Awards Finalists

Street Design

The Secret to Great Cities and Towns
Victor Dover and John Massengale

In the past few years, books about elements of the cityscape have been a popular publishing theme: boulevards, squares and streets themselves, have all been covered recently. This trend is extended by this book on streets by two American practitioners and leading members of the Congress for New Urbanism.

Drawing on their own personal and professional experience of streets, as well as a widely, if not rigorously scoped search for examples of ‘good streets’, the authors have produced a readable book about this most ubiquitous element of the urban landscape. The book is packed with examples dealing almost exclusively with the Western canon of street design and street design issues, touching on as diverse subjects as the design of rural roads or how to design ‘bumpouts’, and covering scales from city-wide grid to details of paving materials. The sensitive descriptive analysis of streets experienced and the ability to comfortably discuss the range of design issues tell of an intimate knowledge of the process of designing, the designing of streets, and a great love for their favourite streets. Indeed, if it is possible to run out of things to say about streets, then this book is exhaustive of their design approaches and issues, at least in western cities.

What lets the book down is the weak signposting. This 400 page tome is divided into only six chapters. Apart from the introduction and conclusion, chapters are about Historic streets, Street systems and networks, Retrofitted streets and New streets. The bulk of content within each of these four chapters are good examples organised around eleven types of streets, such as Boulevard and Avenue, Main Street, Neighbourhood Street and Pedestrian Passage and Step Street. These cut across the four chapters. Each example is thoroughly described in terms of what design and designable features make them successful, and each is presented with photographs and drawings, and especially, street sections, each clearly presented within itself. However, not all the sections on the eleven street types are described in the same systematic fashion, and not all types are even defined, with some sections launching straight into examples. The book is further interspersed with asides into various aspects of street design (for example LEED for Neighbourhood Development or how they measure walkability), mini-essays about the favourite streets of various colleagues and pithy proverbs about street design. While these are interesting and often helpful, they do add to the jumble of threads running through the book.

Illustrations are a mix of proposal drawings, aerial photographs, contemporary and often historic photographs including before and after illustrations. Colour plates clumped into one section in the middle of the book are a rather old-fashioned approach to presentation.

URBAN DESIGN 133 Winter 2015 Publication Urban Design Group

As featured in URBAN DESIGN 133 Winter 2015

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Street Design Publication Urban Design Group
John Wiley and Sons
Reviewed By
Louie Sieh