Characterising Neighbourhoods: Exploring Local Assets of Community Significance, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Characterising Neighbourhoods

Exploring Local Assets of Community Significance, 1st Edition

By Richard Guise, James Webb


254 pages | 167 Color Illus.

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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

1.0. Introduction

1.1. The evolution of characterisation

1.2 The influence of character in planning

Part II The Components of Character

2.0. Introduction

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

3.0. Introduction

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

4.0. Introduction

4.1. Characterisation in policy, decisionmaking and design


A. Local Listing guidelines

B. Quiz; ‘Naming of Parts’

About the Authors

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.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
ARCHITECTURE / Urban & Land Use Planning