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A review on the article:

The morphological dimension of municipal plans

By: Vtor Oliveira
CITTA Centro de Investigao do Territrio, Transportes e Ambiente
Faculdade de Engenharia, Universidade do Porto
Rua Roberto Frias 4200-465 Porto, Portugal
Published in: Urban Morphology (2006) 10(2), pp. 101-113

Prepared by:
Md. Muntasir (1009152020)
Post- Graduate Student
Dept. of URP

CITTA is a research centre of the Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of

Engineering, University of Oporto, integrating staff from Territorial Planning &
Environment Division. CITTA is funded by the National Foundation for Science
and Technology (FCT - Fundao para a Cincia e a Tecnologia).
Three research units: Planning and environmental assessment , Urban planning
and housing, Transport planning and logistics.
Research Projects:
Project 1.20- Sustainable land use policies for resilient cities (super-cities)
Project 1.19- SUME - sustainable urban metabolism for Europe
Project 1.18- The influence of the buildings and of the public spaces envelope on urban
Project 1.15- The urban design as a potential tool for a bioclimatic architecture
Project 1.14- The impact of Closed Condominiums in the Urban Form.
Project 1.13- Urban mobility policy: a framework for the integration of land use and transport
policies for sustainable urban travel.
Project 1.12- Evaluation in Urban Planning.
Project 1.11- Cultural sustainability: cultural space performance and urban spatial

Research team:
8 PhD (Paulo Pinho, Brando Alves, Sara Santos, Emlia Malcata, Vtor Oliveira,
Ceclia Silva, Fabrizio Giulietti, Anastssios Perdicolis)
3 Researchers (Slvia Sousa, Lusa Batista, Ruben Fernandes)
8 Junior Researchers (Bruno Marques, Joana Restivo, Joo Corteso, Miguel Saraiva,
Miguel Torres, Vanessa Mateus, Ana Martins, Magda Barbosa)
The Author Vtor Oliveira completed his PhD in Civil Engineering in 2007- 2008.

This paper is a descriptive review of the former works by some prominent researchers and
professionals. The author intended to explore one of the research interest in the field of
Urban Morpholgy which is The analysis of the relationship between urban morphology
and town planning. This is mainly an approach of the British school of thought. Here six
plans: 3 British and 3 French have been discussed and then Plano Director Municipal
(Local Land-Use Plan) for Oporto is assessed, to incorporate the morphological criteria in
town planning. Finally the author describes some similarities and differences between the
Portuguese approach and the approach in Britain and France.
Key Words: municipal plans, city character, morphological criteria, typological zoning, Oporto,

The objective of this paper are threefold:

- to analyse the existing works where Morphological approach have been
incorporated in town planning
- to make a comparison among different styles
- to demonstrate a interrelationship between Urban Morphology and
town Planning
The study was conducted in a descriptive manner. The author has reviewed the
attempts to incorporate Morphological approach into Town Planning and tried
to achieve his objectives through analysis.

Since 1980s researchers and professional have grown interest to study

to incorporate Urban Physical Form into Urban Planning
to identify interrelationship of the British, French and Italian schools of urban
interrelationship of urban morphology and planning (mainly British school)
In this paper, the author has described some attempts in this regard. The paper was
constructed into three parts:
- Analysis of three plans developed in France (Mennecy, Asnires sur Oise, and St.
Gervais-les-Bains) and some planning studies and design guides prepared in England
(Stratford-on-Avon, Dacorum Borough, and Chelmsford) by Karl Kropf, Ivor Samuels,
and Tony Hall from Urban Morphology Research Group (UMRG), UK.
- Describes a recent Portuguese attempt, co-ordinated by Fernandes de S, to link urban
morphology and planning.
- Similarities and differences between the Portuguese approach and the approaches of
Kropf, Samuels and Hall.

1. Mennecy, France:
- Erosion of historical and regional character due to excessive and inappropriate urban
- The preparation of a new Plan d Occupation des Sols (POS) Local Land-Use Plan
- Fundamental objective: to provide a zoning structure and a set of regulations for the
central area to preserve the existing character while allowing for new development
- Adopted three principles of the Italian school:
First, existing forms are the product of learning and a record of past experiences
Secondly, built forms and human activities are interrelated, but no
fixed relation
Thirdly, the character of a town result from both continuity and change
- three working assumptions:
zoning regulations should take local and regional forms as the starting point for
prescription; allow for mixed uses; and permit both continuity and change
- Defined urban tissue through defining distinct levels of resolution: streets and
blocks, plots, buildings, rooms or spaces, structures, and materials

2. Stratford-on-Avon , England:
- Stratford-on-Avon District Design Guide, co-ordinated by Kropf, was adopted as
Supplementary Planning Guidance in 2000
- New developments were diminishing the quality and accessibility of the public realm,
eroding the character and identity of places, and putting its long-term health at risk
- Fundamental objective: to improve the quality of the environment and to achieve
development that was local, sustainable and equitable
- Solutions: to analyse the distinctive qualities of the district and New urban developments
should share some of the features that define the different areas within the district
- Six levels of resolution: the settlements, the streets, the open spaces and plot series, the
plots, the buildings, and the architectural details and materials were discussed along
with the concept of urban tissue to formulate general principles and methods for new

3. Asnires sur Oise , France:

- A small commune located near Paris suffered severely of Suburbanism phenomenon
- Main objectives: to protect the potential of built and natural heritage; to regenerate the
older districts and to

reinforce traditional shopping; to regenerate abandoned

industrial areas; and to integrate new residential estates with the rest of the settlement
- Solution in new POS:
i. A scheme of zoning according to built form rather than land use being adopted like
ii. Seven zones were recognized and specific design controls were established for each
iii. The town was analyzed from six levels of resolutions and these data were incorporated
while planning zones were formulated

