Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Wednesday, October 01, 2003

Urban Eye: the scoring system


The scores for each criterion range from -5 to +5. I chose a two-way scale rather than a simple zero-to-ten range, because developments can have either a positive or a negative impact on the life of the city.

Developments aren't treated in isolation, but are relative to what was there before. Thus, even if something is worthwhile in itself, if it resulted in the destruction of a lively part of the city then it may have a negative impact. A score of zero indicates an absence of impact: it may be a missed opportunity, but at least it didn't do any damage. -5 is reserved for unmitigated disasters and +5 for outstanding, world-class urbanism.


This score represents a project's contribution towards the life and vitality of the city. Positive qualities could include interactivity, diversity, legibility, compactness, connectedness, multifunctionality, adaptability and liveliness. Negative aspects include anything that deadens the surroundings or detracts from the life of the city as a whole.

All of the criteria are subjective, but none more so than aesthetic judgement. My own preference is for crisp, urbane contemporary modernism, but with an appreciation for quirkiness and individuality. While I enjoy genuine historical details, I have little patience for fake historicism, especially where there's no local precedent (faux Tuscan or mock Tudor). Above all, this site is about urbanism rather than architecture, so scores are based more upon contribution to the streetscape than individual brilliance.

Positive scores are given for any initiatives that reduce energy use (such as passive environmental controls or solar power) or make use of recycled materials (including re-use of old buildings). This category also take into account contributions to sustainable urban form through density and the use of brownfield sites. Above all, it recognises anything that encourages walking, cycling or public transport over car use.

This score measures contributions towards social inclusion, community well-being and independent small businesses. Any project, no matter how lively, attractive or environmentally sound, will score poorly here if it drives out low income earners, privatises useful public space or replaces unique local shops with homogenised global retail outlets.


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