Perspectives City Design

Urban Designer Will Kerr shares academic work on Urban Morphometrics

Urban Designer Will Kerr has assisted in academic research, through the University of Strathclyde’s Urban Design Studies Unit, into the changes in scale of urban building configuration across time and space, and how we can move forward and create resilient and sustainable design.

Extract – Urban Morphometrics by Will Kerr

Scale in building formation and its association towards creating diverse and truly liveable settlements has for many years been frequently overlooked within planning systems across the world. The great and historic places that come to mind when we think of wonderful and culturally rich towns and cities have become so due to their intricate and fine-scale establishment. These are the spaces which have stood the test of time, creating beautiful and stimulating streetscapes that allow anyone and everyone to access and be a part of. ‘Organic’ developments have accumulated anthropometrically, but it has been difficult and subjective to determine what is fine-grain urban form and coarse-grain.

By comparing building ground configuration, it has been possible to accurately assess urban form on a global scale, through the phenomenon of morphological tessellation – further progressing the field of urban morphology. By undertaking comparisons of six types of urban tissue across six continents, it has been possible to determine a slight coarsening of urban fabric through the Industrial revolution. This has been more so with the implementation of professional theories of urban design, such as Modernism (very significantly), Garden City Theory and New Urbanism, but also in line with the post-war occurrence of vehicle mass ownership.

What does this mean?

Our primary focus as Urban Designers is to create resilient settlements that will stand the test of time and offer improved quality of life. As we can determine from this research, some planned settlements in the past have arguably been unable to adapt to change and lack human empathy. To address this, our work must present consideration to the scale of humans, whether this be intricate and identifiable streetscapes or creating developments which offer truly walkable and cyclable means of access.

Birds-eye Coarse-Grained Urban Fabric - Marzahn, Germany - Modernism (Google Maps)
Street View Fine-Grained - Cadiz, Spain - Pre-Industrial (Google Maps)
Birds-eye Fine-Grained Urban Fabric - Cadiz, Spain - Pre-Industrial (Google Maps)
Ground View Coarse-Grained Urban Fabric - Marzahn, Germany - Modernism (Author’s Photograph)