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Urban Design


Urban design concerns the arrangement, appearance and functionality of towns and cities (regardless of size), and in particular the shaping and uses of urban public space. Public space includes streets, paths and car parks and this is why we consider ‘transportation' to be an essential part of urban design. Some aspects of privately owned spaces, such as building facades or private car parks, also contribute to public space and therefore we consider urban design to be important in our land use planning projects. 

Inappropriate locations for new urban and suburban developments can introduce transport problems for people who use the developments, so our interest in urban design also includes an understanding of the context of a development in relation to other parts of the town or city.

When working on transportation or planning projects we aim for quality urban design outcomes such as:

  • Places and spaces which work (not only from a traffic perspective) and that people use, value, and enjoy,
  • Environmental sustainability, and
  • Safety (CPTED - crime prevention through environmental design), accessibility, quality of life, and protecting heritage and character.

For projects where specialist urban design advice or design expertise is required, we have arrangements with local and national consultants to collaborate with us to offer an integrated approach. For the following recent ViaStrada projects, urban design has been an important consideration throughout the project:

  • Selwyn District Plan review - aligning the Transport sections of the District Plan with the Council's new subdivision design guide and preparing new plan rules to facilitate better consideration of car park layouts.
  • Te Okuroa Drive intersection designs - designing new intersections and links that reflected the Council's urban design desires.  The adjacent developers were using new urbanism concepts, in particular that of high network "permeability" for walking and cycling.
  • Fundamentals of Planning and Design for Cycling / Walking - in these professional training courses, we teach our colleagues (engineers, designers and planners) how to make urban spaces more accessible and safer for cyclists and pedestrians.
  • Dominion Rd bus lanes - we collaborated with Jasmax to provide innovative solutions to accommodate cyclists alongside the bus lanes on this major arterial in Auckland.
  • Auckland learning quarter cycle access - this comprehrensive study for Auckland City Council involved working with the University of Auckland and Auckland University of Technology (AUT) to improve the CBD campuses of both universities and also to look at how people might cycle to access the learning quarter.

ViaStrada is a signatory to the New Zealand Urban Design Protocol (UDP), reinforcing our holistic and integrated approach to planning and design. The UDP is a voluntary commitment to urban design initiatives by signatory organisations, which include central and local government, the property sector, design professionals, professional institutes and other groups. A regular newsletter from the Ministry of the Environment keeps us and other signatories up to date with urban design news in NZ. Read about our Urban Design Action Plan.

The Urban Design Forum NZ (UDF) has worked to promote good urban design in New Zealand since 2000. The purpose of the forum is to promote cross-disciplinary understanding of urban design amongst urban professionals, to raise awareness generally at the national and local levels of the benefits of urban design and to provide a forum for discussion of design-based approaches that are relevant to the development and management of New Zealand towns and cities.  ViaStrada transport planner John Lieswyn is a member of the UDF.

We take the opportunity to attend presentations and undertake continual professional development from local or visiting designers that will enhance our understanding of urban design. Examples include personal meetings to discuss urban design elements with Dan Burden in the context of walking, cycling and general street design and attendance (by invite) of Blenheim’s urban growth workshops. In his previous role at the University of Canterbury, Glen Koorey also undertook a number of international study tours looking at urban design and place-making ideas in both Europe and North America, and taught urban design principles to transportation students.