What is urban design?

This question was posed to people at the end of each field interview and the film is based on the answers they provided. A number of different understandings emerged.
Interviewees in Haiti (all of them working within humanitarian organisations, with some trained as urban designers/urban planners) described urban design as:
• Understanding the intertwining features and connections in the urban context; connecting people to resources, services, livelihoods; complex system or web not just a house; underlying physical, social or cultural systems that underpin housing and communities;
• Identifying the need for action at the block-scale that makes sense in relation to city scale strategies;
• Formulating a vision: social, economic, sustainable. A rolling process of reading cities, understanding mechanisms by which they get made and managed, including processes that cannot be mapped;
• Acting/applying: addressing complex urban problems by applying intellect and process mapping and systems design; a good, a will to act on the future; a mobilisation; anticipating projects not responding with projects;
• Planning and organising space;
• Improving the built environment; reinforcing citizenship, tenure security and claims, quality of territory (social/services/infrastructure);
• A tool: for dialogue; a chance to ‘integrate territorial elements’; a check on whether things are technically sound;
• A professional role: convening stakeholders; on new sites – making plans with the competent authority/town hall; on existing settlements – sitting with communities, adjusting the designer’s dream with the community and making sure the dream is possible; understanding our place in a much longer and wider process; disaster as a point in a development process.

Urbanists on the other hand described urban design as:
• Complex, never-finished design for society: uncomfortable indeterminacy;
• Relationships, activities, functions, places movement and density: dynamic, human and multi-scale;
• Design and making; and something that needs finance; a fixed and expensive material outcome.

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