Link urban design with planning for superior cities

Urban design, an essential yet overlooked component of city planning, can guide cities into a kind of development that connects the dots between social, economic, operational and aesthetic value of a city system. City managers and policy makers need to seriously consider how urban design can improve the way cities are planned or refurbished

One can complain of chaotic urban planning in any Indian city. Cities are haphazardly planned. No single thread connects the uniform aesthetic components in modern city infrastructure. Many times, the question arises why a certain infrastructure exist despite having no operational or aesthetic value. The role of urban designers is quite significant in the complete process of urban planning. It is required that local bodies and state governments, when planning a city or refurbishing one, should actively engage urban designers. Urban design is the art of making suitable places for people. It includes the way places work and matters such as community safety, as well as how they look. Citizens of a city may have varied opinion on how do they perceive their cities aesthetically but there are always certain basic design elements which are recognised by all.

According to a guide to urban design released by the government of United Kingdom with an alliance of urban designers, urban design objectives are, by themselves, abstract. They have an impact on people’s lives only by being translated into development. The form of buildings, structures and spaces is the physical expression of urban design. It is what influences the pattern of uses, activity and movement in a place, and the experiences of those who visit, live or work there. This guide sets out the most important characteristics of the physical form of development by articulating eight aspects. Together, these define the overall layout of the place (in terms of its routes and building blocks); its scale (in terms of building height and massing); its appearance (as expressed in details and use of materials); and its landscape (including all the public realm, built and green spaces).

Indian experience

Most of the new big townships and corporate buildings coming up in cities are taking the services of eminent architects and designers but urban designers are not playing a major role in city development process because of several loopholes in policy making and planning for cities. That is the reason Indian cities like Gurugram, Bengaluru and Mumbai may have high-rise glass towers and swanky townships but their aesthetic value get lost in the mishmash of present city development and their utility prove derisory when all other connecting infrastructure around them is falling.

The implementation of urban design should be made fundamental to our objective of urban renaissance. The critical thing about urban design fundamental is that there cannot be a set criterion for good urban design so there is no clear cut principal to implement a set formula and get good result. It completely depends upon how an urban designer understands the place and context. It will also depend on the vision and commitment set by the local governments, city leadership and moreover, community. The central principal for creating better liveable places revolves around careful assessments of places, well thought of policies, and a collaborative approach.  Good design can help make dynamic places with unique character; streets and public spaces that are safe, accessible and pleasant to use. It affects all aspects of the built environment, including the design of buildings and spaces, landscapes and transport systems.

Smart Cities Mission is a one of its own kind project that has given significance to public consultation. People are consulted through various means such as online voting, public consultations and symposiums, before planning a project and starting its implementation. It is an opportunity for local body officials, experts living in the city and community groups to demand for the distinctive image of their city in terms of utility and beauty.

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