Urban Landscape Design

Murat Z. Memluk

Ankara University Turkey

1. Introduction

Peyzaj, the Turkish word for landscape, originates from French word "paysage" which means scenery. Nowadays, the word encompasses a wider and deeper meaning. While in the medieval period, "landscape" was used as a synonym for "region" and "territory" in most of the Germanic languages, beginning from the 15th century landscape became a pictorial genre (Tress & Tress, 2001). The use of landscape as a term in science is relatively new. Today, landscape refers to not only a phenomenon described and analyzed by scientific methods, but also a subjective experience which has perspective, aesthetical, artistic and existential meaning (Antrop, 2005a). It is dynamic and constantly changing. Antrop (2005b) identified four driving forces of landscape change; (i) accessibility, (ii) urbanization, (iii) globalization, and finally (iv) calamities. This chapter is about urban landscapes; therefore urbanization will be the beginning point of this study.

Urbanization has become a worldwide phenomenon after the second half of the last century. Today more than half of the world population lives in urban environments[12]. Urbanization is a complex and multidimensional concept with its spatial, ecological, economic, social and cultural aspects. While urbanization is widely accepted as a foundation of modernizing (Clarke Annez & Buckley, 2009), it has also caused environmental and socioeconomic challenges (Adams & Sierra, 2009). Consequently planning and design of urban areas are faced with challenges to create both ecologically and economically sustainable cities.

Natural landscapes have been dramatically transformed by the urbanization process throughout the world. Consumption of resources is highest in urban environments, which causes negative impacts on physical environment. Traffic, air, water and soil pollution, improper land use and greenhouse gas emissions are some of the major issues due to urbanization. The effects of urbanization process are not only limited to ecological damage, but changing sociocultural and economic structure also affects the quality of physical environment by influencing human behaviors and lifestyles. Indeed, there is a mutual relationship and interaction between physical environment and quality of life. Therefore planning and design of physical environments requires a holistic and comprehensive perspective.

Urbanization in Turkey gained momentum starting from 1950’s as a result of intense immigration from rural to urban areas. This has caused vertical growth in cityscapes and increase of squatter settlements around planned areas which has lead to loss of character and identity. Currently there are 81 provinces in Turkey and the urban population is the 76.3% of the total population as of 2010 (TurkStat, 2011). Industrialization has always been the key driving force o the urban development in Turkey. While industrialization and urbanization have pushed the limits of environmental capacity, open and green spaces, or in other words the urban landscape has diminished within the city. Unfortunately, open and green spaces are hardly among the priorities of urban development in the planning system of Turkey. On the contrary, like Jacques-Menegaz (2006) points out; "open and green spaces are not amenities but necessities in urban life".

This chapter aims to present the role and importance of urban landscape as a crucial part of urban environments, providing design basics and examples. Urban landscape elements, whether public or private property, are parts of the city’s form and texture. Therefore design of urban landscape is inevitably a part of urban design. Hence, firstly, urban design concept and its bond with landscape architecture will be discussed. Then, benefits of urban landscape elements will be examined and basic urban landscape design principles will be presented.

2. Urban design

Urban design as a profession might be considered relatively new, but historically it has played a major role in forming cities (Arida, 2002). The concept of urban design has emerged as a bridge between planning and design in response to need for management of modernizing cities in the late 1950’s (Krieger, 2009). However, there does not exist a commonly agreed definition of urban design yet, mainly due to its interdisciplinary character. While some try to create a precise and universal definition, some argue that it is unnecessary. Appleyard (1982) states that there shouldn’t or can’t be a single definition of urban design and points out if the existence of different kinds of urban design is recognized, then it is possible to get a better understanding of the nature of it (Rowley, 1994). There are many viewpoints on what urban design actually is. Traditionally, urban design has been regarded either as a subset of planning or as extension of architecture. On the other hand, one cannot abstract open and green spaces out of an urban environment. Hence, the role of landscape architecture in urban design needs to be understood and accepted as a key part in creating sustainable urban environments. This section does not aim to define urban design, but I believe a better understanding of scope and content of urban design will provide a conceptual basis for urban landscape design.

Urban design can roughly be defined as the art of creating and giving form to urban environments. Urban design involves many stakeholders whose interests and priorities may conflict and the physical product of urban design should serve the community’s needs and expectations with its social, cultural and economic outcomes. This makes urban design a highly complex phenomenon; as a result the definition can or should not be limited to physical design.

Although examples of urban design could be traced back to Ottoman period, it, as a concept, was first introduced in Turkey in 1970s, starting from the adoption of the concept by university degree programs. However, the concept has not gone further than being an academic subject and a legal background does not exist, yet. According to Ba§ (2003) existing urban planning approach in Turkey is basically static and urban design is reduced to land readjustment. Furthermore, never ending controversies, mainly between urban planners and architects, over "who are the real urban designers" makes the cooperation difficult. On the contrary, compromise between related fields (i. e. landscape architecture, urban planning and architecture) is necessary in order to develop conceptual background for urban design in Turkey. This might also be the basic problem in defining urban design; arguing possession of the discipline rather than focusing on the extent. It is impossible to involve urban design in national development policies without lack of consensus.

In 2010, a national action plan titled "Integrated Urban Development Strategy and Action Plan 2010-2023, Turkey"(KENTGES in Turkish abbreviation) was created by the Ministry of Public Works and Settlement[13]. The action plan is a result of participation process in order to respond to the need for increased life quality and stronger socio-economical structure in urban environments. It is a national document which includes the strategies, policies and actions for sustainable urban development. In this document, the concept of urban design has been primarily linked to the second central axis of the action plan "increasing spatial and life quality of settlements". The actions related to urban design are summarized as follows:

• To establish interdisciplinary graduate degree programs in universities,

• To prepare guidebooks based on research and development projects’ outcomes,

• To develop methodologies for quality urban design,

• To promote revitalization of urban centers and to establish maintenance, management, finance and participation approaches,

• To develop design solutions for disadvantaged groups.

The integration of urban design in such an action plan seems like promising. However, there is still much work to be done and it is too soon to tell whether the action plan will achieve its goals.

Updated: October 14, 2015 — 12:14 am