Urban design is inherently part of the DBA design process. Whenever we start a new project, we look for ways to improve the site and closely consider how buildings can define and shape their neighborhood. More recently we have taken on larger projects which have a neighborhood planning component to them, and even projects that focus on an overall masterplan and relationships between buildings and public space rather than a single building.
When it comes to urban design, we have two approaches:
I know, these sound the same, but there is a difference between building a neighborhood and enriching one with buildings. Hear me out:
In most architectural projects, we are enriching neighborhoods. The zoning is set, the easements exist, the street right-of-way is defined, and even if the scope covers multiple buildings or multiple blocks, those urban parameters are in place. When we are enriching neighborhoods, we focus on creating great streetscapes, walkable blocks with ground-floor interest, and privileging pedestrians and cyclists over cars. We try to think about designing places that we would want to live in, would feel safe walking in, and where we can always find a bike rack near the front door.
On the other hand, when we are building neighborhoods, many of those urban parameters are not set. There may be a street grid that dead-ends into the site, but no proposed connection, or a general plan streetscape section that does not fit the community scale and character. That’s where DBA Urban Design comes into play—we think at the larger urban scale, looking at site connections, transportation needs, streetscape scale, and of course, neighborhood input and feeling.
When building neighborhoods, we want to create well-loved places that last generations, places that serve both existing needs and future ones. In both modes of urban design, we believe that the right design moves can act as multipliers of good and set a neighborhood up for success throughout its evolution. There are a few ways that we do this.