realms of urban design

mapping sustainability


Nevena Novaković (ed)
University of Banja Luka, Faculty of Architecture, Civil Engineering and Geodesy
Janez P Grom (ed)
University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Architecture
Alenka Fikfak (ed)
University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Architecture


book cover klabs series:  realms of urban design mapping sustainability


The traditional thematic realms of urban design, such as liveability, social interaction, and quality of urban life, considered to be closely related to urban form and specifically to public space, have long since been recognised as important, and have given the discipline a certain identity. The book Realms of Urban Design: Mapping Sustainability is certainly rooted in this fundamental urban design thinking, but its main contribution belongs to the second part of the book’s title – discourse on sustainability. Its chapters, considered as a whole, put forward the importance of the discipline and the designerly way of thinking in the context of the discussion about unprecedented environmental transformation.

The eleven chapters of the book represent the major sustainability concerns that the authors have seen as being related to the urban design discipline in their specific professional and environmental contexts. Therefore, the chapters as an entity could be seen as an act of mapping the sustainability issues that are coming “from the front” of urban design research and practice at the universities involved in the project Creating the Network of Knowledge Labs for Sustainable and Resilient Environments (KLABS). They show disciplinary, mostly methodological, concerns with the larger scales in comparison to those of the neighbourhoods and public space that are traditionally connected to urban design; with the collective or common nature of urban space; and with the distinctive, underused spaces coming not only as a legacy of the 20th century, but also as an important by-product of contemporary economic trends.


  • Sustainability vs. Resilience in Urban Design
    Alenka Fikfak, Janez P Grom, Urša Kalčič

    Abstract Cities are subjected to rapid changes, due to economic and cultural globalisation, demographic changes and migratory flows, urban planning strategies, social networks, and other factors. These spatial dynamics are happening under diverse visible and invisible relations between cultural changes, spatial boundaries between morphology patterns, voids, lost spaces, informal structures, self-organisation, planned regularities, etc., mainly following organic dialogues characterised by the complexity of the grid system. Research on sustainability and resilience in urban design indicates that the most functional urban structures are those with a multiple number of interconnections at all scales. The work articulates elements of identification, inventory, and evaluation of interconnections in urban open spaces, with added discussion on traditional city centres. By following the research methods of understanding the urban design, the study aims to investigate the open spaces in urban areas, prevailing on composition of urban morphology with perceptions in space. Here, the case study of the Municipality of Žiri, Slovenia, is included, where we explored the connections from the scale of the landscape to the detail in developing the concept of urban design for the central square of Žiri. This part of the study was done at the University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Architecture, as part of the Workshop Developing the City Centre of Žiri, with the students of architecture and urbanism involved together in experiential work.


  • The Scale of Urban
    World Urbanisation and Architectural Reactions
    Nevena Novaković, Anita Milaković

    The chapter represents a theoretical overview of the historical and contemporary debate on urbanisation issues. It is presented in the form of a concise interpretation of the basic concepts related to urbanisation, for the purposes of the understanding and reinterpretation of (urban) sustainability. The chapter points out the critical urban theory thesis that urbanisation is a social process generated and materialised through dynamic spatial transformation that is becoming planetary. The contemporary urbanisation fundamentally changed the cities from centric formations to the new polymorphic urban tissue deeply extended in the once rural and natural environment. Therefore, the chapter is based on the presumption that the issue of urban sustainability cannot be comprehended without an understanding of emergent interconnections and dependencies between different spatial scales, urban agglomerations, and close and distant operational territories. The management of urbanisation as a large-scale process and configuration is understood as the basic drive for the creation of sustainable urban places and territories. Furthermore, the chapter follows the contemporary methodological platforms and conceptual tools for the research of the local urban conditions in the context of planetary urbanisation. It focuses on the selected emerging urbanism approaches to researching and designing the new urban tissue, as a disciplinary path to overcoming the utopian comprehensive model of planning and designing the cities.


  • Abilities and Attitudes for Sustainable City Creation
    Contemporary Arguments for a Non- Linear Learning Methodology
    Juan Luis Rivas Navarro

    The definition of urban areas, the space in which urban functions are developed, has extended in recent decades to practically include the entire territorial space. In it, we can find cities of all sizes and ranges, as well as natural/agrarian landscapes or hybrids of the two. We could therefore define our “work space”, in the sense of the framework of our discipline (architecture and urban planning), as a unit within a network composed of a sum of ‘territorialities’.

    From this point of view, the different parts of territory need to be unlinked and understood because they are full of connections between spaces, times, and different themes. These are the kind of ‘urban’ territories that demand an architectural project. Even further, they often scream for one. Nevertheless, what would be the most suitable project for this kind of hybrid space? What kind of methodology should we employ to cope with the complex issues involved?

