates, ben hamilton-baillie, notes that traffic engineering and urban design have developed as separate professional disciplines. He points to new ideas and experiments in mainland Europe that since the late 1990s have challenged the traditional separation of social activities and vehicular movement in urban areas. 'These new design principles use legibility and an enhanced sense of place as the cornerstone of traffic engineering,' he writes, 'making a clear distinction between the regulated world of the highway and the culturally defined public realm of social zones.' The new approach to shared space in urban areas combines clear gateways, lower traffic speeds, the use of eye contact with the removal of road markings, signage and the conventional regulations of the state. 'The history of traffic engineering is the effort to rationalize what appeared to be chaos,' Hamilton-Baillie says (Baker, 2004). 'Today, we have a better understanding that chaos can be productive... The more you post the evidence of legislative control, such as traffic signs, the less the driver is trying to use his or her own senses.' david engwicht (2004) comments: 'Second-generation traffic calming accepts that it is impossible to plan changes to people's physical environment without taking into account their "mental topography" (their beliefs, values, mythologies and many "frames of mind").' This includes, Engwicht writes, an understanding of their contradictory desires and values and how they are currently resolving that conflict. 'It also includes an understanding of the "psychology of space" -- how the arrangement of physical space can change a person's mental space and hence what they value at any one point in time. To change physical realities you must integrate planning in three domains: mental, physical and social/cultural.'
section 15 of the Bluff Act An informal agreement between local authority planners and a developer. Example: 'It's a case of using section 15 of the Bluff Act - it works by mutual agreement and crossed fingers'. There is no such thing as the Bluff Act, of course.
self-policing Being safe and free of undesirable behaviour without needing the supervision of the police or other agencies. Example: 'The community's greater sense of ownership of the space increases levels of self-policing and reduces vandalism.'
self-reading street One whose users have to watch other users carefully to judge how they are likely act, rather than being able to depend on hardware such as traffic lights, road signs, street bumps and lane markings. Advocates of self-reading streets claim that such hardware makes road users less aware of (and therefore more dangerous to) each other. See second-generation traffic-calming.
sellscape A townscape created by commercial outlets trying to attract the attention of drivers or other passers-by.
Sert, Josep Lluis (1902-1983) Architect and urban designer. Born in Barcelona, Sert was active in ciam and designed the Spanish Pavilion at the 1937 International Exposition in Paris. He moved to the USA in 1941. From 1941 to 1958 he was a founding partner in Town Planning Associates, and after 1955 of an architectural firm. He had a long-term association with le corbusier. Sert was a professor of city planning at Yale before becoming dean of Harvard's graduate school of design. Holding the Harvard post from 1953 to 1969, he established the first formal professional degree programme in urban design.
skyfarming Growing produce in vertical farms in the form of high-rise buildings.
smart code (US) A state building code that encourages the rehabilitation of older buildings.
smart code A legally binding code in a new urbanist regulating plan, imposed by municipal authorities or through private covenants administered by a developer or a housing association. andres duany describes 'a matched set of documents': a regulating plan, urban standards, thoroughfare standards, architectural standards and landscape standards.
social energy Defined by the New Economics Foundation in 2004 as 'people's
ability and willingness to work together for a common purpose'.
Sohemian A Soho bohemian; a member of the Sohemians, a society dedicated to protecting Soho's character as 'London's most colourful neighbourhood'. Compare bobo and boho.
solum An area of ground covered by a building or structure.
soundscape ecology See ACOUSTIC ECOLOGY.
Span Developments A company (founded by geoffrey townsend) that in the 1950s and '60s built developments of flats or houses, fitted in among existing buildings and trees, designed by the architect Eric Lyons. Early Span brochures promoted the company's philosophy as 'spanning the gap between the suburban monotony of the typical "spec building" and the architecturally designed, individually built residence' (Collins, 2003). Some Span developments have been listed. See new ash green.
speedophile (usually pejorative) A lover of speed. Example: ‘All you speedophiles, share the road and cut your speed.’
stargazer (Australia) A forward planner. See forward planning.
statement of design principles A description of the principles on which a particular design is based. Some local authorities asked applicants for planning permission to submit such statements before the UK government introduced a general requirement for more extensive design statements in 2005. See also planning and design statement.
steaming Moving quickly through an area as a team, robbing and sometimes assaulting people who happen to be there.
