Size matters in urban design

Aerial view of the city block plan in the city of Barcelona. Size mattes in urban design.
Barcelona architecture: high angle view of the city’s typical urban grid

Walkability is much more than paved walkways. To encourage people to get out and about, places and spaces need to be inviting. We know that urban design impacts our health and wellbeing so it’s important to get it right. Whether people go by foot, e-mobility or mobility device, size matters in urban design. 

Nikola Babic says that the scale and form of buildings has a big impact on walkability. Height and width of places and spaces play their part. For example, the sense of scale is blurred when streets are too wide. Active frontages such as shops and cafes, good lighting and a sense of safety are critical factors in attracting pedestrians. Green infrastructure is another important element to include. 

With the outbreak of COVID19, more people are aware of the importance of walking. However, most footways are too narrow to provide physical distancing. A good case of where size matters. It also matters for accessibility. Having welcoming streets should be part of the accessibility plan. 

Babic discusses the “superblock model” in Barcelona and the 15-Minute City in Paris as examples of what works and what doesn’t. His article is very readable and good for anyone new to this topic. Babic encourages discussion with others to further develop ideas. 

Babic ends with, “This short paper is just a beginning of a more in-depth research of walkable and ‘healthy’ urban forms which will explore the complex relationship between the history of urbanism, urban form, urban design, social processes and well-being.”

The title of the article is, Superblocks – The Future of Walkability in Cities? It can also be downloaded from the Academia website.  


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