Planning & Urban Design


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​Urban Design Matters​

​Urban Design is the art of making 'quality places' for people. Urban Design involves the thoughtful arrangement and design of buildings, public spaces, transport systems, services, and amenities. Blending architecture, landscape architecture, and city planning, it's about connecting people and places, movement and urban form, nature and the built landscape while drawing together many strands of place-making, environmental concerns, social equity, and economic vitality to create places for people.

The City​design Studio kicked of its UrbanDesignMatters campaign with an exhibition at the Dallas Center for Architecture in May 2011. Urba nDesign Matters campaign, sponsored in part by the National Endowment for the Arts, is intended to spur dialogue about urban design by highlights quality urban spaces in Dallas and illustrating the components that make them attractive. The campaign has four elements: an exhibition that travels throughout Dallas city libraries; large sidewalk graphics located in each highlighted area; a website that provides detailed information about each area; a speaker series that coincides with the traveling exhibit.


The exhibition illustrates examples of urban spaces in Dallas, highlighting the components that make them attractive… "if all places are designed, why do we linger and enjoy some more than others and why do some spaces seem uninviting while other encourage you to say for hours". Some of the elements addressed are proximity to café seating, cross walks, mix of uses, parking, safety and larger characteristics like access to public transportation and proximity to open space. The exhibition moved to Central Library in June.  The exhibition can be seen at various libraries across Dallas, or visit the places listed below and experience them for yourself. The QR codes on each sidewalk graphic links to the website that provides detailed information.

  Bishop Arts – N. Bishop Ave @ W. 7th St.
  Deep Ellum – Main St. @N. Walton St.
  Downtown – Stone Place @ Elm
  State Thomas – State St. @ Allen St
  West End – N. Market St. @ Pacific Ave
  West Village – CityPlace West Blvd @ McKinney Ave

The perception of the public realm is most immediately impacted by design in four categories; buildings, the public realm, sense of safety, and connectivity and access. These four categories are highlighted on each board.

Where building and sidewalk meet is important in any urban environment. It's the moment in a pedestrian network where interaction between people on the sidewalk and buildings is most intense and a threshold where commerce and activity must cross. Street level restaurants, shops, stores, businesses and residences are all accessed at that line, and the more continuous it is, the greater possibility for success they will all experience. A building's lowest three floors of frontage are the primary contributor to a pedestrian's understanding and enjoyment of a city and thus greater care, expense and workmanship shall be given to its design.

Buildings, as they meet the ground, form the space around our city streets. The shape of our streetscape is created by the height, mass and location of the buildings which line the sides. Buildings which meet the street acknowledge the greater importance of the public space through which the streets run. They can, in this way, give positive definition to the shape and function of outdoor space and create an awareness of the greater importance of the civic whole, where building facades are shaped by the public spaces around them.

Public Realm
Defined as the public open space between buildings, the urban areas most apparent being plazas, sidewalks, streets and parks, the quality of our public realm is vital if we are to be successful in creating environments that people want to live and work in. A comfortable and stimulating public realm that encourages lively social interaction requires detailed attention to the structure of a space and the elements it contains. This involves the surfaces; what is hard, what is soft; what forms of planting are appropriate; and what surfaces are for vehicles as well as for pedestrian and bicycle use, for example. It also requires that issues of security, public art, street furniture, lighting and signage, etc. be studied at the same time.

The best public spaces often have nodes of activity complemented by quiet areas for rest and people-watching. These successful spaces combine built-in versatility, convenient paths to and through the space, attention to all the senses, strengthening of distinctiveness and local identity through design and use of local plantings, and use of quality materials. A host of components occupying space need careful attention thus street furniture, public art, signage, and lighting are critical to ensure successful space.

Safety and security are vital elements for any urban environment. Though thoughtful design can enhance a sense of well-being, make places lively, and easy to understand it can also make them secure. A sensitive combination of good design, management, and community involvement is effective in making more safe and secure environments.

Community safety and crime prevention can be enhanced through the creation of lively, lived-in urban areas and public spaces that are easy to overlook and oversee by building-in natural surveillance and human presence ('eyes on the street'), providing safe routes and access, and designing them to foster a sense of ownership.

The sense of safety for bicyclists and pedestrians in the public realm can also be ensured through the design of streets. Separation of traffic through the use of marked bicycle lanes, on street parking, street trees and extended bulb-outs at intersections can all influence one's sense of safety in the public realm.

A fundamental responsibility of design is providing equitable access that is convenient and comfortable. An interconnected street grid network disperses and slows traffic. It encourages walking, bicycling and use of transit by allowing most streets to be narrow, reduces the length and number of trips, saves energy, and allows for choice and a more pleasant and interesting trip.


The Speaker Series another component of the Urban Design Maters campaign. This monthly event travels throughout the Dallas library system with the goal of educating the public about urban design. Speakers present on topics that are relevant to the communities surrounding that library.

June 30th 
Central Dallas Library
Downtown Dallas Inc., Kourtny Garrett & Dustin Bullard

July 26th 
North Oak Cliff Library
Kevin Sloan, Kevin Sloan Studio

August 31st 
West Dallas Library
Arturo del Castillo, City of Dallas

October 25th 
Martin Luther King Library 
Theresa O' Donnel, City of Dallas