Office of Urban Regulation

Design Rules and Design With Rules!

Cities as cultural products are neither ‘built’ nor ‘planned,’ at best they are guided and steered in a certain direction. Therefore, rules and regulations are one of the few tools that are actually suitable to guide future development within such collective and complex urban settings.

We strongly believe that the field of (urban) design should not simply adhere to these standards as some neutrally existing context but should actively engage in discussing them in order to make them subject to design as well. read more

Office for urban regulation

Setback Street Ratio

New York

Above a certain height, each building shall spring back at distances having (depending upon the district or zone: SD, UG) either twice, 1 1/2 times, or the same width as the adjacent street. This creates a feeling of enclosure without a canyon-like impression.

  • Height District Map of Midtown Manhattan—specifying the Setback Street Ratio, 1916.
  • Hugh Ferriss modeling the respective building envelopes out of clay, 1916.
  • 261 Madison Avenue Building, 1952

Rule category

Rights of Light: enough light and air for everybody
The Kind of Rule
Rule that works as reference, ratio, or dependency.
Rule that is tied to a certain zone.
Rule that stipulates an upper limit.
Rule that has a strong influence on urban density and its distribution.
Rule with direct impact on architectural or urban form.
Rule that regulates building heights.
Streetscape Rule: Rule that is tied to a single street or road.
See also:


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