- Project plans
- Project activities
- Legislation and standards
- Industry context
Last edited 08 May 2020
The term ‘urban’ relates to cities and settlements of high population and infrastructure density. Urban areas are distinct from rural areas which are more sparsely spread, often surrounded by open countryside or agricultural land, and with lower population densities. The Home Quality Mark suggests an urban area is one with a population of 10,000 people or more, located within a tract of predominantly built-up land.
The term ‘urban fabric’ describes the physical characteristics of urban areas, that is, cities, and towns. This includes the streetscapes, buildings, soft and hard landscaping, signage, lighting, roads and other infrastructure. Urban fabric can be thought of as the physical texture of an urban area.
Urban fabric may be more easily considered in a typical medieval town with more limited components than the modern city. These components included the enclosing wall, its towers and gates, the streets and interconnecting circulation spaces, the market place (and hall if there was one), other commercial buildings, churches, general town buildings and private garden spaces.
In modern parlance, the term ‘urban fabric’ may have become overused. Typical contemporary usage includes:
- ‘The building’s façade is not in keeping with the urban fabric’ – suggesting a discordancy with the surroundings (context), and
- ‘The urban fabric of the inner city presents a tough environment for children’.
Architects typically give consideration to the urban fabric when designing buildings in towns or cities, sometimes preparing drawings that emphasise the layout of an area and the interrelationships between its elements rather than the buildings themselves.
See also: Urban grain.
 Related articles on Designing Buildings Wiki
Featured articles and news
Securing suitable water systems.
Love them or hate them, they are popping up everywhere.
The initiative to enhance the environment continues.
Could underused community spaces offer an alternative to working from home?
Keeping workers and workplaces safe in the United States.
A history lesson in geographic information systems.
A low tech, easy to use method of extinguishing small fires.
How can these valued spaces be reused?
Partnership avoids the need for listed building consent.
Connecting building design from inception to completion to operations.
Gregor Harvie predicts interoperability will be construction’s Uber moment.
Expert commentary and insight.
Guidance offered for stained glass window maintenance.
Define need before determining viability.