There are lots of different words we use to describe the process of delivering our architectural projects. Two which occur quite early in the development journey and whose boundaries seem to overlap, are ‘urban design frameworks’, one which we have completed recently for Glasgow University and ‘masterplans’, the first phase of building out of which has just been completed for Caledonian University .
Our reading of the difference between them is that ‘urban design frameworks’ provide a basic description of the underlying systems that organise the form and function of a setting. Generally it is a precursor to the more detailed ‘masterplan’ which gives a more comprehensive examination of that setting and anticipates the early phases of actual physical development.
Of course we do not just invent our words, the Designing Places document from the Scottish Government expands the lexicon of terminology and identifies a chronology for their use. ‘Urban design frameworks’ come first inevitably and seek to make sense of the setting. ‘Development briefs’ take these tentative guidelines and transform what is essentially informative into the first steps towards building out, the precursor to the ‘masterplan’ next stage. The ‘masterplan’ essentially states the clear intention for developing a setting which is confirmed in the final step, the ‘design guides’ where real tangible detail is set out as an aspiration
Looking from outside, it can seem quite complicated. In fact breaking down the steps in to these smaller parts is a means to, step by step move forward and crucially bring numerous aspects and the discussion of them, together from social, economic and functional perspectives.
As you can imagine it takes a long time. Our Glasgow University ‘urban design framework’ took two years to come to fruition, partly in relationship to the scale, significance of the landscape and community setting on the one hand and the size and diversity of the various university and wider community interests. The end result is a coat hanger for the university and the city which provides a schematic overview vision - a systematic review of how that vision is influenced by issues of accessibility, conservation, open space, use and infrastructure.
From the first analysis, to delivery of projects on the ground, can be a significant timescale. 10 years ago we created such an ‘urban design framework’ for the heart of Caledonian University, followed by a ‘masterplan’, development, subsequent detailed building studies and now the completion of the first phase of development in the form of a new entrance, restaurant and student services.
Reflecting on that journey, the embryonic ‘urban design framework’ and the end building form are separated by time but remain in experience inextricably linked. Whereas, often the two are evolved in isolation from each other, the advantage we have here is seeing the beginning and the end as it has emerged over an extended number of years. The experience now of the completed piece, feeds back into current embryonic projects negotiating their way through the framework, brief, masterplan and guideline steps.