“Place planning” is an approach to urban design that steps beyond the immediate challenge — such as public art planning, open space planning, preservation, cultural planning or wayfinding — and looks holistically at the character and quality of a place. Our projects have included studies of city visual image, the development of visual langauges to guide civic design, and “visual zoning” recommendations.

Our work results in plans that are creative, implementable, backed by energized communities, and grounded in local traditions and aspirations.

Place Planning for Arts Districts

Distillery District, Lexington, KY

Distillery Picture Chart Greyway Distillery Picture Chart Greenway


The City of Lancaster is home to a rapidly emerging community of artists, arts organizations and cultural venues. The Lancaster Campaign, a business-sponsored civic organization, sought ideas for design strategies that could create a greater sense of synergy between these activities and a stronger sense of place downtown. The LancasterARTS plan identified for the client a series of low-cost art projects that can have a significant impact on the street environment, as well as steps for marketing and promoting the arts as a whole. In the past eight years, downtown has seen a revival of street life and strategic investment of hotels, restaurants and galleries at key arts locations.

King lot morphed

Manayunk Main Street

The village of Manayunk, a design and entertainment district in Northwest Philadelphia, has committed to a multi-year program of commissioning new public artworks. Bressi worked with business and community leaders to develop a strategy for permanent and temporary art projects that would roll out incrementally over three years, and integrate subtlely into the streetscape.

A project of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, Manayunk Special Services District and Manayunk Development Corporation.

manayunk turtle

PEC Arts Study

A West Philadelphia community group asked Bressi to create a strategy for arts-related development that would support the community without hastening displacement. His team conducted a “census of the arts,” to learn how the neighborhood is regarded in the arts community, the strengths and weaknesses of local arts groups, and what types of housing and workspace would suit local artists best. With the findings, the team developed a prototype design for a community-based artists’ residence, studio space and gallery, and sketched a blueprint for an umbrella arts-based CDC. Project undertaken at Brown and Keener Bressi.

Place Planning for Cities and Public Spaces

Calgary UEP Visual Language Project

Bressi and artist Jody Pinto led an interdisciplinary team that proposed developing a “visual language” for City of Calgary’s Urban Environmental Protection Department — pallettes of color, materials, iconography, landscape material, form, events and other features that would enhance design of Calgary’s water systems and help communicate to the broader public the important relationship between Calgary and its watershed.
Project undertaken at Brown and Keener Bressi.  

More information

Visual Language Book 18

Denver Airport Visual Zoning Strategy

As part of our public art master planning study for Denver International Airport, we prepared recommendations for “visual zoning,” or design guidelines that manage the location of airport messaging, commercial messaging, public art and civic space.

  Visual Zoning Diagrams_Page_1

Scottsdale City Image Study

How do you design a sprawling desert city so it has a sense of place? Scottsdale, Arizona, covers 180 square miles of desert valley and rugged mountain terrain. Its developed area is growing rapidly, and in ways that make it difficult for people to recognize the city anymore. Bressi, working as Scottsdale’s first Designer in Residence, tackled this question with an innovative City Image Study. The Study identified elements of the city’s landscape and urban form that citizens associate most strongly with the city’s visual and cultural identity and recommended specific strategies for strengthening them. It was undertaken as a special research project sponsored by the city’s Redevelopment and Urban Design Studio.

More information        Final Report

scottsdale road  scottsdale map 2

Center City Wayfinding Study

Center City Philadelphia’s transit stations and portals are gateways for hundreds of thousands of transit riders every day, but are widely regarded as being unwelcoming and difficult to navigate. This study analyzed the effectiveness of existing signs, studied the navigational strategies pedestrians used above and below ground, and proposed ten focused ideas for revamping the transit wayfindng system. Implementation is underway. Project undertaken at Brown and Keener Bressi.


Narberth Open Space Master Plan

Soon after he moved to the tiny Borough of Narberth, Bressi led an open space planning effort that would make the town eligible for county open space project funds. His plan went further, examining how Narberth’s streets, and its texture of yards and houses were among its greatest open space resources. One of the main recommendations, designing a main street for traffic calming, “bus stop socializing” and stormwater management through rain gardens, is underway. Project undertaken at Brown and Keener Bressi.