Urbanwords: the website of The Dictionary of Urbanism



Browse the additional and amended entries by initial letter:



up the entry (Belfast) Described by Paul Moore (2004) as 'a loosely convened game which involves young men and women in a round of dares relating to a visit up... a small dark passage between two terraced houses.' See entry.
urban coding A legal requirement, usually imposed by a landowner, for developers of a particular site or area to comply with certain design principles. The term is usually applied to examples such as poundbury, but highway standards are also a form of urban coding.
urban consolidation Increasing the density of development in an area by building on backlands and other unused sites.
urban design The collaborative and multi-disciplinary process of shaping the physical setting for life in cities, towns and villages; the art of making places; design in an urban context. Urban design involves the design of buildings, groups of buildings, spaces and landscapes, and the establishment of frameworks and processes that facilitate successful development.
    Peter Webber (1988a) defines urban design as 'the process of moulding the form of the city through time'. John Worthington (2003) has described it as 'managing space, time and experience to create memorable places' and Jerry Spencer (2003) as 'creating the theatre of public life'. To Carmona, Heath, Oc and Tiesdell (2003) it is 'the process of making better places for people than would otherwise be produced'. The urban designer Doug Paterson has defined urban design as 'merging civitas and the urbs: building the values and ideals of a civilized place into the structure of a city'. Peter Batchelor and david lewis (1986) define urban design as 'design in an urban context'. They use the word design 'not in its traditional narrow sense, but in a much broader way. Economic projections, packaging new developments, negotiating public/private financial partnerships, setting up guidelines and standards for historic revitalisation, forming non-profit corporations that combine citizens with public and private sector financing resources, all are considered as design.'
In the words of the writer and critic Peter Buchanan (quoted in Cowan, 1997): 'Urban design is about how to recapture certain of the qualities (qualities which we experience as well as those we see) that we associate with the traditional city: a sense of order, place, continuity, richness of experience, completeness and belonging... Urban design lies somewhere between the broad-brush abstractions of planning and the concrete specifics of architecture. It implies a notion of citizenship: life in the public realm. It is not just about space, but time as well. Much of what passes for urban design is conceived only for one moment. Good urban design... is more than just knitting together the townscape. Urban designers should be configuring a rich network in which buildings come and go: a framework of transport, built fabric and other features, which will create natural locations for things. Urban design structures activities.' Buchanan (1988) has written that 'urban design is concerned with analysing, organising and shaping urban form so as to elaborate as richly and as coherently as possible the lived experience of the inhabitants. In essence it is about the interdependence and mutual development of both city and citizen. And at its core is the recognition that, just as the citizen is both biological organism and self-consciously acculturated persona, so the city too is an organism shaped by powerful intrinsic, almost natural, forces (that must be understood and respected in any successful intervention) and a wilfully, even self-consciously, created cultural artefact. Interventions of the creative will have always guided the city's growth and change, elaborated its identity in many ways large and small as well as conceived and realised those crowning glories that make great cities so special. Urban design is essentially about place making, where place is not just a specific space, but all the activities and events that it makes possible. As a consequence the whole city is enriched. Instead of a city fragmented into islands of no place and anywhere, it remains a seamlessly meshed and richly varied whole. In such a city, daily life is not reduced to a dialectic between city centre and one of the similar suburbs: instead the citizen is encouraged to avail himself of the whole city, to enjoy all its various parts and so enrich his experience and education (become street-wise) in the ways only real urban life allows.'
    Some urban designers define urban design as 'the design of the spaces between buildings', presumably to distinguish it from architecture, which they define as the design of the buildings themselves. This definition excludes urban design's proper concern with the structure of a place; it ignores the fact that to a significant extent the characteristics of the spaces between buildings are determined by the buildings themselves; and it encourages architects in any tendency they may have to ignore the context in which they are designing. The question of where urban design should or does fit into the landscape of urban professions - whether it should be regarded as a distinct profession itself, or as a way of thinking, or as common ground between a number of professions or between a wide range of people involved in urban change, for example - is widely discussed.
    Barry Young (1988) has suggested one set of stages for the urban design process. These are: a) Define physical design principles. b) Identify performance criteria. c) Develop design options. d) Evaluate the options in terms of design principles and performance criteria. e) Develop the preferred option.
