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CITY DESIGN AND IMAGE- Understanding the Basic

ADEWUMI, Ayomikun Solomon
Department of Architecture
Federal University of Technology, Akure
M.Tech 1
Course: Advanced Urban Design, ARC 809
Matriculation Number: ARC/05/5577


The form of a city and what it represents are two major areas that should be of high
priority to a designer as he comes up with his design strategies. This must be considered
thoroughly as his scope of work is for a relatively large, dense and permanent settlement of
heterogeneous individuals. He should therefore come up with a city where adequate priority
will be given to open spaces which is seen as an essential part of urban heritage that can
accommodate human activities taking into consideration some artificial factors as yardstick
for his design solutions. This paper thus considers how these essential priorities influence
and dictates city design and image.
Keywords: Artificial factors, Heritage, Human activities, Open spaces,

A city is considered as a place with relatively large population that has a certain legal
status, granted by the national or provincial government and that is associated with specific
administrative or local government structures (Brockerhofff, 2000). The city is a product of
the manifestation of physical and economic factors involved in its growth. This is more
pronounced during the colonial era as development was caused by selection of a few of the
existing towns as centers of administration from which the colonial lords could govern the
territory under their control. Major towns (then) like Lagos, Enugu and Kaduna were linked
by roads and railways to enable them constitute what can be called commercial centers, with
those along the coast as major ports. Thus, one can say that human activities as from
inception contributed greatly to formation and the metamorphosis of city from a town. It is
therefore essential to consider this and the spaces to be used for these activities at the
conceptual stage of city planning and design.

The 1946 town planning helped former British colonies around the early. Basorun
(2005) said that in Nigeria for instance, master plans have been prepared for quite a number
of towns and cities like Lagos, Kaduna, Kano, Calabar, Owerri and Abuja consisting of
general goals and specific objective of certain functional elements that concerns development
and redevelopment proposals, being specified in texts and maps.


Human activities are a major contributor which dictates the form of a city. In fact
Onokerhoraye (1985) in his definition of urbanity from functional perspective coined out the
word ‘urban function’. In analysing this, he opined that functional description is associated
with social, cultural, industrial, commercial, religious, artistic, educational and administrative
activities. These activities are blocks that make up the urban centre. Administrative activities
entails governance in all levels be it Federal, state and Local government levels and in arms
i.e. Judiciary, Legislative and Executive arms. Industrial activities on the other hand are
mostly concerned with manufacturing majors in the conversion of raw materials into finished
or semi-finished products. Manufacturing industries in recent times has brought fame to some
towns e.g. cement factory in Ewekoro which has made the place a trade centre.
How these activities are distributed within the urban centres constitutes the city image
and design. It does not end with distribution but also quality, affordability, location, e.t.c.
This will in turn influence the images people make of their environment. Fadamiro (2005)
opined that people will shop at city centre than at neighbourhood. Availability of good
Schools for both young and old has a great way of contributing to a city’s image. People will
perceive such environment as one that can solve their thirst for knowledge needs. Religious
activities have contributed greatly to the image of some cities. For example, thousands of
pilgrimages do travel to Mecca at certain times of the year and same too is observed with the
Christians who do travel to Jerusalem.
Basorun (2005) in his analysis opined that most urban centers have developed in
ways, which resulted in unlimited coverage of the economic sector. This economic structure
can be classified as either formal or informal sectors. The formal sectors include the public
service, large scale companies and business services. The informal sector as explained by
Onokerhoraye (1985) can be grouped into four major activities. Primary activities which
include crop farming, poultry, animal husbandry, fishing, logging in recent times has been in
recent times a major register in city design and image. Non agricultural occupations make up
the secondary activities and they include tailoring, welding, auto-repair, vulcanizing e.t.c.

The third category which is the small scale distribution is of topmost concern to the topic as it
is concerned with the geographical spread of some basic commercial activities within the
urban centre.
The small scale distribution is also an indispensable tool in city design as it allows
global participation of people in the distribution of variety of goods within and around the
city. Those who engage in this activity are classified into a number of categories based on
their mode and location of operation. First are the hawkers who trade on light manufactured
goods, the second group comprises of petty traders who make use of movable kiosks. There
is also the third group which comprises mainly of market sellers which activities is mostly
restricted to market places that are available within the city. The third group are typically
wholesalers who engage in bulk sales. The people in this category travel from city to city and
from one area to another to purchase goods for sale to retailers in urban centres.
The tertiary activities of the informal sectors are services that will enable the
inhabitants to have adequate and comfortable surroundings, quite conducive so as to enhance
high productivity. Notable among them are activities of transport operators, restaurant
operators, dry cleaners, builders of housing units (Basorun, 2005).

Figure 2.0: The Urban System showing the divers human activities
Source: Basorun (2005)


Open spaces is another peculiar feature in city design and image. Gehl (1987)
describes it from the user’s point of view as being an arena that allows for different types of
activities encompassing necessary, optional and social activities. Cranz (1982) viewed open
spaces as wide open areas that can be fluid to the extent that the city can flow into the park
and the park can flow into the city. However, the definition given by Gehl gave a clearer
picture of what open spaces is in a city. He argued that it is not only for optional or social
activities but also for necessary activities. This underlies the fact that it must be considered in
city planning and design. Such activities include going to school or work, shopping and
waiting for a bus. They are spaces that must be provided for irrespective of the physical
Gehl (1987) admitted that how much improved people’s daily of life might be if the
spaces of these activities that take place are well conceived, designed and managed cannot be
fully estimated. On should however take cognizance that the feeling of inclusion and
exclusion can be experience by people if such spaces are not well defined. Newman (1972)
gave the most well known of definitions related to use some decades ago with the categories
of public, semi-public, semi-private and private open spaces. Private open spaces include
individual gardens; semi private open spaces include spaces where limited number of people
use but where ordinary public would generally not be welcomed e.g. communal gardens.
Public open spaces can be identified as spaces such as parks and plazas. Semi-public spaces
have limited opening time to the public or can only be generally accessed and used by a
particular group within the society.
Walzer (1986) sees open spaces as either single-minded or open-minded. By single
minded, he meant those places designed, planned, built and used with only one activity in
mind while open-minded space includes spaces such as squares, or plaza where variety of
building provide a context of mixed use.

