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 Design Principles and the
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Design Principles and the Public Realm

Good DESIGN PRINCIPLES, such as those below crafted by the American institute of Architects, should guide ALL development.  It is these qualities that initially attract people to PLACES - downtowns, neighborhoods, town centers.  If we ignore these qualities, PLACES lose their competitive advantage and begin to look like every other place.

AIA’s 10 Principles for Livable Communities   (www.aia.org/livable)

1. Design on a Human Scale
Compact, pedestrian-friendly communities allow residents to walk to shops, services,
cultural resources, and jobs and can reduce traffic congestion and benefit  people's health.

    Hill Center, Green Hills, Nashville

2. Provide Choices 
People want variety in housing, shopping, recreation, transportation, and employment. Variety creates lively neighborhoods and accommodates residents in different stages of their lives.

3. Encourage Mixed-Use Development
Integrating different land uses and varied building types creates vibrant, pedestrian-friendly and diverse communities.

Read House

4. Preserve Existing Centers
Restoring, revitalizing, and infilling urban and suburban centers takes advantage of existing streets, services and buildings and avoids the need for new infrastructure. This helps to curb sprawl and promote stability for city neighborhoods.
St. Elmo Town Center   Brainerd Road

5. Vary Transportation Options
Giving people the option of walking, biking and using public transit, in addition to driving, reduces traffic congestion, protects the environment and encourages physical activity.
  Electric Shuttle 
6.  Build Vibrant Public Spaces
Citizens need welcoming, well-defined public places to stimulate face-to-face interaction, collectively celebrate and mourn, encourage civic participation, admire public art, and gather for public events. 

7. Create a Neighborhood Identity
A "sense of place" gives neighborhoods a unique character, enhances the walking environment, and creates pride in the community.

8. Protect Environmental Resources
A well-designed balance of nature and development preserves natural systems, protects waterways from pollution, reduces air pollution, and protects property values.
          Renaissance Park

     Stormwater Pavers

9. Conserve Landscapes
Open space, farms, and wildlife habitat are essential for environmental, recreational, and cultural reasons.
Stringer's Ridge Bikers Mountain and Ridges
Tennessee River

10. Design Matters
Design excellence is the foundation of successful and healthy communities.

What is Urban Design?  When referring to design principles, the term “urban” is often used, e.g. “urban” design principles. The word urban, however, does not necessarily apply to location, such as a downtown.  Rather in this context, it focuses on a type, or pattern, of development that is compact and walkable, typically with multi-story buildings close to the street, parking in the rear, well-defined pedestrian areas, and lots of activity along the street, created by storefront shops and restaurants.  Urban development patterns can be found throughout communities, from large city downtowns, to small town centers, to suburban shopping centers and even rural crossroads.

Why are Design Principles important?  Design principles do not dictate a particular style; they instead promote qualities that make the public realm vibrant.  They address the interface between private development and the public realm and contribute to the special character and quality of a PLACE.

What is the Public Realm?  It includes our parks, plazas, greenways, rivers, sidewalks and streets, and everything visible from the street, including building facades.  The public realm belongs to all of us.  Whether it’s a plaza bustling with activity, or a quiet riverbank, the public realm provides places to gather, to celebrate, relax, and play.    

Attention to the public realm is important because it ultimately determines whether or not the place is attractive for walking, shopping, and living.  Developers, designers, and public officials increasingly define the public realm as the single most important element in establishing the character of a successful community. 

The public realm can be thought of as the framework which private development “plugs into” and builds, or improves, upon.  Even the facades of buildings play a part, as they form the “walls” of the street – our most important, and most common, public spaces.  Whether on foot, on a bicycle, on a bus or in a car, streets are where most people experience a city. A visitor’s first impression of a city is often from the street.

Great communities adhere to good design principles and pay attention to the quality of the public realm.

 " Design isabout choices and intentions, it is not accidental. Design is about process.
The end user will usually not notice 'the design of it.' It may seem like it just works, assuming
they think about it at all, but this ease-of-use (or ease-of-understanding) is not by accident,
it's a result of your careful choices and decisions.
Garr Reynolds, www.inspireUX.com

Development Resource Center, Suite 2000
1250 Market Street 
Chattanooga, Tennessee 37402

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