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Urban Design

Great urban design concentrates on the public realm by promoting unique, context-sensitive neighborhoods, towns and corridor cities. Great urban design considers the arrangement and design of the streets and public spaces to be integral to the greater public realm which encourages social interaction, healthy pedestrian activity and a sense of community.  Buildings help to frame the public realm, activate the streets, and create the distinct character that generates a clear sense of place in each neighborhood.

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Design Guidelines for Design Excellence
with National Expert Noré Winter
January 27th, 2015

Noré Winter presented ideas on how to create and implement design guidelines. The presentation was followed by a panel discussion and Q and A from the audience.

Presentation slides

Presentation video:

Panel Discussion:

Quick interviews of Panelists After the Presentation:


Thursday, January 29th, 2015:
Noré Winter presentation to Planning Board - See video

Winter specializes in developing guidelines for communities with distinctive natural settings and traditional neighborhoods at the urban, suburban and rural levels. He is president of Winter & Company in Boulder, Colorado, and has worked on projects in 48 states for both local governments and federal agencies, and from large cities to small private developments. Nore Winter firm link

Winter is frequently a featured speaker at conferences sponsored by organizations such as the National Trust for Historic Preservation, National Park Service and American Planning Association. From 1992-1996, he served as Chairman of the National Alliance of Preservation Commissions.

Winter understands that design guidelines must be tailored to the specifics of place and region,” says Planning Department Director Gwen Wright. “His expertise will help us develop clearer and stronger guidelines that will foster a higher level of design excellence and a better public realm, while at the same time help communities, developers and different public agencies to better understand and implement design goals for our communities.”

The Montgomery County Planning Department, part of the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission, is consulting with nationally recognized urban design and planning expert Noré Winter to upgrade its design guidelines for master plans. This initiative is part of a broader effort to implement design excellence throughout our County. Winter’s work will culminate January 27 to 29 with a series of presentations about the guidelines to the Montgomery Planning Board, Planning staff and the public. 

The Planning Department is currently working to emphasize design excellence in all aspects of the planning and architecture being done throughout the County so as to assure that Montgomery County can be a showcase for the best in urban, suburban, and rural communities. The Department’s design excellence initiative includes efforts to incentivize and promote great design through a variety of new programs – including outreach and awards to the design community, education and discussion with stakeholders, and a refinement of some regulatory tools.

Improving the Planning Department’s design guidelines, which are developed with each new master plan, will help achieve this design excellence objective. Design guidelines that are a part of future area, sector and master plans for the County are a key component of communicating community vision and goals for implementation. 

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Urban Design Guidelines

Within the Planning Department, urban designers establishes guidelines for each planning area. Blending architecture, landscape architecture, and environmental stewardship, good urban design results in areas that are both functional and attractive. Urban designers work on these elements to create urban design guidelines:

  • Street Character
    Improving the character of the street system, promoting walking, providing easy access to transit, creating inviting connections to services
  • Open Spaces
    Establishing open space systems designed to serve people of all ages and needs, providing a variety of urban spaces, such as a plazas, urban parks and town commons connected by a system of greenways and sidewalks
  • Building Form and Character
    Fostering the design of buildings that shape public streets and open spaces and considering density, building heights, setbacks from the curb, and parking locations
  • Landmarks and Gateways
    Preserving and highlighting the elements that make a community unique, and increasing access to historic resources

Learn more about urban design concepts in this presentation by Arun Jain, a Portland, Oregon designer who created the Urban Design Framework for Central Portland and has more than 25 years of international experience in practice and academia. He presented to the Planning Board in October 2011.


Date of last update: January 12, 2014