Stepford Wives A pejorative term for women who choose to live in physically controlled, model communities such as celebration and poundbury, and are consequently judged to have violated natural instincts. Example: 'New Ash Green in the epitomy of middle-management, 2.4 children, Stepford-Wives, Brookside-on-acid, Daily Mail reading, suburban hell'. The classic film The Stepford Wives, based on Ira Levin's 1972 novel, is set in a fictional suburban community that seems the ideal of the American dream: well-manicured, peaceful, prosperous and happy. It turns out that Stepford's men have had their wives turned into automatons with no purpose but to gratify their husbands. The term was also applied disparagingly to the supposedly ultra-loyal young female intake of Labour MPs at the 1997 UK general election (Quinion, 1998). See also seahaven.
straddle bent An inverted U-shaped structure whose legs straddle a street to support a monorail guideway.
street 1 A public space used as a pedestrian or pedestrian and vehicle route (with pavements or shared surfaces) on to which buildings or public spaces open. Compare road. 2 A public thoroughfare and the houses along it. 3 The surface of a thoroughfare as distinct from the pavement. Example: 'It was so quiet the children played in the street.' 4 The culture and way of life of people who spend much of their time hanging around on the streets. Example: 'In East Harlem you bring up each child for 14 years wondering all the time whether you will win them or the street will win them, but knowing that almost certainly the street will win them' (an East Harlem parent, 1970s). On the street means homeless. On the streets means working as a prostitute. The word on the street is public opinion. The Arab street (for example) is public opinion in the Arab world (compare street arab). The American political activist Abbie Hoffman (1968) wrote: 'The street has always been an interesting symbol in middle-class American life. It was always the place to avoid. There is "violence in the streets", "bad people in the streets" and "danger in the streets", as honkie America moved from inside to inside. It is in the streets that we will make our struggle. The streets belong to the people!' The Glasgow youth worker and church minister (and later convenor of Strathclyde Regional Council) Geoff Shaw was also thinking positively about the streets in the late 1960s. Ron Ferguson (1979) remembers: '[Geoff Shaw] was not interested in "keeping people off the streets". He wanted the streets of the Gorbals to be full of interesting life. His vision for the Gorbals youngsters was that of a "university of the streets", in which young people would learn new skills, excel in sport, become involved in community service, learn to analyse their own situation and solve their own problems, and to experience moments of "unconditional joy".' 5 A way of life, as in civvy street (civilian life), Grub Street (the world of London's literary hacks), easy street (the comfortable life). 6 The focus of danger, menace and excitement in the urban realm as in street crime, streetwise, street language and walking the streets.
The engineers Alan Baxter and Associates identify five functions of a street, as providing for a) Movement b) A conduit for services and utilities c) Access to buildings for people, light and air d) Social life e) Storage (parked cars, and the delivery and collection of goods). The planner David Lock writes: 'The street is the city. Its public buildings are an extension of the street. Everything else - the buildings that frame the street - can come and go to meet the needs of the moment. The wise builder, understanding this, will build a structure that can be adapted every time life changes' (quoted in Campbell and Cowan, 2002). The writer and philosopher TE Hulme (1911), described a street as 'a place for strolling and walking in' (see also bologna). The modernist architect Peter Moro favoured streets when other architects were designing estates of houses and flats in green spaces. His was a distinctly architectural view: 'The street gives you a proper progression of spaces from the public to the inner sanctum,' he explained (Melhuish, 2002). Spiro Kostof (1992) defines the traditional purposes of the street as 'traffic, the exchange of goods, and social exchange and communication'. He suggests that the first conscious street in history may have been one at Khirokitia in Cyprus, dating from the sixth millennium BC. The Old English word street derived from the Latin via strata, meaning a paved road. In an English place name the word street is often evidence that the town or village was on a Roman road, which the Saxons called 'streets'. Staine Street (on Watling Street) is an example. See also chelm and field of wheat.
street nurse One who treats homeless people, prostitutes, drug users, and other street people.
Street, the 1 Wall Street, the location of the money market in New York. 2 Any other street that is the location for a particular activity (such as Wardour Street, centre of the film industry in London).
