Urban Design Governance, Soft Powers and the European Experience (2023)

Matthew Carmona, Joao Bento, Tommaso Gabrieli

Final cover copyThis book (available as a free download) takes a deep dive into the governance of urban design across Europe.  It examines interventions in the means and processes of designing the built environment put in place by public authorities and other stakeholders across the continent in order to shape both processes and outcomes in a defined public interest.  In particular, the focus is on the use of soft powers to influence design quality with the aim of understanding the scope, use and effectiveness of the range of informal (non-regulatory) urban design governance tools that governments, municipalities, and others have at their disposal.  The book brings together work from the Urban Maestro project which used a tools-based analysis to gather, capture and progressively understand the diverse approaches to urban design governance across Europe.

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Public Places Urban Spaces, The Dimensions of Urban Design (2021)

Matthew Carmona

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Ten years after the second edition, this new edition of Pubic Place Urban Spaces significantly updates the content, structure and scope of the book.  A new structure is used with the temporal, perceptual, morphological, visual, social, functional dimensions still at its heart, but now including explicit process dimensions – design governance and place production. The idea of urban design as a continuous process of shaping places, fashioned in turn by shifting global, local and power contexts is also advanced whilst this much more international edition incorporates new thinking on technological impact, climate change adaptation, strategies for urban decline, cultural and social diversity, place value, heathy cities and more.  As previously, in writing the book my aim has been to provide an accessible overview of the subject of urban design, but one sufficiently comprehensive to demonstrate the layered complexities of what continues to be, for me, an ever engaging and fascinating subject.

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Design Governance, The CABE experiment (2017)

Matthew Carmona, Claudio de Magalhães, Lucy Natarajan


The governance of design has been a personal interest and passion of mine since I first registered to do a PhD at the University of Nottingham in 1992.  In many respects this book represents the culmination of those efforts (so far) as it brings together much of that thinking and applies it to a particular and unique episode of design governance with far reaching and important lessons for us all: the work and impact of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE).  Put simply, the book focuses on how we design the built environment where most of us live, work and play and the role of the state (government) in that process.  It is structured into three main parts and an afterword, each of which addresses a different primary aim: To theorise design governance as an arm and aspiration of modern day government; to tell the story of CABE, warts and all, and to set it in the context of the work of the Royal Fine Arts Commission (RFAC) that came before, and the market in design governance that came after; to unpack CABE’s ‘informal’ toolbox: its methods and processes of design governance; and to conclude by drawing from the research to reflect on the effectiveness and legitimacy of design as a tool of government.

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Explorations in Urban Design, An Urban Design Research Primer (2014)

Matthew Carmona (Editor)


Whilst recognising that distinctly different traditions exist within the study and practice of urban design, this book advances an interdisciplinary view of the subject’s exploration through research.  The book aims, first, to enthuse and inspire users who are grappling with urban design research problems but who need inspiration to move from idea to methodological approach; and second, through the work of 32 urban researchers at The Bartlett, UCL, to demonstrate problems and approaches within the subject that span the arts, sciences and social science dimensions of the field.  The book is divided into five parts, each of which addresses a particular meta-approach to urban design research: philosophical approaches, process investigations, physical explorations, propositional experiments, and performance enquiries.  As a primer, the intention was to produce a book that appealed to everyone from the informed undergraduate student about to embark on their first urban design dissertation, to PhD students and seasoned researchers immersed in methodological and conceptual complexity and wishing to compare available and appropriate methodological paths.

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Capital Spaces, The Multiple Complex Public Spaces of a Global City (2012)

Matthew Carmona, Filipa Wundelich


The genesis of this book began with the ideas explored in my earlier book, Public Space, The Management Dimension.  Many critiques have been posited about contemporary public space, many stemming from an argument that free rein has too often been given to the market to shape urban public space in its own interests whilst the public sector has been relegated to the edges of the space-shaping process.  The result, it is suggested, are public spaces that, whilst meeting a certain set of private objectives (profitable, safe, unchallenging, etc.), may fail to meet the needs of a wider public interest and of the diversity of users that make up society.  Is it really that bad?  That is the question that this book attempts to address through a detailed investigation of the complex and evolving public spaces that have been designed and developed, used and managed in London since 1980.  Through the crucible of this pre-eminent global city with all its attendant economic, social and political complexities, the book navigates the contemporary debates on public space, and reveals important conclusions of relevance to both local practice and international theory of public space creation and recreation in the 21st Century.

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Public Places Urban Spaces, The Dimensions of Urban Design (2nd Edition) (2012)

Matthew Carmona, Steve Tiesdell, Tim Heath, Taner Oc


The world of urban design is small, but ideas develop quickly, so seven years after completing the first edition, work began on this second edition.  The book retains a comprehensive overview of the principles and theory of urban design at its heart, but this time fully updated with the latest debates, practice and research, including much expanded discussions on key areas such as sustainability, health and inclusion.  This was my first full colour book, which hugely helped to create both an engaging and more comprehensible book, with illustrations used to demonstrate the application of the concepts discussed in the text.  As with the first edition, the book explains the catalysts for change and renewal, and explores the global and local contexts and processes within which urban design as ‘place-making’ occurs. The book covers the six key dimensions of urban design theory and practice – perceptual, social, morphological, visual, functional and temporal – and relates these to discussions of the market and regulatory processes, and to how urban design is communicated.