    The objective could be to encourage a change in mentality that transcends, or at least seeks to implement, a method for constructing ‘criteria of intervention’ rather than concrete measures. These methods should be both sensitive to and capable of selecting the most appropriate ways of approach, incorporating certain “keys” into the design process and planning. This is why, in the frame of our workshop, guidelines are proposed for a project production based on sustainability criteria that take advantage of a multi-scalar, multitemporal methodology, leading to the exploration of possibilities of incorporating, in the most conscious and creative way, these tools of discovery and evaluation of alternatives.


  • Sustainable, Green, Smart and Open City
    Rethinking Mostar
    Maja Popovac, Amra Šarančić Logo, Andrea Čordaš

    One of the main challenges of the 21st century is that of how to run the city. Development that is based purely on the exploitation of the natural resources is hopefully behind us, but the wounds to be healed are numerous and our consciousness is changing more slowly than expected. Obvious climate changes, causing many problems in cities (floods, landslides, earthquakes...), overpopulation and inadequate spatial planning, bad building practice and lack of greenery, infrastructure that cannot sustain growing settlements, lack of legislation, and inability to adjust to contemporary trends, are the main issues for many of today’s cities. Transforming the city into a resilient organism, changing usual practices, is not an easy task for many societies.

    All contemporary knowledge, based on decades of studies and research on this topic, showed that the only ways to approach strategies for city development and spatial planning should be taken holistically, taking into consideration all indicators and constant changes in the circumstances given by many stakeholders and conditions.

    This section gives an overview of the challenges faced by the 21st century city, focusing on possible development with the aim of creating, of keeping the city alive. The authors explain and compare sustainable/resilient, green/edible, smart and open cities. Mostar is presented as a case study, along with its historical background, urban development, and current situation. Finally, the authors propose some solutions for Mostar, based on history, acknowledgments, and current trends.

    Some of the answers on the ways in which the city can become more resilient to the physical, social, and economic challenges of 21st


  • Urban Form in the Context of Sustainability and Resilience
    Dijana Simonović

    Urban form is recognised as a point of convergence, meeting place, and source of theoretical and practical effort; it is a reflection of, and a framework for, scientific and professional activity when drawing up a concept of the regulation and establishment of urban order. Theoretical research into urban environment sees urban form as a heterogeneous and composite urban phenomenon, and its contemporary investigations insist on interdisciplinarity and contextualisation. Hence, the focus of this article is on the relation of urban form towards social, economic, and cultural aspects and issues of the environment. Contextualisation of urban form is understood as the concurrent consideration of a range of spatial and temporal aspects for the purpose of understanding its complexity. Urban form is observed from the perspective of urban morphology, as inseparable from urban landscape, to understand its composite nature and multiple layers. It is essential to see various aspects and layers of space as urban landscape, and to understand urban form as a temporal design process.

    Because urban landscape is understood as composite, as uniting the urban morphology and visual character of a city, and since it is analysed and interpreted as human habitat, urban form, and physical structure, permeated with and fused by the landscape structure, thriving with human activity, and laden with symbolic value, meanings and messages – it is recognised as an expression of the conceptualisation of the city and as an instrument of research, planning, design, and preparation of the environment to be sustainable/resilient.


  • Informal Rooting
    Informal Permanences in the Contemporary City
    Alessandro Tessari

    This work is based on the observation that within contemporary metropolises, there is a worldwide rooting process of informal cities that are structured around themselves and persist; they settle in the collective imagery, producing a new social-cultural mutation. This paradigm shift is more frequently triggering processes of “non-replacement”, which can also be observed on the physical pattern of these settlements that begin to mutate and adapt to the logic of stabilisation and reorganisation. The basic idea is to observe these territories, not yet explored, with the accuracy required by scientific literature, through the “eyes of the architect”, overcoming the wall of the unknowable represented by the hyper-complexity, the marginalisation, and the difficulty to access these territories. The aim is to create a specific and new informal “catalogue” that gathers the heritage of actions, forms, and urban spaces created “within the rooting process”, and that can be used to accurately know and interpret the informality.


  • Urban Resilience in the Suburbs
    Urban Acupuncture
    Boštjan Bugarič

    Investor urbanism advocates the privatisation of public space, which results in unification of amenities, detachment of dwellers, lack of urbanity, escalation of vandalism, and marginalisation of community. Urban acupuncture, as an implemented tool for community recuperation, provides an alternative to investor urbanism by motivating marginalised dwellers to take part in the process of place-making. A case study, the implementation of a project called CULBURB in six Central European cities, is described in depth to provide insight into the urban situation in the suburbs.