Streets of London Probably the song most commonly performed by street buskers in the UK, it was written and performed by Ralph McTell in 1974.
structured parking Parking provided in a purpose-built facility such as an undercroft or multi-storey garage.
suburban 1 Pertaining to a suburb; characteristic of suburbs. The Urban Task Force wanted to know what sort of terms to use in trying to persuade the general population of the advantages of living in urban areas. Their researchers organised focus group workshops to find out. They reported (URBED et al, 1999) that the term suburban 'meant space, large houses, wide streets, peace, quiet and trees.' But 'to many suburbia was also boring, a place where parents lived, lacking in facilities and socially oppressive.' 2 Lacking the qualities of town or country. 3 Narrow, small-minded and smug, as in suburban attitude. Example: 'If I think of the Radio Times - and that's rare - I feel clammy and claustrophobic and suburban' (2003). The adjective 'suburban' dates from the early 1600s.
sunlighter A resident of the model village of PORT SUNLIGHT.
super output area (SOA)  The basis for collecting area statistics in England. Introduced in 2004, such areas have populations of between 1,000 and 3,000 (compared to wards, which previously performed the same function, with populations of less than 1,000 to 13,000).
supercity (US) A sprawling, car-based conurbation; a megalopolis or mega-city. The term dates from the early 1920s, was current in the USA in the 1950s and '60s, and was revived in the 2000s. See also northern supercity coast-to-coast and pearl delta supercity.
supermodernism 1 Architecture that deliberately pays no regard to its historic surroundings. This use of the term is credited to the critic Hans Iblings. 2 Architecture that goes beyond what is generally though of a modernism. Example: 'Rem Koolhaas's Dutch embassy in Berlin... looks clearly supermodernist. The basically orthogonal forms, plate glass windows and ruthless structural logic are ramped, tilted and backlit, teased into new tolerances' (Rattenbury, 2003).
surface transportation

(US) Forms of transport such as rail, bus, rail, car, cycling and walking).

Surfbury A nickname for the proposed model development by the prince of wales near Newquay, Cornwall, current from 2003. The name derives from the nearby surfing beaches and the prince's other model development at poundbury.
surveillance shadow An area that can not be viewed by closed-circuit television cameras or other means. See public realm.
sustainababble Nonsense spoken or written about sustainability.
sustainable community The term originated in the USA in the 1990s, being defined as widely - and usually as vaguely - as its components sustainable and community. The 1994 the annual conference in Chicago of the International City/County Management Association included a session entitled 'Planning Sustainable Communities'. The term has been defined by US new urbanists as 'a viable human environment within a protected ecology'.
The UK government adopted the term in 2003 as the focus for its housebuilding programmes, and in 2004 the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (ODPM) adopted the slogan 'building sustainable communities'. The Egan Review on Skills for Sustainable Communities, which reported to the ODPM in 2004, offers a definition of the term. 'Sustainable communities,' the review states, 'meet the diverse needs of existing and future residents, their children and other users, contribute to a high quality of life and provide opportunity and choice. They achieve this in ways that make effective use of natural resources, enhance the environment, promote social cohesion and inclusion, and strengthen economic prosperity.'
The Egan Review identifies the 'components' of a sustainable community as: 'Governance (effective and inclusive participation, representation and leadership); social and cultural (vibrant, harmonious and inclusive communities); housing and the built environment (a quality built and natural environment); economy (a flourishing and diverse local economy); environmental (providing places for people to live in an environmentally friendly way); and services (a full range of appropriate, accessible, public, private community and voluntary services)'.
Alan Barber (with the help of Ken Worpole) has defined a sustainable community as one 'whose physical design, appropriateness of scale to amenity, forms of self-correcting governance and decision-making, educational goals, ecological management, consumption of energy and natural resources, shared values of citizenship, equity and fairness, investment in the public realm and civic institutions, protect the rights of future generations to meet their own needs for happiness, prosperity, and an enduring society.'
swing block A proposed urban block whose use is left unallocated in a master plan, so that it can be determined in the light of conditions at a later date.
switch A device that moves the rails of a railway or the beams of a monorail to allow a train to move from one track or guideway to another.



Ebenezer Howard has created a hermaphrodite, sterile, imbecile, a monster, abhorrent and loathsome to the Nature which he worships.
Thomas Sharp

illustration from the Dictionary of Urbanism