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Public Space, The Management Dimension (2008)

Matthew Carmona, Claudio de Magalhães, Leo Hammond


This book drew on four separate empirical research projects that I had been commissioned to undertake, each of which, in different ways, examined the much neglected question of how public space is managed. The book attempts to set the results of these projects within the context of theoretical debates about public space, its history, contemporary patterns of use, the changing nature of western society; and the new management approaches that were increasingly being adopted at the time.  The book is international in its focus and reflects a time when a widespread dissatisfaction and pessimism about the state of urban environments, and particularly about the quality of everyday public spaces, was rife.  The argument is made that, as well as worrying about how we design spaces (from the humble street corner to the public park) we need also to focus on their long term management.  It is precisely this seemingly prosaic concern that has such a huge impact on whether space is used, by whom and how, and  on the wider sense of wellbeing of citizens.

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Urban Design Reader (2007)

Edited by Matthew Carmona, Steve Tiesdell


The intention of this reader is to compliment Public Places Urban Spaces by bringing together some of the key sources that inspired the earlier book in their original (albeit edited) form.  The reader therefore draws together key texts that provide the foundations for a place-making view of urban design and does so in eight sections that map onto those used in Public Places Urban Spaces.  Each of the six substantive ‘dimensions’ of urban design is the subject of a section and these follow an initial group of papers dealing with definitions and understandings of urban design.  They are followed in turn by a final section dealing with implementing urban design.  By bringing this material together in this easily accessible format it is hoped that a deeper understanding of the subject can be gained by students and practitioners alike.

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Measuring Quality in Planning, Managing the Performance Process (2004)

Matthew Carmona, Louie Sieh


This book stemed from the question: How can a non-distortionary, objective and comprehensive system be developed in order to measure the quality of planning?  This is an important question in order to avoid the situation whereby those aspects of the planning service which are difficult to measure – such as the quality of design outcomes – are devalued, whilst those that can be easily measured – such as the speed of processing planning applications – are prioritised.  In the 2000s these conundrums were recognised by governments across the world, whilst the fundamentals of performance measurement in planning remained poorly understood, leading to a situation whereby much performance measurement was highly distortionary and often acted against the drive to deliver better quality development.  The book addresses these complexities and, as far as possible, cuts through the tangled web of thinking in this area.  The book concludes by making the case for a holistic approach to quality measurement that address equally the three key dimensions of planning quality: product (or outcome), service and organisational quality.

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Public Places Urban Spaces, The Dimensions of Urban Design (2003)

Matthew Carmona, Tim Heath, Taner Oc, Steve Tiesdell


Now superseded by a second edition, this book offered an exposition of urban design that took readers systematically and logically through the subject’s many complex and inter-connecting dimensions.  By this means, a comprehensive overview of the discipline was offered both for those new to the subject and for those requiring an in-depth guide to urban design.  To facilitate this, an easily accessible structure in three main sections was adopted.  It began with a discussion of what is meant by urban design, before reviewing issues of change in the contemporary urban context and the presentation of six overarching imperatives (or contexts) that should inform all areas of urban design action.  A second part consisted of six chapters, each of which reviewed a substantive dimension of urban design thinking: perceptual, social, morphological, visual, functional and temporal.  A final part focused on implementation and delivery processes for urban design.  Originally conceived and structured for my own urban design theory class, the book has been adopted widely, and internationally as a core text book for urban design.

Delivering New Homes, Planning, Processes and Providers (2003)

Matthew Carmona, Sarah Carmona, Nick Gallent

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This book continued my long-term interest in housing by examining the processes and relationships that underpinned the delivery of new homes across the United Kingdom in the early 2000s.  Its focus was primarily on the land use planning system in England, the way that housing providers engage with that system, and how the processes of engagement were (at the time) changing or might change in the future.  The three key processes – planning, market and social house building – are dissected in the opening chapters and then brought back together in later chapters to explore the key areas of interaction between planning and the providers of social and market housing by way of the range of tensions that have consistently dogged those interactions.  A final set of chapters drew on extensive case study material to propose sometimes evolutionary and sometimes radical proposals for how to overcome the tensions and find a better way of delivering new homes.

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Housing Design Quality; Through Policy, Guidance and Review (2001)


Matthew Carmona

This book evaluates practice and innovation in the local authority control of private sector residential design through the English planning process.  It was written in the light of increasing pressure for new residential development, alongside increasing condemnation of the standard products of the volume housebuilders, and the frequently unimaginative attempts of the public sector to influence the design of such development.  The underpinning research (my PhD) was undertaken as a means to make recommendations on improving the practice and effectiveness of influencing housing design quality through means of planning policy, design guidance and design review.  Although based on an in-depth examination of English practice prior to 2000, many of the problems and possible solutions, as well as the theoretical discussions, are both universal and still relevant today.

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The Design Dimension of Planning; Theory, Content and Best Practice for Design Policies (1997)


 John Punter,  Matthew Carmona

This book examines design policies in British development plans of the 1990s. With, at the time of its writing, design quality growing in importance for the public, consumers, developers and local authorities, and increasingly high on the agenda of Government, the book made an important practical contribution to improving practices of design control in the UK. It argued that the new importance attached to policies in district-wide development plans (since 1991) meant that local planning authorities and community groups had (and have) an important opportunity to improve their control over the built environment.  Also that a concern for urban design should be at the centre of this. This research text explains how clear, comprehensive and effective design policies can be researched, written and implemented, and makes a case for the central role of the development plan in establishing and delivering a coherent and comprehensive local design agenda.

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