Urban Chisels: A socioform approach to urban design

University dissertation from Chalmers University of Technology


Urban designs are not explicit about the interdependencies between the development of society and urban form. Yet there is a need to assess these with that in focus. Procedures currently applied are not effective and are often perceived as problematic both for urban planning and design activity. The approach to both urban design and its assessments needs to be revised.

The aim of this thesis is to discuss the composition of a constructive framework for the assessment of urban design proposals that focuses on the interdependencies between the development of society and urban form. The development of a new approach to urban design projects is of prime concern. The challenges with creating such a constructive assessment useful for design activities involving drafting and cohesive concept development are to be discussed.

The study draws on theoretical discussions about the linguistic problem of urbanism. It is conducted from an architectural and urban design perspective. The abductive research is therefore trans-disciplinary, participatory, and combines practice and research in three established working arenas representing the following themes: COST C20: the production of urban knowledge, S2020: social issues in urban development, OPALTORGET: a pilot project involving social issues in design. A combination of different methodologies with emphasis on a qualitative approach is used.

The first part of the thesis presents empirical material and its analysis. How assessments of social impacts are conveyed is presented. The examination shows that the tentative character of the notion of ‘social’, together with a significant lack of urban design techniques and good quality examples calls for new knowledge. Studies reveal that existing assessment models of urban form designs are neither creating nor exploring the conceptual space of the architectonic of urban design. Moreover, the reactive and proactive character of urban design is not given equal consideration. This is neither constructive for urban planning nor for design activities. Therefore an assessment should reflect on the substance and the reciprocal chiselling potential of the notion ‘social’ for and by design. It is further suggested that the assessment’s constructive character is to be found in challenging the linguistic problem of urbanism. The second part of the thesis is a theoretical discussion where three designed areas of this linguistic problem of urbanism are explored. The terms socioform, concetto, and rhetoric of city design are introduced. A conceptual, mind-framing socioform approach to urban design is developed. This proposed framework attempts to balance consideration of socio-issues and form-issues within a unified, interdependences-oriented approach. In addition, it designs a structure of conceptual spaces as a means of inspiration and the development of the rhetoric of city design. The purpose of forthcoming studies will be to test a socioform approach.

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