Urban Design Basics with Mike Lamb

Authored by Lindsey Forsberg, August, 16, 2018

Mike Lamb, AICP joined LHB’s Minneapolis office in September 2017 and serves as the Urban Design & Planning Leader. Mike has over 30 years of experience in the design and planning of cities, neighborhoods, and districts. He holds a Master of Architecture degree in Urban Design from the University of Colorado Denver and is credentialed by the American Institute of Certified Planners.

What is urban design?
Urban design is a multi-disciplinary design process; I refer to it as the “invisible design discipline” as it often involves architects, landscape architects, planners, traffic/civil engineers, real estate professionals, and policy makers to arrive at a community-based solution.

I like to define it using what I call the ABC’s of urban design:

A for Arrangement – how the basic elements of the urban pattern are understood in two-dimensions (streets, blocks, buildings, open space, etc.)

B for Built Form – how the two-dimensional arrangement of these “parts and pieces” are communicated in three dimensions (height, scale, build-to, etc.).

C for Context – how a proposed solution relates to, connects to, and reinforces the surrounding built and natural environment.

Why should an architecture firm like LHB be thinking about neighborhood or city-scale urban design?
Urban design, architecture and landscape architecture are disciplines focused on how people use and experience space. A city, at the top of the hierarchy of arranged space, is not unlike a building – designers need to understand the “parts and pieces”, and how they most effectively fit together. Most architects and designers are already working in that mindset every day. Building commissions are often constrained by the limits of the site, but good design firms like LHB understand that the best solutions respond to the context and unique conditions of the city.

At the end of the day and over time, the components of the city – neighborhoods, districts and corridors – and the public realm that hold them together, are designed and built one increment at a time so it’s incumbent on the design community to understand that and respond appropriately.

How does urban design help LHB as a company meet its sustainability goals?
I think responsible urban design sets the stage for sustainable buildings and cities because it looks at how people are connected to the built environment of a place. In many ways sustainability is about the geography of place: where you are building is as critical as what you are building. The best solutions advance sustainability and regeneration by addressing both.



Leave a Reply