THE URBAN BLOCK AS A TOOL FOR URBAN DESIGN

ABSTRACT
The urban block is the link between city user’s everyday lives and the urban space. This study calls for this urban component to be treated as an essential element of the city when new urban plans and models are developed.
The aim of this study was to investigate how evolution of the urban block has influenced design of urban spaces, in order to develop principles that could be adopted for Parklands, Nairobi where the urban block is rapidly changing. Examples of urban projects where the urban block was a key element of design were evaluated, drawn from the traditional city to the post-modernist city.
Desk research was used to study urban blocks outside Nairobi and as an introductory strategy to form basis for analysing the Parklands urban blocks in context. Typo-morphological approach was taken to understand the physical and spatial structures in different urban blocks in Parklands guided by a case study protocol. In order to analyse the process of transformation, urban blocks that could be paradigms of subsequent historical periods were selected.
The study revealed that rapid urbanization and policy change directed the new urban form in Parklands and therefore urban blocks were constantly changing either to accommodate commercial function or higher residential densities. Buildings and the related open spaces are seen as complimentary units of space by the users and therefore changes in individual blocks translate to changes in the urban fabric whether guided by design or not. This study therefore makes a case for the adoption of the urban block as an intermediary level of planning and design and using it to achieve desired urban form.

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