It is increasingly important to define what constitutes the unique character of our neighbourhoods, in order to identify what we value and should protect, to pinpoint areas for improvement and places which could be enhanced through sensitive change. But how do we define ‘character’ or a ‘sense of place’? How do we appraise the setting and site of a development area, in order that the essential character is retained and reflected in the design of new development? How can these qualities be communicated to decision makers and involve communities?
Characterising Neighbourhoods provides an accessible and richly illustrated guide to the practical methods of appraising neighbourhoods which are precise, well informed and engaging. It demonstrates how characterisation is used as an evidence base for the planning and management of neighbourhoods and urban areas.
The core focus is on a proven characterisation method developed and used by the authors and used by community groups, schools, planning and urban design students and professionals. It creates a common language used by these groups in evaluating places.
This guide provides a wealth of supporting information, including; briefing on the recognition of local architectural styles, periods and materials, detecting the influence of historic street layouts and property boundaries, townscape concepts such as scale and enclosure, and topographical characteristics.
Characterising Neighbourhoods is a valuable resource for practicing planners, urban designers and environmental professionals as well as students in these subjects.
Table of Contents
Part I The Context of Character
1.1. The evolution of characterisation
1.2 The influence of character in planning
Part II The Components of Character
2.1. Whose neighbourhood?
2.2. The shape of the neighbourhood
Case study A; Map Analysis
2.3. The appearance of the neighbourhood
Case Study B: Kingsdown, Bristol & St Luke’s, Cork
2.4. The fabric of the public realm
2.5. Neighbourhood landscape characteristics
2.6. Defining heritage assets
Case Study C: Point Chevalier, Auckland
2.7. Activities, uses and connections
Case Study D: Stűhlinger and Rieselfeld, Freiburg
2.8. Townscapes; perceiving spaces and places
Part III Undertaking Characterisation
3.1. Appraisal techniques; a review
3.2. Undertaking fieldwork
3.3. Appraising accessibility and condition
3.4. Neighbourhood mapping
Part IV Characterisation and Placemaking
4.1. Characterisation in policy, decisionmaking and design
A. Local Listing guidelines
B. Quiz; ‘Naming of Parts’
Richard Guise is an architect and town planner, and principal of his urban design consultancy, Context4D, based in Bristol. He was formerly course leader of the MA Urban Design programme at the University of the West of England. Richard works with communities and schools on characterisation and for public and private sector clients producing design guides, urban design studies and conservation area character appraisals and delivering in-house training. He was co-author of Sustainable Settlements, Shaping Neighbourhoods and Streets for All (SE & SW England volumes), for English Heritage. He is an Academician of the Academy of Urbanism, a member of the Bristol Urban Design Forum and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts.
James Webb is a planning consultant and one of two Directors of Forum Heritage Services, a consultancy specialising in the historic environment. He has formerly worked as a Principal Conservation Officer for several local authorities in the UK. James has delivered a considerable number of characterisation-based projects to local authority clients, mostly in the form of conservation area appraisals, including one for the City of Salisbury. James sat on the South-East Regional Design Panel and is currently a member of the Cornwall Design Review Panel and was a Trustee of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation representing the South-West region of the UK.
"This book deserves to be widely read... What the book does very well is to explain how to assess the character of a place, and how to use that understanding in the planning process. Its strongest feature is the beautiful, annotated drawings by Richard Guise. These communicate brilliantly, and make one regret the thousands of words that other authors write about urban design and conservation without illuminating anything much." -Robert Cowan, editor of Context, the Journal of the Institute of Historic Building Conservation
"This fine book sits firmly within the British townscape tradition. It reminds us of the vital historic content of so many of our most loved urban areas; but more than that, it instructs us in how to read that content, how to record it and, most importantly, how to appreciate it. This is one of the most comprehensive and carefully constructed discussions of the art of characterisation. It should be read by all those committed to ensuring that the best of our urban past continues to inform our present and future urban lives." -Professor Matthew Carmona, Bartlett School of Planning, UCL
"There is growing interest in ways of celebrating and enhancing the local distinctiveness of neighbourhoods, towns and villages, built on a base of thorough characterisation. In this book, Guise and Webb have managed the extremely challenging task of producing professionally sound methods that can be used equally effectively by local lay people." -Jeff Bishop, Associate Director, Place Studio