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Economic and Effective Urban Design

Urban design is the process of designing and shaping the physical character of urban towns and villages and planning municipal services for residents and visitors. Urban design involves buildings, infrastructure, streets and larger public spaces, entire neighborhoods and districts, and entire cities. Urban design is an interdisciplinary field that uses procedures and elements from architecture and other related disciplines, including landscape design, urban planning, civil engineering, and municipal engineering (Van et al., 2013).


In class, I realized that socioeconomic analysis is very important to any urban design proposal, and that it is also important to know how to solve these problems. Danny suggested in a presentation that we consider socioeconomics in urban design, using economics and other social science analysis to provide important data for the effectiveness and success of design solutions. One of the problems facing urban design is climate change. This is a long-standing and difficult problem to solve, but it is also an important factor that we need to consider in our design. With increasing awareness of climate change and global warming among policy makers, planners and the public, it is expected that climatic factors will have an increasing impact on spatial planning (Aronin, 1953). For example, in our design project this semester, we will also do some analysis on climate, which will have a great effect on our subsequent design.

In addition to some natural factors that we should consider in our design, social economy is also a very important factor that we need to consider in urban design. After all, urban design is the art of creating places, and the core of place-making is designing for people. Therefore, designers should fully understand people’s behaviors, habits, interests, etc. in the design, and determine which designs in the venue are outdated, need to be abandoned, and which functions need to be added. Regarding how we assess socioeconomics, a toolkit should be applied first, followed by a series of data domain analyses, valid data “types”, etc. However, how we apply this data is key. Here are some data analysis that may be involved in urban design:

  1. Demographics: Data related to population.

In terms of population statistics, it can be considered to divide by land, age, race, gender, etc., and the census classification standard can be adjusted according to local conditions. And design the entire venue according to the different needs of different groups of people. Because different land use requirements are different, only by understanding the main groups of people in this area and carrying out targeted design can the value of the site be reflected and people can use the site more.

  1. Income and wealth: earning and saving.

In our design, we also consider the income and welfare of local people to decide what kind of venue functions they can accept. Or what kind of consumption their income supports. This is also crucial to our design, which can determine whether our design results can be accepted by local residents and whether they can be liked by people. If we design a website that people don’t like, it will end up being a deserted place.

  1. Culture and Heritage: Tradition and Context.

Before designing, we can look ahead to the history of the site, local cultural traditions or cultural values, and local cultural heritage to consider the history we need to preserve and protect, and the history we can throw away. In the fishing pier in our design studio class this semester, we had to consider the history of the place, as the economic makeup of the place is mainly fishing. Today, fish docks are still financially supported by fisheries or fish factories. It is unreasonable for the fish wharf to completely subvert the existing economic structure, so it is more feasible to retain part of the original economic structure in the design while giving it a new economic structure or enriching it on top of the existing economic structure.

Figure 1: Fish quay market


  1. Sites and Locations: Footprints and Local Areas (Traffic)

We should learn to look at site characteristics from a development perspective and grasp the economic opportunities associated with the site.

A study (De Nadai et al., 2016) aimed at six cities in Italy and aimed to confirm Jane Jacob’s four principles of urban vitality through mobile phone data. Two of these principles overlap with our metrics (mixed use and intersection density), and the study found that both characteristics have a significant impact on economic vitality.

  1. Market potential

We should understand what kind of social and economic improvement the design can bring to the local area, what kind of contribution it can make to the local development, and how to better achieve sustainable development.

For example, Findhorn Ecovillage in Scotland has achieved remarkable results in green buildings, ecological planting, energy systems, sustainable education, and community governance. By developing sustainable external environments such as eco-housing, sewage treatment and renewable energy technologies, the inner life of human beings is addressed, allowing people to experience being part of a mutually supportive network of life, forming a consensus community. Through self-sufficiency of local agricultural products, natural and environmentally friendly planting methods, and planned production and consumption of agricultural products, the “food miles” of Findhorn Ecovillage have been effectively reduced.

Figure 2: Aerial view of Findhorn Ecovillage

Figure 3: Photovoltaic panels on the roofs of houses in Findhorn Ecovillage

Figure 4: Findhorn Ecovillage Sewage Treatment System




Van Assche, K.; Beunen, R.; Duineveld, M.; de Jong, H. (2013). “Co-evolutions of planning and design: Risks and benefits of design perspectives in planning systems”. Planning Theory. 12 (2): 177–98. doi:10.1177/1473095212456771. S2CID 109970261. Archived from the original on 2013-06-28. Retrieved 2015-04-08.


Aronin, J. E. (1953) Climate and Architecture (New York: Reinhold).


De Nadai M, Staiano J, Larcher R, et al. (2016) The death and life of great Italian cities: A mobile

phone data perspective. In: Proceedings of the 25th international conference on World Wide Web.International World Wide Web Conferences Steering Committee, Montreál, Que´ bec, Canada, 11–15 April 2016, pp.413–423.


Ecovillages-prototypes of 20-minute Neighbourhoods, 2021.

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Planning and Landscape
Newcastle upon Tyne
Tyne and Wear, NE1 7RU

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