  • Participatory Revitalisation of Urban Public Open Space
    Urban Planners’ Skills Needed for Improvement of Urban Public Spaces in Participatory Manner
    Matej Nikšič

    Urban regeneration is a complex process that involves a variety of actors with different interests, roles, and powers. In recent years, an awareness has risen that local communities have valuable knowledge and abilities that can contribute to the success of the urban regeneration of local environments. On the other hand, there is still bias against a more direct involvement of civil society in the urban planning process due to additional organisational and financial efforts needed, but also due to inadequate knowledge in the field of participatory urbanism on the part of urban planners. The paper discusses people’s motivations to self-participate in the reclamation of urban public open spaces and the skills that urban planners need to efficiently cooperate with local initiatives in the urban regeneration processes. Based on a review of scholarly work and case studies throughout Europe, collected within the Human Cities project, it points out the important issues that urban planners have to bear in mind for a better cooperation with citizens. It discusses the expertise and skills needed for an urban planner/designer to be able to moderate such processes and thus contribute to a more sustainable urban development based on local knowledge and skills.


  • The Concept of Sustainability in the Context of Brownfields Regeneration
    Tanja Trkulja

    Brownfield locations are abandoned and underused spaces whose regeneration is threatened by actual or potential environmental contamination. Contaminated brownfields are scars on landscapes that threaten the environment and human safety, but they also have the potential for renewal and reuse. In this chapter, the concept of sustainability will be explored in the context of the regeneration of brownfields. The basis of current and future sustainable development strategies for European cities is the efficient use of urban land, and brownfield locations are great land resources for many cities. Therefore, their regeneration is necessary in that they are sustainable in the long term and resilient to intensive changes in urban systems confronted with demographic growth, rapid urbanisation, climate and many other natural changes and disasters.

    This chapter explores the definition, classification, and critical analysis of brownfields’ impact on the environment before and after their regeneration, in the context of development that accords with sustainability science, development that is based on economic, environmental and social sustainability in the field of urban planning and urban design. The characteristics of all three stated sustainability fields are synthesised in order to define economic instruments used to reduce environmental pollution, and strategies for the building of environmentally and socially resilient systems, instruments, and strategies, which are used as guidelines in the process of sustainable brownfield regeneration. In addition, the sustainability goals that will be achieved through the regeneration and redevelopment of brownfields are defined by, and based on, future development potentials, the improvement of economic, environmental and social values, and the qualities of these spaces and their surroundings.


  • The Revival of Industrial Heritage
    Business and Production Complex “Trepča”
    Ružica Božović, Džemila Beganović

    The subject of this paper is the urban regeneration of Business and Production Complex “Trepča”, its industrial heritage, and the possibility of its renewal. The focus is placed on the industrial complex that is territorially situated on the boundary zones of Zvecan and Kosovska Mitrovica, which has a complete physical structure that has lost its function, but has a historical, social, and architectural value today. The paper examines conceptual solutions and the proposed model for future revitalisation of the Business and Production Complex “Trepča” from the theoretical and methodological levels, as well as applied ways of improving business-production complexes in international practice in the field of regeneration of neglected industrial systems. The approach and processes of urban regeneration, in the context of both the individual complexes and the whole Business and Production System “Trepča”, can be revived by a collaborative programming model and transformed into new forms of industrial business according to the model of a technology park, whereby successful realisation requires the gathering and compliance of all stakeholders at once, from the international, regional, national, and local-city level. The modern model of the technological park, as a result of the urban regeneration of Business and Production Complex “Trepča” is a unique example of a comprehensive spatial and urban planning solution for sustainable development of this area.


  • Spatial Regulation for Change
    Business Zones as Areas of Continuous Transformation
    Gregor Čok

    Within the context of the sustainable planning of a productive business environment, business zones represent large spatial areas that change continuously with regard to various conditions (business environment, strategies for promotion and development of economy, production of spatial planning documents, etc.). This calls for the continuous transition of internal programmatic and morphological design, as a result of which it is becoming increasingly difficult to provide high-quality and sustainable justified urban design and architectural solutions at these sites. This chaotic situation also diminishes the business competitiveness of such zones, as well as their developmental and visual significance in a wider area. This paper highlights the individual regulatory measures at planning and implementation levels that, under given conditions, allow for the development of a productive business environment and positive implications of the zones for a wider area.



  • built environment
  • business
  • industrial heritage
  • informal rooting
  • resilience
  • sustainability
  • sustainable development
  • transformation
  • urban design
  • urban development
  • urban form
  • urbanisation
  • urban landscape
  • urban planning
  • Published

    15 July 2018


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    This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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