Diana Marsh has written countless design guidelines for zoning and redevelopment plans, governing new development, infill, and renovations in urban, suburban, and rural contexts. Her design guidelines are realistic, filled with specific, often measurable criteria, but are intended to push developers and municipalities to work toward the goals of good site design, an inviting public realm, and human-scaled architecture. She draws upon her experience working for both sides of the table in development review and project planning — on behalf of municipalities to improve the quality of development proposals, and on behalf of developers to negotiate with municipalities.
Ms. Marsh takes a systematic approach to organizing regulations from large scale, public space elements to smaller, building-specific elements, so that the text will be easy to follow. In addition, she takes care to distinguish between required and optional guidelines, so that the enforcing municipality can understand what elements are most important. Finally, her guidelines are usually style-agnostic, in that they allow wide latitude in building styles and architecture, provided that various criteria of building form are met (including massing, articulation, and transparency).
Particularly for projects that encompass numerous blocks or entire neighborhoods, she approaches the work from the goal of improving the public realm. Therefore, streets, walkways, and public parks and plazas are the first concern, both as to their form and function and as to how buildings are oriented to address these public spaces. The network of streets and walkways should improve connectivity and access for pedestrians, cyclists, and vehicles alike. Often, sidewalks are required to be added where there are none on adjoining parcels — one has to start somewhere in transforming automobile-oriented areas into walkable neighborhoods.
The supply of on-street parking is optimized where possible for convenient access and to serve as a calming buffer on streets. Ideally, structured parking is hidden away behind active uses or at the interior of buildings; otherwise, architectural screening is required to help disguise views of parking. Shared parking regulations are encouraged, in order to save scarce land for residential, open space, and other important uses.
Design guidelines for buildings step through a hierarchy of building massing and transparency, architectural articulation, signage and lighting, and type and application of materials. Transparency of entries and windows, and storefront features such as signage, lighting, and canopies, are particularly important for retail storefronts, but also for any buildings located in a compact, walkable area. Related elements such as tying roof forms to building massing are specified to help break up the mass of the typically bulky, boxy buildings being built today.
Samples of Diana Marsh’s design guidelines are available upon request.