4. St. Gervais-les-Bains , France: (an Alpine resort city)

- Two previous attempts for POS in 1980s and 1990s.
- Severely contested by local environment associations because of the amount of land
zoned as urban
- Main objectives: promotion of built forms which could maintain the qualities of the
natural environment and the distinctive character of the settlement whilst allowing the
development of tourism
- Solution:
i. careful analysis of the way each of the fifteen building types related to the public realm,
the range of the main dimensions, the position on plots, the relation to topography, the
access arrangements, the roof form, the faade design and the constructional materials
ii. Some aspects, usually the building envelope or its relation to the slope, were considered
iii. other elements, such as the faade design, could be modified
- showed how typo-morphological concepts can be used in planning


5. Dacorum Borough, England:

- Local Plan needed additional elements for a development control policy
- Deal with issues of restraint and local character in the different towns of the Borough
- Main objective: to use the development control process to improve, maintain and, if
considered necessary, change the character and appearance of certain residential areas
in the Borough
- Solution:
i. Design Area Approach adopted
ii. Definition of specific objectives for small urban areas
iii. An initial flexibility in the territorial boundaries of the area
iv. Variation of control intensity according to different zones


6. Chelmsford Borough , England:

- Production of poorly-designed built forms and the loss of some historic buildings
- Main objective: achieving higher standards of quality and sustainability in the built
- Solution:
i. Four essential components developed:
- an investment in staff
- the publication of a local design policy
- definition of a long-term vision
- greater co-operation between the different professions within the Borough
Council and agencies involved in the development process
ii. The design briefs were though general at first, those become rich in degree of
prescription and policies for design control
iii. Tools of design control became more detailed, clearer and more purposeful, so the
quality of the physical results improved.

The approaches summarize as:

1. The concept of city character,
2. A typological approach to zoning,
3. The concern for urban tissue and levels of resolution,
4. Definition of sources for the prescription of urban forms,
5. Control of design detail and variation of intensity of control according to different
6. The definition of strong principles and clear objectives for the town, and the definition
of boundaries for each particular area
In all these situations of particular planning problems in different countries
Morphological approaches brought the solutions, thus bridging the gap between urban
planning and morphology.


- Second largest city in Portugal

- Population decreased from 327000 to 263000 from 1980 to 2001 due to migration to
surrounding towns Maia and Gaia.
- Problems with the old PDM:
- started in 1978 , but government approved in 1993
- during implementation a number of new problems arised
- proposed areas to be protected, but there were no tools for applying the policy
- New PDM started in 2001 and approved in 2006
- Main objective: to maintain the character and the urban identity of Oporto
- Methodologies: the conservation of the existing urban tissues, sensitive design of new
urban forms and buildings, control of densities and volumes, and the safeguarding of
the built heritage and the image of the city
- Solution:
- A typo- morphological analysis was done

- several types of urban tissue were selected and thoroughly analysed, in terms of plot
area, dimension of plot frontage, building coverage, type of building, number of storeys,
uses, conservation conditions of the building, and a construction indicator (total floor
area / plot area)
- Identified ten tissues: Historical Areas, Areas of Continuous Building Frontages and
Largely Replete Plots, Areas of Continuous Building Frontages and Plots in the Process of
Repletion, Single-Family Housing Areas, Areas of Isolated Buildings, Areas of Public
Services, Business Park, Special Urban Development Areas, Green Areas, Transport Areas
- Problems in ten tissues were separately identified and prescriptions were given according
to the problem in individual tissue.
- In addition to the ten types of tissues, the zoning plan of the PDM presents a number of
UOPG: corresponds to parts of the city with considerable complexity, needing a
detailed morphological assessment


Similarities between Portuguese and British- French approaches:

- Since the 1970s the city of Oporto has gone through a number of major morphological
changes, so the use based plan failed, but form based plan succeeded.
- Also the British- French approach is largely concerned with the form- based planning
rather than use- based planning.
- Like the concepts of British- French approaches the PDM in Oporto followed a
typological approach to zoning and allowed mixtures within zones and control of uses.
- Design Area Approach with a number of characteristics distinct from the features of
the French POS and the Stratford-on-Avon District Design Guide has some
resemblances to a UOPG
Differences between Portuguese and British- French approaches:
- The concept of urban tissue largely differ
- Portuguese approach defines urban tissue as an organic whole irrigated by channels
and composed of cells and organs, which are described using four levels of resolution:
streets, blocks, plots and buildings where British- French approach defines six levels.

- British- French approach is more systematic than the Portuguese approach in defining
urban tissue.
- The PDM does not concern with detailed design layout of what can be built or not.
Rather it puts through design guidance through regulations unlike British- French
- The political change during plan preparation in Oporto seems to have less impact than
the French communes.

The PDM of Oporto shows a clear application of a Morphological approaches
into Urban Planning directly or indirectly. But the ultimate success of this plan depends on
the implementation in designated years.


- Incorporating the Italian practice could have made the papre richer and more
- Worldwide a form- based planning approach is becoming more and more popular and
effective rather than the traditional land- use based palnning approach.
- The Planning practice in Bangladesh should be updated and follow the form- based
approach. As the cities in Bangladesh have grown up rather spontaneously and show
greater complexity, a form based zoning approach can solve the inherent problems within
a city and also prevent the Suburbanization problem .