Open spaces and benefits

Council of Europe (1986) opined that Open spaces is an essential part of the urban
heritage, a strong element in the architectural and aesthetic form of a city, plays an important
educational role, is ecologically important for social interaction and fostering community
development and is supportive of economic objectives and activities.

The Department of the Environment grouped the benefits of open spaces and greening urban
areas into three main categories—economic regeneration, environmental and educational and
social and cultural (Department of the Environment, 1996).
The Council of Europe describes open space as ‘a public living room for the locality’
(Council of Europe, 1986), It also states that open space has an educational role, is of
ecological significance, is important for social interaction and provides opportunities for
community development through individuals having management responsibilities, creates
community pride and has a recreational and leisure role. More recently the Department of
Transport, Local Government and the Regions has affirmed the benefits of open spaces in
urban areas in the interim report of the Urban Green Spaces Taskforce: “by enhancing the
quality of life for people living in towns and cities, transforming the environment, especially
in high density urban areas and encouraging inward investment in formerly rundown areas”
(Department of Transport, Local Government and the Regions, 2001).



The conservation and preservation of historical monuments and artefacts can never be
overemphasized in city planning. Heritage shows the labour of our past heroes and it is in fact
source strength for future endeavours and aspirations. It includes such things as work of art,
cultural achievements and customs that have been passed on from earlier generations. It
indicates the way of life of the people and it might go to the extent of showing the traditional
and generally accepted way of doing things. It shows battles won, territories acquired and
images of past heroes. The distinctions should however be made between conservation and
preservation. Preservation implies maintaining the original in an unchanged state, but
conservation embraces elements of change and even enhancement.
Ross (1991) opined that it is quite impossible to conserve all buildings in their
original state irrespective of cost and there frequently has to be to be a compromise between
the value of old and the needs of the new. Heritage takes the conservation of the idea further
and embraces consideration of the use of what is conserved. It extends to the process of
evaluation, selection, and interpretation, perhaps even exploration of the things of the past.
The idea of sustainable conservation or better still conservation for sustainability is
now coming up in recent times. Conservation encourages the recycling of existing buildings

and materials, the use of local resources and diversity in the environment. Heritage can be
monumental buildings, artefacts, historical sites (such as parks which are example of open
spaces) e.t.c. Recently the use of Museums has been of great help in this preservation, it is a
building in which objects of artistic, cultural, historical or scientific interest. Museums could
come in different types such as a museum for natural history, a war or maritime museum
e.t.c. The museum thus serves to ‘preserve’ artefacts i.e. ancient man-made objects so as to
orient new generations what the journey was then. This will be of great help in preserving the
culture of the people if there exist such link of the present with the past. It will not only make
them appreciate their past heroes and heroines but will enable individuals to interpret their
roles in the society in becoming greater heroes. This is essential for nation building.
Attractive historical sites could serve as a tourist centre for tourists which can alone
change the fortune of a weak economy in revenue generation, attraction of foreign investors,
employment opportunities e.t.c. This alone presents a city with an image that is peculiar to it,
places of such include Idanre Hills, Ebomi Lake, Igbo Olodumare all in Ondo state, Ikogosi
Warm springs in Ekiti state, Ile-Ife museum in Osun state.


The above paper has dealt on cogent issues that must be in mind at the conceptual
stage in city planning and design discussing extensively on the need for open spaces to
accommodate human activities being influenced by some artificial factors. Activities which
can be social, cultural, industrial, commercial, religious, artistic, educational and
administrative activities needs to be bore in mind for successful city design. Heritage
preservation and conservation was also considered in this paper as it influences in part the
image of a city.
For a successful city planning to be achieved, the master plan concept which
essentially provides frame work for the understanding and analysis of urban spatial pattern
should be engaged or adopted at the conceptual stage. Also, planning authourities or better
still administrators should strive to meet the millennium development goals (MDGs) in an
attempt to have a city where people will feel secure and save, one that will show the
architectural and aesthetic form as required of a city, one that will be functional and a city
that will represent good vision.


Basorun, J.O (2005): Basic elements of Urban and Regional planning. Shalom Publishers,

Brockerhoff, M.P. (2000): “An Urbanizing World” Population Bulletin of Population

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Council of Europe (1986) Recommendation No. R (86) 11 of the Committee of Ministers to

Member States on Urban Open Space, Strasbourg: Council of Europe.

Cranz, G. (1982) The Politics of Park Design: A history of urban parks in America, London:
MIT Press.

Department of the Environment (1996) Greening the City: A Guide to Good Practice,
London: The Stationery Office.

Department of Transport; Local Government and the Regions (2001) Green Spaces: Better
Places (Interim report of the Green spaces Taskforce), London: The Stationery Office.

Fadamiro, J.A (2005): Behavioural Architecture- a lecture manual, Department of

Architecture, FUTA.

Gehl, J. (1987): Life between Buildings: Using public spaces, New York: Van Nostrand

Onokerhoraye, A.G and Omuta, G.E.D. (1985): Urban Systems and Planning. The
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Woolley, H (2003): Urban Open Spaces. Spon Press, London