Urban design research into the fundamental new challenges in cities that derive from densification, technological advancements, and its impacts on mental health, is still in its infancy. The built environment disciplines, in particular, urban design practice, have so far devoted little attention to the design of civic and social space in support of mental well-being in urban environments. Many questions remain unanswered, such as how urban design can explicitly respond to social conflict and difference in urban space, and how it can deliver spaces that are healing and have an overall positive impact on mental health in the city. These challenges cannot be addressed through current urban design thinking derived from a modernist understanding of space and time, and where the aesthetics of design primarily focuses on the visual, the static, and the material condition of cities. What is required instead is a much more holistic and experimental urban design approach that focuses on people and the experiential realm of the city.
This needs to consider the interplay of aspects such as time, the senses, affect and emotion. Aspects of performance and the choreography of places, thus, become fundamental elements to design with and for, in the space of the city. A paradigm shift is needed in regards to the way urban designers understand, analyse, and design for people in the city. If the urban design discipline likes to evolve and develop meaningful ways of responding to contemporary urban challenges as mentioned above, it will need to open up to advancements in the social sciences that teach us to look at urban space not as fixed but ephemeral, not as visual but sensorial, not as representational but non-representational, intentional, and performative. This is the wider context within which this paper on urban temporality, rhythm and atmosphere is set and the ground dimensions for a new field of urban design research and practice, that of Temporal Urban Design.