Alan J. Simpson

Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Street Space Society

Street Space Society

Alan Jackson Simpson - Professor of Architecture and Urbanism


Public place and space (public realm) strategies

Great Urbanism might be described in contemporary terms as sustainable urban living and working, provided through quality of place and service issues; design quality in both public and private sector construction and in the provision of facilities; the effective management and high quality maintenance of the public domain, streets and public places; sustainable transportation in the design and provision of infrastructure and public transport and good governance by the community for the community. A means by which such manifold aspirations might be articulated and pursued is through the ‘model’ urban design protocols’ being developed in New South Wales and Victoria, Australia, and in New Zealand.

Sydney Circular Quay
Sydney Circular Quay

Urban Design Protocols – public realm strategies - affirm the central importance of urban design socially, economically and environmentally and require endorsement by local and regional government, community leaders, developers, investors, and professional bodies.

Boston Mass. Atlantic Avenue

Boston Mass. Atlantic Avenue

An Urban Design Protocol seeks to secure that towns and cities are innovative, competitive and thriving, livable, healthy, safe, secure, and attractive. That they have distinctive physical identities and are in harmony with their environment and landscape settings. makes connections between buildings, spaces and people, occur at a number of spatial scales integrate public and private components of towns and cities.

The urban design protocol provides opportunities for all, are inclusive and equitable, have strong leadership, shared vision, and good governance; which through improved design quality and sustainability meets peoples needs, and brings together all stakeholders to maximize opportunities, enhances competitiveness and economic performance toward optimal quality and maintains efficiency and effectiveness in the arrangement of infrastructure and services. Objectives and aspirations in the preparation of an urban design protocol - public realm strategy – include;

Context; which is strategic and long term, embraces surrounding conditions and includes social, cultural and economic settings.

Character; which acknowledges distinct rural, suburban, town and city settings ; maintains positive identity ; encourages social and cultural character.

Choice; which embraces diversity, promotes sustainability, encourages difference in lifestyle, location, use, density, form, and tenure.

Connectivity; which creates choice of routes and destinations ; ensures connectivity between nodes, landmarks, edges and districts ; integrates modes of transportation ; treats streets and thoroughfares positively ; encourages opportunities for social interaction ; produces efficient movement for access, circulation, and delivery ; responds to all community needs ; links neighborhoods and centers with public and civic space, parks and gardens.

Collaboration; which delivers a shared view of growth and change ; promotes community approach to growth and change ; coordinates agencies of growth and change ; acknowledges the achievements of growth and change.

Custodianship; which encourages community management through design and intensity ; manages public and private resources with due care and prudence ; promotes sustainability in design and construction ; embraces ongoing management and maintenance.

Portland Tram; Savannah Squares; Barcelona Ramblas; Bologna Arcades

Portland Tram; Savannah Squares; Barcelona Ramblas; Bologna Arcades

The incorporation of collaborative urban design in successful project planning and delivery is essential in project development from inception to implementation. Responding to local characteristics, natural and man made, projects need to acknowledge and understand social and cultural characteristics providing an enhanced and holistic understanding of the urban environment and thereby the implications of development and investment opportunities - identifying roles and responsibilities on behalf the community, political and business interests; accommodating the needs of different interest groups through stakeholder and community engagement; connecting with the past and responding to traditional settings in maintaining continuity of physical, cultural, and social conditions; investing in skills and the continuous review and evaluation of methods of practice and training in all aspects of environmental, economic, social and cultural initiatives; - will meet peoples needs and optimize diversity. As a taxonomy of aspirations and objectives toward achieving great urbanism, the twenty seven guidelines produced by the Congress for New Urbanism (CNU) is yet to be improved upon, and follows;



1. The region/district is a fundamental economic unit of the contemporary world. National and Local Government, public policy, planning and economic strategies must reflect this reality.
2. Regions and Districts are finite places with geographical boundaries derived from topography, watersheds, coastlines, farmlands, regional parks and river basins. The region is made of multiple centers that are cities, towns and villages, each with its own identifiable centre and edges.
3. The region/district has a relationship to its hinterland and natural landscapes, environmental, economic and cultural. Farmland and nature are to the region/district as the garden is to the house.
4. Development patterns should not blur or eradicate the edges of the region. Infill development within existing areas conserves environmental resources, economic investment and social fabric while reclaiming marginal and abandoned areas. Regions and districts should develop strategies to encourage such infill development over peripheral expansion.
5. Where appropriate, new development contiguous to urban boundaries should be organized as neighborhoods and districts and be integrated with the existing urban pattern. Non-contiguous development should be organized as towns and villages with their own urban edges, and planned for a jobs/housing balance, not as bedroom suburbs.
6. The development of towns and cities should respect historical patterns, traditions, precedents and boundaries.
7. Cities and towns should bring into proximity a broad spectrum of public and private uses to support a regional economy that benefits people of all incomes. Affordable housing should be distributed throughout the region to match job opportunities and to avoid concentrations of poverty.
8. The physical organization of the region/district should be supported by a framework of transportation alternatives. Transit, pedestrian and bicycle systems should maximize access and mobility while reducing dependence on the automobile.
9. Revenues and resources shared cooperatively by municipalities within regions avoid destructive competition and promote coordination of transport, housing and community facilities.


1. The neighborhood, the suburb and the corridor are the elements of development and in the region, forming identifiable areas encouraging citizens to be responsible for their maintenance and evolution.
2. Neighborhoods should be compact, pedestrian-friendly and mixed use, and follow principles of neighborhood design. Corridors are sub-regional connectors, road, rail and rivers.
3. Many activities of daily living should occur within walking distance, allowing independence to those who do not drive, especially the elderly and the young. Interconnected networks of streets should be designed to encourage walking, reduce the number and length of automobile trips and conserve energy.
4. Within neighborhoods, a range of housing types and price levels can bring people of diverse ages, races and incomes into daily interaction, strengthening personal civic bonds and community.
5. Transit corridors, when properly planned and coordinated, can organize an areas structure and revitalize urban centers. Highway corridors should not displace investment from existing centers.
6. Appropriate building densities and land uses should be within walking distance of transit stops, permitting public transit to become a viable alternative to the automobile.
7. Civic, institutional and commercial activity should be embedded in neighborhoods and districts, not isolated in remote single use complexes. Schools should be sized and located to enable children to walk or bicycle to them.
8. The economic health and harmonious evolution of neighborhoods, districts and corridors can be improved through graphic urban design codes that serve as predictable guides for change.
9. A range of open spaces, from parks and village greens to playing fields and community gardens, should be distributed within neighborhoods. Nature conservation areas and open lands should be used to define and connect different neighborhood districts..


1. Urban architecture and landscape design is the physical definition of streets, squares, and public spaces.
2. Individual architectural projects should be seamlessly linked to their surroundings. This issue transcends style.
3. The revitalization of urban places depends on safety and security. The design of streets and buildings should reinforce safe environments, accessible and open.
4. Development must accommodate automobiles, and so in ways that respect the pedestrian and public space.
5. Streets and squares should be safe, comfortable and interesting to the pedestrian, encourage walking and enable neighbors to know each other and protect their communities.
6. Architecture and landscape design should grow from local climate, topography, history and building practice.
7. Civic buildings and public gathering places require important sites to reinforce community identity and the culture of democracy. They deserve distinctive form, because their role is different from that of other buildings and places that constitute the fabric of the city.
8. All buildings should provide their inhabitants with a sense of location, weather and time. Natural methods of heating and cooling can be more resource-efficient than mechanical systems.
9. Preservation and renewal of historic buildings, districts and landscapes affirm the continuity and evolution of urban society.