Projections 10: Designing for Growth and Change

Projections, the Journal of the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning, focuses on the most innovative and cutting edge research in planning. Each volume is devoted to a different topic of interest to planning scholars, students, and professionals. As a peer-reviewed publication, Projections welcomes original high quality submissions at the vanguard of planning theory and practice.

The physical pattern of urban infrastructure, the two and three-dimensional geometry of built form and its circulation routes, the shape of public space and paths that connect them are key variables deployed by the urban designer to confi gure the change and growth of the city. The urban designer’s intention, through the exploration of different confi gurations and their probable consequences, is to discover the means whereby each part and the whole of the city becomes a better host for the activities of its users. Activities, their location, their intensity and their rate of change can also be variables in the city design process, but more often these attributes of the city are presented as the needs to be accommodated by a proposed change or addition to the city’s confi guration of infrastructure, built form and public space that will enable a city to become a more elegant, generous, just and functional host to human activities.

The relationship between the confi guration of a city’s form and its performance as a host along any of these dimensions has been the subject of some study, and a good deal more assertion. New Urbanism, for instance, has produced numerous claims about the formal structure of low-density housing environments, but only few empirical studies (Song and Knaap 2003). Others have searched vigorously for plausible propositions that would link the qualities of whole cities with their physical confi gurations (Lynch 1984). A great deal of investigation about the quality of city form also takes place in design practice – the making, rather than description of form – where ideas rarely get translated into writing. The ability to synthetize complex social and economic forecasts into formal propositions is inherent to what architects and urban designers do. This issue of Projections – the 10th anniversary issue of the MIT Journal of Planning – has thus invited both academics and practitioners of urban design to presents and review contemporary propositions about the spatial confi guration of the built environment. To focus an otherwise vast range of research, we have centered the issue of Projections 10 on two particular qualities that most urban environments are expected to accommodate over time: the capacity grow and change. We have asked both theorists and practitioners of urban design to refl ect upon design strategies that enable or allow settlements patterns to adapt, with ease and elegance, to changes in use, and to present and refl ect on design strategies that can readily accommodate growth in demand over time.