There are many academic lists regarding the principles of urban planning, a sampling of which is included below. However, I’ve put together my own list about what creates a pleasant place in the built environment. Its based on nothing more than my personal observations.
1) Narrow streets make nicer neighborhoods and shopping districts.
2) Setbacks suck. (Compare all the places we are attracted to for vacations.)
3) Great cities happen at the street level, not the skyline.
4) Preserve the old buildings not just for architectural significance, but for diversity of architecture.
5) Small lot development is smarter development. (i.e. large master planned developments lack soul)
6) Build cities and towns for pedestrians and human scale – the drivers will find a way to get there.
7) Plan for feeling, not for efficiency. (Wide streets, wide sidewalks, uniform traffic grid patterns – while all these things tend to make sense from a pure logical perspective, humans are not purely logical. As a result such planning tends to lead to blight)
8) Plan to foster unplanned organic development. (Think diversity, small lot development, creativity)
9) Incorporate rather than create the topography.
10) Most planning principles that create livable communities are counter-intuitive. Based on the human mind not efficiency.
Elements of New Urbanism:
According to Duany and Plater-Zyberk, the heart of New Urbanism is in the design of neighborhoods, which can be defined by thirteen elements:
- The neighborhood has a discernible center. This is often a square or a green and sometimes a busy or memorable street corner. A transit stop would be located at this center.
- Most of the dwellings are within a five-minute walk of the center, an average of roughly 1/4 mile or 1,320 feet (0.4 km).
- There are a variety of dwelling types — usually houses, rowhouses, and apartments — so that younger and older people, singles, and families, the poor, and the wealthy may find places to live.
- At the edge of the neighborhood, there are shops and offices of sufficiently varied types to supply the weekly needs of a household.
- A small ancillary building or garage apartment is permitted within the backyard of each house. It may be used as a rental unit or place to work (for example, an office or craft workshop).
- An elementary school is close enough so that most children can walk from their home.
- There are small playgrounds accessible to every dwelling — not more than a tenth of a mile away.
- Streets within the neighborhood form a connected network, which disperses traffic by providing a variety of pedestrian and vehicular routes to any destination.
- The streets are relatively narrow and shaded by rows of trees. This slows traffic, creating an environment suitable for pedestrians and bicycles.
- Buildings in the neighborhood center are placed close to the street, creating a well-defined outdoor room.
- Parking lots and garage doors rarely front the street. Parking is relegated to the rear of buildings, usually accessed by alleys.
- Certain prominent sites at the termination of street vistas or in the neighborhood center are reserved for civic buildings. These provide sites for community meetings, education, and religious or cultural activities.
- The neighborhood is organized to be self-governing. A formal association debates and decides matters of maintenance, security, and physical change. Taxation is the responsibility of the larger community.
From Wikipedia, Urban design considers:
- Urban structure – How a place is put together and how its parts relate to each other
- Urban typology, density and sustainability – spatial types and morphologies related to intensity of use, consumption of resources and production and maintenance of viable communities
- Accessibility – Providing for ease, safety and choice when moving to and through places
- Legibility and wayfinding – Helping people to find their way around and understand how a place works
- Animation – Designing places to stimulate public activity
- Function and fit – Shaping places to support their varied intended uses
- Complementary mixed uses – Locating activities to allow constructive interaction between them
- Character and meaning – Recognizing and valuing the differences between one place and another
- Order and incident – Balancing consistency and variety in the urban environment in the interests of appreciating both
- Continuity and change – Locating people in time and place, including respect for heritage and support for contemporary culture
- Civil society – Making places where people are free to encounter each other as civic equals, an important component in building social capital