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Place-shaping dimensions

What are the dimensions of Place-shaping? In this article, key points from Dr Matthew Carmona's latest work on this matter are discussed.
Collage of students working in urban design projects
© Photo by David Chapman
Public places are rarely static. They change and evolve, for various reasons – sometimes intentionally so, but also because of circumstances difficult to affect. In the book Public Places Urban Spaces: the Dimensions of Urban Design, Matthew Carmona identified eight overall dimensions that shape places. These dimensions are:

  • The temporal dimension

  • The perceptual dimension

  • The morphological dimension

  • The visual dimension

  • The social dimension

  • The functional dimension

  • The design governance dimension

  • The place production dimension

The temporal dimension includes aspects of short-term and long-term changes, and how change can be managed over time.

The perceptual dimension includes perceptions such as place image, identity, sense of place, and place differentiation through, for example, place marketing and place theming.

The morphological dimension refers to the form and form elements of built environments, such as streets, blocks, plots, buildings, and open spaces.

The visual dimension involves aspects of art and beauty, but also how different form elements can be shaped to enhance visual qualities.

The social dimension includes aspects such as public life, accessibility, safety and security, inclusion, exclusion and control of space.

The functional dimension relates to movement, mixed-use, density, micro-climate, health aspects and so on.

The design governance dimension focus on aspects such as policy and regulations, and how urban design can be established through community engagement, how to understand the local context, and tools that can be used.

The place production dimension includes how development processes work, and how stakeholders have different roles in the process.

We will continue by exploring aspects of place-shaping that is most relevant for designing better places for visitors, taking the micro-climate into account.


Carmona, Matthew (2021). Public places urban spaces: the dimensions of urban design. Third edition New York: Routledge

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