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18 Urban Design Principles

 , updated on March 21, 2021
Urban design principles are guidelines that a city adopts to direct its long term strategy. Urban designers, architectural firms and neighborhoods may also adopt principles to guide their contributions to urban design. The following are common examples.

Beautiful Cities

Creating a beautiful city is a primary goal.

Blue Green Cities

Blue and green spaces such as waterfront areas and parks are a priority.


Reduce the distances between things by choosing compact designs. For example, wide highways and parking lots are generally less compact than light rail for equivalent passenger capacity.

Complete Neighborhoods

The principle that people can live, work and receive basic services all within their neighborhood. Associated with village-like neighborhoods and mixed zoning.


Neighborhoods are social and lively with spaces for personal solace, companionship, family and community.

Ease Of Movement

Cities are easy to transverse by walking and transportation is accessible and efficient.


Cities are energy and resource efficient.

Health & Safety

Health and safety is a priority. For example, air quality is a fundamental goal.

Heritage Conservation

A city's history and historic architecture of great value is preserved.

Human Scale

Cities are built at human scale.

Laissez Faire Architecture

Building codes that place unreasonable restrictions on architecture are detrimental to a city as they prevent creative expression.

Neighborhood Character

Neighborhoods have a unique character that has value.

People First

Cities are built for people. Machines such as cars and industrial sites tend to detract from a city. Where they are required, they are designed to take the background. For example, an underground parking lot as opposed to a parking lot on prime waterfront land.

Public Space

Natural areas, beaches, parks, public squares and streets that are open to the public have a profound value to a city.

Quality Of Life

Quality of life as measured by people's self reported happiness is a primary goal of urban design. A high quality of life tends to be a virtuous cycle that attracts greater economic activity and investment leading to improved quality of life.

Regional Integration

Neighborhoods are integrated with cities and cities are integrated with regions. For example, transportation has little value without regional links.

Sustainable Design

Urban design is a type of sustainable design that uses techniques such as green technology.

Transition Design

Cities tend to change slowly and can't be transformed overnight. Urban design is a practical discipline that takes transitional steps towards goals.


This is the complete list of articles we have written about cities.
Activity Center
Air Rights
Bicycle Boulevard
Blue Space
Business Cluster
City Branding
City Culture
City Issues
Clean Air Zone
Cosmopolitan City
Creeping Normality
Cycle Highway
Cycling Infra.
Deep Water Cooling
District Heating
Emergent Cities
Fashion Capital
Fashion Week
Freedom To Roam
Genius Loci
Ghost Spaces
Green Facades
Green Roofs
Green Walls
Happiness Index
High-Speed Rail
Hostile Architecture
Human Factors
Human Scale
Induced Traffic
Last Mile
Living Street
Natural Surveillance
Night Architecture
Night Economy
Play Street
Public Infrastructure
Public Space
Quality Of Life
Rain Garden
Resilient Cities
Robot Highways
Security Landscaping
Slow Cities
Smart Cities
Soft Engineering
Sponge City
Street Canyon
Tactical Urbanism
Transition Design
Urban Agriculture
Urban Density
Urban Design
Urban Forests
Urban Planning
Vertical Cities
Vertical Farming
Vertical Gardens
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A list of city characteristics that add to quality of life.

Smart Cities

A list of smart city technologies.

Emergent Cities

An overview of emergent cities.

City Infrastructure

A list of city infrastructure.

Night Economy

An overview of the night economy.


A definition of future-proofing with examples.


An overview of economic competitiveness with examples.

Cosmopolitan City

The definition of cosmopolitan city with examples.

Edge City

The defining characteristics of an edge city.


The common types of street.

Urban Design

A few common urban design terms.

Green Walls vs Green Facades

The difference between a green wall and green facade.

Sustainable Urban Design

A list of sustainable urban design techniques.

Passive Design vs Active Design

The difference between active and passive design.

Street Canyon

How a street canyon changes an urban environment.

Parti Pris

An overview of parti pris in architecture with an example.

City Issues

A list of common city issues.

Community Problems

A list of common community problems.

Things In Cities

An a-z list of things in cities.

City Types

An list of the common types of city.
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