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What is Contextual Urban Design?

The term contextual architecture is one that suggests that architecture itself responds to the surroundings of a particular project. Whereas ideas of deconstructivism and constructivism aim to work on a project no matter what the existing framework and landscape provides as a canvas, contextualism works to respect the existing environment and to use it as a framework from which to design and build.

By complementing the existing environment you can begin to see a real connection between building and the current environment. Within urban contextual design this can have a major impact on the way that the local population lives, works, travels and relaxes, and it is why we see such special detail in certain types of public buildings and spaces within public areas. It is vital that a person feels connected with their surrounding environment in as natural a way as possible in order to feel relaxed, happy and positive about an area that is home.

Urban design is the collaborative process that takes multiple disciplines and engages with communities and industries in urban areas to ensure that the design of towns, cities, streets and public spaces work as a whole. Contextual urban design is seen as an art form by many people, as it is a way of designing space to be effective, engaging and attractive, grouping buildings, spaces and landscapes together and establishing a strong framework that allows for future developments that to not overcrowd or endanger the greater good of the area.

Urban contextual design is about creating the city and urban area into the form that will see it live for many years to come. It must offer both a present function and desirability and a potential working future that allows for clever growth and functionality without stretching the resources of those already inhabiting the area. It takes long-held ideals of civilisation and a traditional sense of architecture and grandeur and places those within the framework of a bustling, modern urban landscape.

Urban design covers a wide range of aspects however, including not only the design and implantation of new buildings and the regeneration of existing urban areas, but also includes the idea of economic projections, the design and sale of new developments to private investors, as well as the process behind integration of community ideals and economic goals. It involves the creation of a clear framework and guidelines that can be used as a reference point for decades to come, allowing for historic revitalisation of specific buildings and areas within the urban landscape that exists at that time.

Overall urban contextual design is about a perfect balance between the traditional aesthetic and use of a city that we think of historically – providing a sense of order, providing pleasant scenery and functional processes – and adding it within the ever-evolving urban landscape that continues to grow. Urban designers can ensure that an almost-living urban organism is created that allows for individual buildings to come and go, but the essence of the environment remains the same.