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Respond to the lecture “Design of Neighbourhoods” by Ali Madanipour, Professor of Urban Design

The concept of neighbourhood planning has extraordinary persistence, especially in the practice of British and American planning. It withstood the devastating criticism of “the doctrine of salvation by bricks” (Jacobs, 1961) and “the non-place urban realm” (Webber, 1969). Finally it reappeared in the contemporary planning practice. In 2000, Schubert said the reason maybe was the increase of personal mobility and the expansion of daily movement patterns, the dissolution of traditional family life, the deeper spray of society and the casual employment with highly personalised and globalised social characteristics. Bruegmann (2000) defined the resistance to urban sprawl has been the main target of neighbourhood planning. Its aim is to address the spread of aesthetic, economic, equity and environmental defects.

See how CNU says?

Nowadays, more urban planners use the neighbourhood as a mechanism to oppose the indiscriminate physical and social modern suburbs, for building the distribution of business and community services, helping with the effective demand for public transportation, allocating park space while reserving more existing ecology and habitats and transforming rural areas into urban land. In the USA, the New Urbanism Charter emphasised “the reconfiguration of sprawling suburbs into communities of real neighbourhoods and diverse districts” as well as “coherent” metropolitan planning (CNU,1998).  But in the UK, the current “urban renaissance” policy declared the role of urban villages and public transport linked the neighbourhood centre to establish a more compact multi-core city (Urban Task Force, 1999), as well as reconfigure the higher-density green space.

Voices from the UK and Australia

Neighbourhood ensures a more sustainable model of behaviour. It has become the basis for the latest renaissance of planning ideas and practices in the UK and Australia. Neighbours had the strong potential to reduce car use and encourage walking. It meant neighbourhood could promote citizens to foster a range of healthier, more social, less polluting, and more environmentally friendly behaviours (Barton et al., 2003).In 2001, CNU claimed coupled with higher density which can support public transportation, wider commercial facilities and public services, and more diverse housing type, the neighbourhood could promote healthier, more equitable, more biodiverse and more civic forms of development which would not eliminate most social and anti-market trends. Meanwhile, it also encouraged small-scale local economic activities and create job opportunities. As a result, neighbourhood is seen as a holistic approach to social, economic and environmental goals of sustainable development.

Case Study from Perth

Australia’s research on Perth has applied more compact forms and more traditional neighbourhood designs. The Perth Metropolitan Area in Western Australia (population 1.4 million) provided a particularly interesting background for the application of sustainable neighbourhood design principles owing to its tradition of low-density residential development (currently about 6 homes per hectare [WAPC,2003]) and the increasing scale of urban sprawl (Fig. 1).

Figure 1. Perth Metropolitan Region Scheme

Obviously, the plan specified a typical 12-stage design process. There were different detail requirements for three scale proposals from region to neighbourhood to individual segments (Fig. 2). Table 1 reproduced neighbourhood design requirements that were considered to be the first and most basic considerations. These emphasised the importance of site and background analysis to ensure sustainable development with a stronger sense of place. Its goals outlined the overall design approach, which aimed to create a series of “walkable, mixed-use neighbourhoods”. It was limited to a circular area with a radius of 400 metres (considered to be a five-minute walk), covering 50 hectares.

 Figure 2. Sustainable Neighbourhood’s design process for a District Structure Plan and subsequent subdivision

In addition, it was worth mentioning the movement network occupied nearly half requirement to encourage walking, cycling, disabled access and public transportation. The neighbourhood connectors formed the adjacent spine, and the town and neighbourhood centres were located at the junction of these streets.

Lastly, what I want to say is creating the “neighbourhood” is to establish an ecological community that meets the needs of the neighbourhood and combines the natural environment and the artificial community into a sustainable, organic whole, with a sense of belonging and security. We should proceed from the aspect of human condition and humanity, rather than a simple design concept.


  1. BARTON, H., GRANT.M and GUISE, R. (2003),Shaping Neighbourhoods: A Guide for Health, Sustainability and Vitality, London, E & FN Spon.
  2. BRUEGMANN, R. (2000), ‘The paradoxes of anti-sprawl reform’ in R. Freestone (ed.), Urban Planning in a Changing World: The Twentieth Century Experience, London, E & FN Spon,158–74.
  3. CNU (CONGRESS FOR THE NEW URBANISM) (2001[1998]), Charter of the New Urbanism, San Francisco, Congress for New Urbanism,
  4. DEVELOPMENT PLANNING STRATEGIES (1998), Delivery and Integration of Community Facilities in New Walkable Neighborhoods(Research Brief prepared for Ministry for Planning, Western Australia), Perth.
  5. JACOBS,J. (1961), The Death and Life of Great American Cities, New York, Vintage.
  6. SCHUBERT, D. (2000), ‘The neighborhood paradigm: from garden cities to gated communities’ in R. Freestone (ed.), Urban Planning in a Changing World: The Twentieth Century Experience, London, Spon 118–38.
  7. URBAN TASK FORCE(1999), Towards an Urban Renaissance, London, E & FN Spon.
  8. WAPC (WESTERN AUSTRALIAN PLANNING COMMISION) (2003), Greater Perth: Residential Land Balance(Discussion Paper Six), Perth, WAPC.
  9. WEBBER, M. M. (1969), ‘The Urban Place and the Nonplace Urban Realm’ in M. M. Webber (ed.), Explorations into Urban Structure, Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania Press, 79–153.

School of Architecture
Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

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