“More than just the beauty of the city…it stands for conscientious officials of public spirit…” — C. M. Robinson, 1903

With this quote, Prof. Bob Rotenberg launched a DePaul University study of architectural design review which culminated in his report at a recent American Planning Association/MDRN program.  The study of Chicago suburban communities concluded that while design standards are primarily aesthetic choices — which can be highly political — such regulation can effectively create a distinctive community “look.”  In current corporate and municipal terms, this is often referred to as the “brand” for planning and marketing purposes.

Since a city is essentially an ensemble of individual buildings linked by citizen’s decisions, as Prof. Rotenberg noted, design standards or guidelines can provide “coherence” to a community over time.  When the consistent visual message is repeated, it becomes even more powerful in shaping an image for future development. This is particularly important for public spaces, as illustrated in the above picture of a Glenview administrative building — which was recently restored to serve as the anchor for a civic campus and related downtown architectural guidelines.

Prof. Rotenberg’s remarks (and an overview of the Municipal Design Review Network by yours truly) are available on the APA website-PODCAST: APA Podcast