As the godfather of New Urbanism, Andres Duany, of Duany and Plater-Zyberk (DPZ), has promoted the idea of the urban-rural transect since the early 1990s. A way of identifying and responding to different place characteristics, transects are inherent in how urban designers see the structure of places. However this relative order and character is not often recognised as a fundamental part of what is observed in the places that we value, and in how places should be structured.
Like design codes, also promulgated by DPZ well before it was fashionable in the UK, the transect brings together a combination of setting, location, professional disciplineand relative positions to set out rules for design, from infrastructure scale and types, through buildings, landscape and types of open spaces, to materials and more. This has been characterised as choosing the right clothes to wear in different places.
The book is divided into two parts: part one illustrates different types of transects with examples from other New Urbanists - regional-scaled transects in a hierarchy of settlements, travel distances, character and even types of food production, and local character transects. With six transect levels, T1 to T6, commonly observed or designed, the method can show a gradually changing character from rural to central civic areas, as well as juxtapositions of city centres right next to a rural setting. The key is intentional place-making, not unstructured sprawl.
Part two is a collection of texts exploring the need for post-suburban planning, speed limit transects, and nine steps for community involvement in identifying local transects (but too academic to use). Galina Tachieva writes about using transects to repair sprawl, which is applicable practically everywhere; and Sidney Brower identifies the 36 most sought-after neighbourhood qualities, and which to expect in each part of a transect.
Given the current focus on design codes, this book is essential to understand how transects work, so that a hierarchy and place-based design approach becomes integral, avoiding a return to randomly-located high density developments, or development islands with applied architectural styles.