The Evolution and Contemporary Relevance of The Urban Figure-Ground Diagram

  • Hiba Almasri

    Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


    This research aims to explain the contemporary usage of urban figure-ground diagrams and how it assists contemporary urban designers in handling a city’s urban form. A qualitative investigation with a comparative case-study design and purposive sampling was used to collect the required data. In-depth interviews were used as a basic data collection method. Besides the interview transcripts, urban figure-ground diagrams obtained from some interviewees were used as an additional data source. This was followed by a thematic analysis of the interview transcripts and visual analysis of the collected plans. The findings suggest the following: (1) the urban figure-ground diagram helps designers by representing urban space and physical form, but importantly also as a means to identify some of the non-physical features of the city’s urban form; (2) there is no marked difference between both academic and practitioner interviewees in the way they understand and use urban figure-ground diagrams; (3) The urban figure-ground diagram supports urban designers when designing with an existing physical context. This, in turn, helps urban designers to arrange building-void relationship and designing urban space. Additionally, urban figureground diagrams can be an effective tool in community planning; (4) urban figure-ground diagrams and other representations of urban form have an essential role in developing
    design ideas and in the proposition of design interventions. The findings of this research could result in a more comprehensive understanding of the active usage of urban figureground diagrams as a conceptual tool, with the potential to foster collaboration between academic institutions and professional practices, through which academics can learn from methods and tools developed by practitioners and potentially incorporate them into their curricula. For example, highlighting the importance of urban figure-ground diagrams in revealing physical issues of cities’ urban form can enhance the process of ‘placemaking’ in cities, especially those that through wars, crisis or random development, such as Iraq and Syria, have seen development which ignores the fundamental importance of end-user focused city planning.
    Date of AwardFeb 2020
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Brighton
    SupervisorAndrew Church (Supervisor), Frauke Behrendt (Supervisor), Luis Diaz (Supervisor) & Nicholas Gant (Supervisor)

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