Week 1 Module – Describe the City

Exercise 1        Forma Urbis

image one

A forma urbis is the general outline of a city which is established by the urban density of that particular city. Dense urban areas usually fade out into less dense, or populated, land areas such as countrysides or rural towns. The above image depicts the forma urbis of Toowoomba, Queensland. As can be seen, the town’s main roads in which to access Toowoomba are highlighted in yellow.

Exercise 2     Conceptual Representation


A conceptual representation image illustrates the main features of a city such as the structure of the urban environment, networking as well as highlighting the relationship between main elements. The above image is a conceptual representation of the city of Brisbane, in particular the suburb of Fortitude Valley and Brisbane city itself. The yellow lines indicate the major roads in this area, which utilities the river, which is highlighted in blue. The black lines represents the surbuan streets which are in a grid form around the river. The green sections in the images represent parks and natural environments in this area. The grey shading indicates the business precinct of Brisbane City. This image, or map, distinguishes a visual relationship between certain elements and their given role in creating Brisbane City.

Exercise 3     City Pattern

black and white

A city pattern map is a black and white representation of a urban structure. It shows the pattern and layout of urban spaces, and shapes of its blocks. The image above shows the details of the urban structure of the Story Bridge end of Brisbane city. The solid black shapes indicate the suburban city blocks while the white lines indicate the major and minor roads in this area. This figure is a visual representation of the relationship between the structure of the blocks, and the grid of the roads.

Exercise 4     Figureground Map


A figureground map is a detailed representation of the built form of an area’s buildings and which clearly identifies open spaces and the functionality of urban spaces. Although roads are detailed in this type of map, they are not the main focus. By completing the map in two solid colours, it distinguishes the desnse and not so desnse urban areas as well as the open spaces. In the above image, the open spaces are indicated in white while the building structures are indicate in black. In the image above, the more dense urban areas are on the right side, this indicates that this area is residential and more built up closer together. The left side of the image shows that the structures, or buildings, are more spaced apart and larger, indicating that this area would be more used for industrial or commercial.

Exercise 5     Nolli Map


A nolli provides information of the built form as well as the footprint and internal layout of buildings. It utilities information gathered from a figure ground map, but focuses on the layout and structure of the open spaces and the presiding buildings. The nolli map is also useful to determine certain zoning types within the city, for example public, semi-public or private. The nolli map above shows the open plan layout of All Hallows School in Brisbane’s city. With this image, you can clearly see the buildings footprints and their internal layout. Along with this, on can identify the relationship the buildings have with the open spaces around them and how they have utilisied the land.

Exercise 6    Urban Section


An urban section is another way of representing the relationship between the scale of an area and its surroundings, the type of structures that reside in that area and as well as the physical and environmental features within this area. Including an urban section in a discussion or within research, can give an understanding of the topography of a certain section of area, which can help in the understand of the lands form and terrain. The image above is an urban section of Fortitude Valley, Brisbane by the river. One can see the relationship the land and built environment have on one another and how structures have been built to deal with this relationship.

Exercise 7     Street Section


A street section is a useful tool to explore the typology of open spaces as well as the quality of the urban environment. It shows the different levels in a certain street. An example of different levels would be road levels, footpath levels and building levels. By exploring the buildings internal view, it defines the buildings internal layout, the form and function of the building. This building can then be compared to another building across the street, and identify the similarities and differences. The above street section is a section through Ivory Street, Foritude Valley. One one side of the street you have All Hallows School, while on the other side you have a 9 story apartment block. Between these two buildings you have the street level. Here you can see that the road does not only travel on the building and footpath level, but also under these levels. This type of section shows the relationship that street spaces and levels have on each other, and the utilisation and interactions by humans within these levels.


Utilising these above techniques can create a more in depth understanding of a certain city.  By using these tools, you can quickly and clearly understand a certain section of a city, street of a city or the urban relationships within the city.


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