(The title picture is from )

The course Principles and Practice of Urban Design during this term has presented a lot of theories and various ‘urbansim’. And the lecture of Participation and Neighborhood Design has impressed me deeply. Actually, I have read some books about sociology in my undergraduate period and most of them were related to the neighborhood relationship of urban community. Therefore, in this blog, I want to talk about the change of neighborhood relationship and design brought by different stage of urban development, and try to explore the new design method and development mode of today`s neighborhood public space.

Neighborhood Unit and Community Liberation
Initially, the concept of ‘neighborhood’ is accompanied by the birth of the ‘Neighborhood Unit’ thought. And the design idea of Neighborhood Unit was expounded systematically by Perry Regional, an American sociologist, in 1929. The core principles of Perry’s Neighborhood Unit were organized around several physical design ideals: 1.Center the school in the neighborhood, 2.Place arterial streets along the perimeter, 3.Design internal streets, 4.Restrict local shopping areas to the perimeter, 5.Dedicate at least 10 percent of the neighborhood land area to parks and open space.[1] Since then, the ‘Neighborhood Unit’ theory has played an important role in practice and has been further deepened and developed. Especially the new city called Radburn in New Jersey of American was most well-known. ‘Radburn Idea’ put forward the concept of “Superblock” which was aimed at the increasing number of car ownership and the number of traffic accidents in the 1920s. It regarded the main transport arteries of city as the barriers to delineate the scope of living area, so that to form a living environment where is safe, orderly, spacious and has more garden land. [2]This concept has laid a valuable foundation for the neighborhood space design of urban community. However, since the Neighborhood Unit was too focused on functionalism to ignore the relationship between space scale and human cognitive ability.  Hence after 1960s, it was replaced gradually by the community model theory in the west counties.

New_York_Regional_Survey,_Vol_7A diagram of Clarence Perry’s neighbourhood unit, illustrating the spatiality of the core principles of the concept (from the New York Regional Survey, Vol 7. 1929)

mapRadburn map (from

award-bigRadburn, NJ is a National Historic Landmark Site, which was planned in the late 1920’s by Clarence Stein and Henry Wright as a model city (from

Later, Gans proposed his thought in 1977, that is, many people living in big cities still retain the activities in their own small circle. And in this circle, they always keep close and mutual trust relationship between person to person. While the stranger outside of their circle seemed to have nothing with them and have little influence for their life, behavior and interpersonal relationship as well as the mental psychology.[3] Meanwhile, Fiseher, Wellman and Leighton thought that, for the people who go out early and come back at dusk, if we only consider the neighborhood relationship, then our study will ignore the social relationships outside of the residential area of this part of people. Thus, Wellman and Leighton proposed to break the emphasis on neighborhood relationship and to rethink the concept of community, which is the theory of “community liberation”.[4]

People-oriented and Return to Natural

In recent years, with the rapid development of housing construction, on the one hand we can see the improvement of housing conditions for urban residents. While on the other hand we are also facing a more serious fact: the problem of neighborhood interaction and neighborhood space design in urban residence is more prominent.[5] Actually, neighborhood public space as a public service infrastructure is to establish a ecological community which can meet the neighborhood needs, and combine the natural environment and artificial community into a sustainable, organic and holistic residence with a sense of belonging and human.
In fact, for the design of neighborhood public space, we should consider the following two aspects. First of all, meeting the needs of people to return to nature. Secondly, meeting the needs of people’s daily communication. Therefore, the neighborhood public space should be the first to create a safe and comfortable neighborhood road net, practical and diverse neighborhood green site and well-functioning infrastructure of relevant supporting. Douglas Kelbaugh stated in his book named Common Place: toward Neighborhood and Regional Design that we should create a harmonious and sustainable space environment to deal with the disorderly and rapid growth of city. In order to transform and renew our neighborhood and community, he advocated that the planning should be from the whole aspect to discuss the profound interests and requirements of neighborhood. In addition, he also expounded a more beautiful and imaginative future with creating the shared community and landscape.[6]
Briefly, in the process of neighborhood design, we should respect the principles of nature and value the original ecological system in the base. At the same time, we also should pay more attention to create a complex-space, emphasize the people-oriented design concept always, and fully meet the physical and mental needs of people. Thereby, to achieve the integration of psychology and environment, which is the harmony and unity between human and nature.


Thomas-Street-Green-StreetTTC-Park-Pedestrian-View88LimestoneCourtyard-620x349d83368d2fc8de9400ddcb03a498fdb19Some ideal neighborhood spaces (from; http://www.7×;; respectively)


[1]Clarence Perry, Regional planning of New York and Its Environs
[2]Kristin Larsen, Research in progress: the Radburn idea as an emergent concept: Henry Wright’s regional city. Planning Perspectives Volume 23, Issue 3, 2008, P.381-395
[3]Gans, H. J, 1977, Urbanism and Sub urbanism as Ways of Life:  A Re-evaluation of Definitions, in Callow, A. B.Jr. ( ed), American Urban History, 2nd ed., London: Oxford University Press, P.507-521
[4]Fischer, C. S, 1976, The Urban Experience, New York: Harcourt. community involvement in conservation deep fried planning and design
[5]Jan Gehl, 1971, Life Between Buildings: Using Public Space
[6]Douglas Kelbaugh, 1997, Common Place: toward Neighborhood and Regional Design

The Radburn Citizens Association official site:

A video from TED which is about neighborhood design:

How to Revive a Neighborhood:With Imagination,Beauty and Art