Building Legibility and Bad Urban Design

On a visit to Edinburgh I saw what I think are good examples of poor and good urban design.

On an evening walk around Leith (a short distance from central Edinburgh) I saw this building

Edinburgh September 2016 (6)

Upon seeing it I asked, ‘What is it? Is it a disused sports centre? Is it a large indoor shopping centre which is either empty or not yet completed?’ I just couldn’t tell. (I actually asked myself in a much less polite way than this).

Not being able to tell what a building is used for is an indication of a poorly designed building and is an example of poor urban design.

It turns out that this building is actually the Office of the Scottish Executive – something I only discovered by a large sign on the other side of the building.

Shortly afterwards I saw this building,

Edinburgh September 2016 (18)

which I immediately recognised as an old  Co-op store and it turns out that this is exactly what it used to be. I could ‘read’ the building from a distance and understand its use. Although it is no longer used by the Co-op I could tell what the building was designed to be, and to me this is good building and urban design as such legibility helps you to understand a place and its history.

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