Scope and Philosophy

Scope and Philosophy


Design Details

Urban Space Gallery

Index by Topic

Return to Main Page


As indicated in the home page, a primary selection criteria for urban spaces in this websiate is social value, focusing on improvements to neighborhood vitality and quality of life. In order to limit the scope of this website, we will concetrate on modest-sized spaces, in contrast with major regional renewals, and walkability and transit connectivity will be emphasized, along with the use of historic structures. Separate websites deal with plazas or city squares and with Light Rail transit.

Motivating Philosophy

Most human beings instinctively seek attractive spaces. Ideally these locations would be part of, or close to, our places of work or to our homes, so that we can enjoy them often. A variety of styles of places can meet these needs, from simple well-designed intersections to elaborate centers.

The move to suburbia has often left downtown centers in a process of decay. Gradually, during recent decades, a movement to return to more efficient and "walkable" neighborhoods grew under the ironic but attractive label of "new urbanism". We call it ironic because this often invovlves a return to "older" community styles. Energy and environmental concerns have also put a premium on developments that take advantage of public transit.

Mixed Use

The influential book Mixed-Use Developments: New Ways of Land Use, published by the Urban Land Institute in 1976, defined a Mixed-Use Development as having: "Three or more significant revenue-producing uses (such as retail, office, residential, hotel/motel, and recreation- which in well-planned projects are mutually supporting)."[1]

Mixed-use was the traditional urban style through much of history, but in the twentieth century several factors led to lower density and more dispersed land use. These factors included the rise of automobile transportation and a growing affluence in North America and Europe which allowed the increase of large homes in large lots, or what we know as "suburbia". Also, the  implementation of land use and zoning regulations, which "intended to create order through the control and separation of land uses, essentially made it illegal to mix uses in newly developing areas."[2]

As indicated above, there is now a movement to return to more efficient and "walkable" neighborhoods which encourages mixed-use. Most communities are now willing to provide more flexible zoning laws for well-planned projects.

In historic neighborhoods, a common mixed-use was that of business owners living above their businesses. This is seldom possible in the complex world of today, although some young professionals may set up their offices in the developments where they reside. The primary synergy now is due to residents and office workers patronizing the retail businesses in their developments. Correspondingly, these residences may have higher occupancy rates due to the availability of nearby facilities.[3]


The term "walkability" will be used often in this website. Here is a a description from the influential Walkable Communities organization:

Walkability focuses on neighborhood or village scale development, with many nearby places to go and things to do. Truly walkable communities are characterized by much more than good sidewalks and street crossings; they include many attributes: a mix of uses, frequent street connections and pedestrian links, timeless ways of designing and placing buildings. They create desirable places to spend time in, to meet others.[4]

Transportation Centers

Supporting "walkability" is the facilitation of the use of public transportation. Some sites such as Bethesda Row take advantage of their proximity to transit stops while other, such as Place Homme de Fer, are built around a transit station. The Project for Public Spaces organization emphasizes the value of transportation connections:


Stations and stops become focal points in a community, especially if there is an associated plaza or public space. Even the station building or the bus shelter itself can be thought of as place. That is, the use of it can be expanded, in partnership with the local community, to serve other public purposes. The potential uses are boundless, from a café to an art gallery to a venue for performances and markets. In this way, a great station or stop adds value to the surrounding neighborhoods and increases the viability of commercial districts by connecting businesses to commuters and new customers.[5]

   Photo ©  Wikipedia:Place Homme de Fer,
Author: Eole99


This website is not a professional guide, but an editing of existing referenced material for educational purposes. The website author assumes no responsibility for any problems resulting from using the material presented in this website.

[1] Robert Witherspoon et al, Mixed-Use Developments: New Ways of Land Use (Washington DC: The Urban Land Institute, 1976), 6.

[2] Dean Schwanke et al, Mixed-Use Development Handbook, second edition (Washington DC: The Urban Land Institute, 2003), 1.

[3] Robert Witherspoon et al, Mixed-Use Developments, 78.

[4] Walkable Communities Inc.

[5] Project for Public Spaces: Streets as Places: Thinking Beyond the Station