UP 503: Site and Physical Planning
Assignment 6e: Design Paradigms and Archetypes
In this component, you will work on understanding the nature of paradigms and archetypes, studying one paradigm closely, and look at the subdivision proposal assigned to you through the lens of this paradigm.
For a given site, the different ways in which it can be developed are usually numerous. Faced with such a large number of potential design outcomes, how does a designer narrow the search among these alternatives and efficiently arrive at a "good" design? Designers typically accomplish this using an abstract notion of what constitutes a good outcome as a way of eliminating from consideration a large portion of potential outcomes. This abstract notion lays out rough benchmarks that the design should meet. Underlying these benchmarks are a set of values that differentiate between desirable and undesirable outcomes for different aspects of site design: land-use mixes, pedestrian-automobile relationship, relationship with nature, to name just a few.
A coherent collection of such benchmarks can be considered the basis for a design paradigm or an archetype. The term paradigm is often used to describe a world-view comprised of assumptions, concepts, values, and practices that constitutes a way of viewing reality. The term archetype is used to mean the quintessence or an ideal example of a type, and to that extent it is related to the notion of a paradigm. A paradigm or an archetype can be formally articulated (as in many of the examples you will see below) or it may be unstated and implicit in current practices at any given point in time.
An historic example of a design paradigm or archetype in the idea of a "neighborhood unit" as articulated by Clarence Perry among others. A description of this paradigm is available in:
Design paradigms can be very persuasive and powerful in the way they shape conventional wisdom and practice. They must, however, be looked at critically and not be adhered to blindly. See this critical review of the idea of the neighborhood unit:
More detailed analyses and background can be found at:
Rather than think of design paradigms and archetypes in the abstract, we will ground these ideas in the course project. I have identified four paradigms that are in circulation today and provided some starting points on the Web about these paradigms. (Of course, this list does not contain the dominant paradigm, which is implicit in current land develpment projects.) You will find that these paradigms are not mutually exclusive and that there is considerable overlap among them.
You will choose a paradigm to produce a new site, and I encourage you to work closely with others using the same paradigm in this part of the project so that you can learn from each other.
To explore in a structured way the implications of a paradigm, you and the others assigned to a paradigm will produce by the end the day on Friday, Nov 29, a one-page document containing:
- a mission statement that will guide you in exemplifying in a unique way the assigned paradigm
- a set of values that underlies this mission statement
- a set of benchmarks that if met will mean that a design uniquely exemplifies the paradigm
The focus on what is unique about the assigned paradigm, and the overlap among the paradigms, will mean that you must have some sense of the other paradigms in order to produce this document. In this connection, I also recommend that you look at the draft LEED for ND proposal. How well does this proposed standard reflect some of the unique values and benchmarks in the paradigm assigned to you? Please distinguish among items that are unique to the paradigm and those are common with one or more other paradigms.
A PDF document of your mission statement, set of values that underlie the mission statement and set of benchmarks to be reached in your design is to be uploaded to the course folder before class on Thursday, Nov 29. Please keep the assignment name format 6e_[Last Name]_[NetID].pdf.
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