How Urban Designers Perform: An International Perspective On Actual Practice



Since its formal education introduced as a degree under the same title in the States in the early-1960s, urban design has made a serious progress to be recognised as an autonomous research and applied field in many countries. Yet, despite its relatively well-established convention in theory and practice per se, it is rather difficult to claim the existence of an effective integrity between research and practice in urban design. In a certain view, the contemporary theory shows an inadequate interest to the actual practice of urban design, its intrinsic codes of conduct and (implicit) practical knowledge. The paper, in this regard, is an attempt to provide a general view on the main aspects of urban design thinking in professional domain through different cultural contexts.

With a comparative research involving fifteen practitioners from the three countries, the UK, the Netherlands and Turkey, not only the material conditions in which the practitioners operate, but also the underlying cognition they pursue during the design processes is discussed. To that end, a series of design aspects are specified and argued as the basic factors, which would particularly characterise urban design within the wider (practical) context comprising the other design disciplines.

In this context, following a general description of the common profile of the design teams -mainly in terms of size and inner (professional) composition-, external factors constituting the professional domain of the designers are defined with regards to the stakeholders, commissioners and the formal constraints involved. Setting out the general view on the design teams and the environments, the paper subsequently concentrates on the basic means and conceptions as the internal factors characterising design thinking in the practice of urbanism. Eventually, the analytical review is ended with a section questioning the common ways of describing definitive design schemes, which largely influence the quality of (external) communication processes in design.

In the light of the findings given in the review, the paper basically argues that there are a series of common aspects in the performance of urban designers (i.e. a clear reliance on existing typologies, a specific interpretation of analysis in design), which specialise the field as a distinct creative act within its broader professional domain. Then synchronously, the revealed points of distinction within the actual practice (i.e. the scope of conception in design thinking, diversity of tools in the control and description of design form) are argued as the fundamental factors diversifying urban design practice through different countries that expose specific design cultures in general.

By the paper, the author consequently addresses the material conditions of the profession as the objective factors influencing the individual performance of designers while delineating the underlying specificities in (urban) design cognition revealed on this real basis. By doing that, the overall framework of urban design (thinking) process is also aimed to provide a common basis for further studies to elaborate each specified aspects through more focused analyses.



Keywords: urban design practice, design thinking, design aspects in urbanism and design environment.


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