    Abercrombie and Forshaw wrote in their 1943 County of London Plan of the 'low level of urban design' in pre-war London. Urban design was being discussed in the American planning profession in the 1950s.
What is generally said to have been the first urban design conference was held at Harvard University's Graduate School of Design in 1956, its participants including lewis mumford, jane jacobs, victor gruen and edmund bacon. Its organiser, Jose Luis Sert, announced urban design as a new academic field, which he defined as 'the part of planning concerned with the physical form of the city' (Kahn, 2002). The first university course in urban design was established at Harvard in 1960. lewis mumford wrote in 1957 from the USA accusing FJ Osborn (in a letter to him) of identifying new towns with 'only one kind of urban design' (Hughes, 1971). In 1959 the American Institute of Planners' policy statement on urban renewal stated: 'Renewal offers an opportunity to secure superior urban design when relatively large areas of land are improved under coordinated design leadership, and relatively uniform site and building controls' (quoted in Goodman, 1972). The American Institute of Architecture established a Committee on Urban Design in 1960 and it published Paul D Spreiregen's book Urban Design: the architecture of cities and towns in 1965. The Joint Centre for Urban Design at Oxford Polytechnic (later Oxford Brookes University) was established in 1972. The UK urban design group was formed in 1978. Punter and Carmona (1997) note that in the UK the term urban design 'had been conspicuous by its absence' in government publications and guidance until the publication of John Gummer's Quality in Town and Country in 1994. The Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions gave a definition (in Planning Policy Guidance Note 1) that was broad in describing what urban design covered but, despite its length, said little about what sort of activity urban design was. Urban design, said PPG1, was 'the relationship between different buildings; the relationships between buildings and the streets, squares, parks, waterways and other spaces which make up the public realm; the relationship of one part of a village, town or city with other parts; patterns of movement and activity which are thereby established; in short, the complex relationship between all the elements of built and unbuilt space.' See also knowing urban design and unknowing urban design.
urban dialectology The study of the dialects and accents spoken in urban areas. Foulkes and Docherty (1999) note that a commercial interest in variations of speech and accent - and public attitudes to them - has resulted from the growth of telephone sales and call centres. They reported that 'a few accents seem to have a fairly universal perception, with Birmingham continuing to fare badly', but that some accents produced mixed feelings: the influx of call centres to Merseyside in the late 1990s, for example, brought into question 'the usual stigma attached to Scouse'. Traditionally dialectology has been focused mainly on rural locations, with the aim of recording old ways of speaking before they die out. The new urban dialectologists have been more interested in the variations on speech (and particularly accent) between different social groups.
urban golf The game played in streets (also known as cross-golf), using a piece of carpet as a tee and any available receptacle or target as a hole. The UK's first tournament was held in London in 2004.
urban grit An area with a tough industrial or city-centre character.
urban growth boundary (US) A locally designated boundary for future growth, restricting zoning and services within the boundary. See also urban reserve.
urban karaoke Planning or designing urban development in a way that pays lip-service to guidance on best practice without showing any real creativity.
urban management According to Griffith University, Australia, which runs a graduate course in the subject, urban management 'grasps the contemporary challenges facing public and private planners, policy makers, private sector managers and community advocates. It seeks to ensure the sustainable growth, development and governance of our cities. Urban management integrates the various policy and professional fields that govern the development of cities and towns, including planning, housing, social policy, environmental policy, infrastructure and transport.'
urban operations assessment An analysis - often based on computer models of buildings and streets - of the physical setting of a place expected to be the scene of military operations.
Urban Renaissance Institute A Canadian organisation 'dedicated to helping cities and their regions flourish by removing the many impediments to their proper functioning'.
urban reserve (US) An area, beyond a serviced urban area, which lies within an urban growth boundary in which future development and extended services are planned.
urban scrawl graffiti. The deliberately pejorative term was used by the Tidy Britain Group in 2004. The group was protesting that the use of graffiti in advertising and the media was encouraging young people to practise it.
urban traffic management and control A system of controlling the flow of traffic in an urban area by altering the signal time at junctions.
utility walking Walking as a means of getting from one place to another, rather than for enjoyment or in the course of shopping. The term is used by the Department of Transport (2004).



It is in the streets that we will make our struggle. The streets belong to the people!
Abbie Hoffman

illustration from the Dictionary of Urbanism