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The socioeconomic impact of urban design

In modern urban design projects, designers no longer only focus on the structure of space, but also pay attention to the related fields of social development and urban economic growth. “As a scientific discipline, urban design may not directly affect or act on social development and urban economic growth, but it can promote urban development by building an urban environment and improving the quality of life of residents. On the other hand, in the process of urban design, the image of the city is reshaped, and more population will be attracted” (Shi Lan, 2004). From the perspective of urban renewal, a deeper understanding and a more comprehensive understanding of the role of urban design can help promote urban development more efficiently.
With the deterioration of the urban environment, the decline of the old city, and the unbalanced allocation of social resources caused by factors such as blind urban expansion and rapid population growth, people are paying more and more attention to urban design projects. Some designers have tried to revive the city by demolishing the old town. But simple demolition will not work, an old city is demolished, and another slum is formed, because the social and economic problems hidden behind it have not been solved. In the new urban design concept, the research objects of urban design start from the greening system, transportation system, block density, urban skyline and so on. On the other hand, the socioeconomic factors required to create these material factors are also beginning to be incorporated into the practice of urban design, such as stimulating employment and expanding social welfare. It can be said that urban design has reached a stage that not only includes all the material renewal of the city, but also is closely related to society, culture and economy.
With the popularization of new urban design theory, many cities began to realize urban economic development by encouraging urban design practice. Birmingham is one of them. In “Birmingham Urban Design Studies” (FrancisTibbalds, 1990, Hubbard 1999), the authors suggest that Birmingham should rebuild the area covered by concrete structures to provide a healthy, positive blueprint and guiding strategy for future design. In addition, the author also emphasizes that while paying attention to the accessibility of plots, urban designers should increase the communication space of the street, provide some places as urban landmarks, and improve the legibility and friendliness of the city. On the other hand, the author believes that a perfect transportation system is very important for a city. These points coincide with the five elements of urban design (markers, nodes, regions, paths, and boundaries) mentioned by Kevin Lynch in his book “City Imagery”.
The most innovative part of Birmingham’s urban design project is its division of residential areas around the city centre, which is very important to Birmingham’s service system. A city centred on the development of the jewellery industry, Birmingham’s jewellery district is just north of the city centre, with many buildings dating from the 18th and 19th centuries. With industrialization, many historic buildings were severely damaged. According to the urban design framework of the region, the jewelry season is regarded as the Ligeng cultural heritage protection zone C, the reconstruction of the regional center, and the renewal of the service system are conducive to the organization of the regional structure. Therefore, the regional economic system recovers with the revitalization of the region. “By 2004, at least 300 grants had been made for urban design projects, and the government had invested £1 million in the area. This attracted more individual investment, totalling over £3 million” (Hubbard, 1999) in “Urban Design and Local Economic Development” (Duncan, J and Duncan, N, 1988), the authors argue that Birmingham’s urban design program has adopted a unique approach in its long-term economic strategy: closely integrating urban design and project investors. The Birmingham City Development Strategy declares that quality urban space can not only attract investment, but also improve the quality of life of residents.
Since the economy is the key factor in urban renewal, urban design projects should not only create a high-quality urban environment, but also improve the investment environment and attract more investors to develop the urban economy, which also reflects the external benefits of urban design itself. In addition, since urban design tends to balance and construct the connection of different factors of the city, coordinate the different needs of various social benefits of urban development, and solve a series of social problems is another key point that designers should pay attention to.

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

Telephone: 0191 208 6509

Email: nicola.rutherford@ncl.ac.uk