The implementation of urban management strategies in design is facilitated through multi-scalar interventions in the urban fabric. On one hand, it may concern the design of the public realm at large, while on the other, it may deal with the programmatic components of physical space. Models of governance dictate the nature of partnerships and stakeholder involvement which further inform the degree of privatization of urban entities. As a result, these forms and spaces are composite, layered landscapes of interaction, exchange, and collaboration involving both the public and private sectors.

The design of these public-private dichotomous entities is determined by the actors and agents involved in their governance. Therefore, an urban space under the management of a private enterprise with access to capital and resources employing a top-down strategy is lavish, exclusive, and abundant as opposed to an urban entity governed by a public body. The latter is considerably more inclusive, modest, diverse, and democratic achieved through bottom-up perspectives and aligned design principles. In addition, the future restructuring of governance models consequently impacts the spatial and socio-economic structures of existing urban and architectural spaces.

Bridging the gap between urban management and architecture
Urban management and architecture ©

The physical manifestation of governance strategies is articulated through the process of urban design at the regional, local, and neighborhood scales. Private builders, governmental and non-governmental, non-profit agencies in partnership with land developers, contractors, building associations, and design and construction teams develop the site according to the terms of each contract. These multi-stakeholder partnerships seek to ensure the creation of vibrant, liveable neighborhoods that strengthen communities and build social capital in the region. 

Urban design and urban planning had roots in architectural theory before the theories that the future practice of urban design would be based upon evolved. ‘Theoretically, urban planning and urban design are strictly separate disciplines.’ (Elrahman, Asaad) Urban designers and planners operate in the same physical realm, although urban design theory does not inform urban planning theory. Urban planning strategies are formulated by stakeholders who can be classified into three categories – regulators, producers, and users. (Madanipour. A) Governmental bodies, planning authorities, and economic regulators are the primary stakeholders involved in the urban design process. 

The process of urban design is structured on principles and frameworks within the practice and its relationships with other disciplines. It is an iterative and cyclical process that overlaps with related disciplines of architecture, landscape, and urban planning. The practice emerged as a responsive measure to tackle the dysfunctionality and discordance between urban planning and architecture in the modernist era, two fields concerned with varying scales and nature of issues. Urban planning has traditionally been concerned with the creation of schemes that encompass multiscalar aspects of design targeted at the regional and metropolitan levels. Architecture is focused on the design of the built form, the articulation of elements defining exteriors and interiors, the creative use of material, the role of light, the response to the local climate, and other such aspects of design that contrive the discipline. Urban design interventions are dictated by urban planning strategies and influence and inform architectural design. The discipline exists as the perfect go-between that is flexible and inclusive of the context and nature of planning strategies in play. Urban spaces in the vicinity of housing estates differ from those associated with institutions, commercial or cultural venues, and historic environments. Strategies and interventions are dictated by the economic viability of the region, the nature of ownership patterns, past and current land-use patterns, the age, socio-economic status of residents, and legislative measures that govern the allocation of resources. The design of the urban environment is concerned with the identity, seeks to ensure safety and security to its residents, supports the region’s natural resources, gives access and advantage of use to inhabitants, increases walkability, and employs cost-effective design practices. 

The practitioners of urban design have traditionally been architects who have extended the realm of their practice into the field of Urbanism. (Kreiger, Ales “Being Urban minded: Three current debates around urban design practice”) 

Sebastian Leow states that those practicing urban designs do not necessarily call themselves urbanists, since the practice originated from engineering. The Haussmanisation of Paris was undertaken by engineers. 

Other noted scholars have defined the discipline and role of the practice of urban design. Gunder states that “Urban design is only a branch of urban planning.”

Patsy Healy – “Urban design in terms of placemaking is a vital mission in planning.”

The discipline of Urban Design was originally known as ‘civic design’, coined at Liverpool University in 1908. Civic Design was conceived from the ‘city beautiful movement’ that was aimed at the design of major civic buildings and their relationship with the unbuilt. Branching off from this notion, the discipline of urban design was concerned with the creation of urban space and the design of the public realm of the city. The term ‘Urban Design’ was first used by Jose Luis Sert, Dean of Harvard graduate school of Design, in 1953, through a series of conferences from 1956 to 1970. Prior to the 15th century, the discipline of urban design existed within the practices of town and city planning. Subsequently, urban design emerged as an ‘art of the city’ towards the mid-sixties, when it was considered a ‘methodical art’ taught in American universities. This art form was officially recognized as a professional field employing individuals formally trained in the discipline of architecture and urbanism. Urban design today, as a practice concerns itself with the design of the public realm, the multi-layered landscape of action and interrogation, between people, the built, and the unbuilt environments. The contemporary practice of urban design addresses socio-economic and political aspects that govern urban space, resulting in sustainable, environmentally efficient, sociable, and aesthetic forms and spaces, bridging the gap between urban management and architecture. 


  1. S. Abd Elrahman and M. Asaad, Urban design & urban planning: A critical analysis to the theoretical relationship gap, Ain Shams Engineering Journal, 

Trisha Sarkar is an architect and an urbanist with a foundation in fine art followed by a B.Arch from CEPT University, Ahmedabad, and a Master’s degree in City Design from the Royal College of Art, London.Her workharnesses the potential of architecture to inspire critical thought and instil sensitivity.

Write A Comment