Posts Tagged ‘Planning’

Designing town centres for walking and belonging


GUEST POST: Agata Szacilowska, Landscape Architect with the Greenspace Development Environmental Services team at North Lanarkshire Council (NLC), describes the design and regeneration of Motherwell’s historic town centre.

In Motherwell Town Centre, NLC aimed to improve the quality, function and appearance of the streets and public areas.

The design was developed through internal and external consultation, and was presented for comments during public displays, on hand delivered leaflets and on the council’s website.

The resulting project involved realigning and resurfacing footways and roads, and installing new street furniture, lighting, street trees and public art.

But its overarching themes were sensitivity to the town’s historic buildings and the movement of people around the public space. (more…)


Traffic management and reinventing wheels



At Ecobuild Michael Sorkin talked about designing new cities in the US and in China, where walking radiuses of 10 minutes were being used as a defining characteristic of a healthy and sustainable neighbourhoods.

Elsewhere, Will Self keeps up his ‘psychogeography’ campaign, extolling the benefits and radicalism of travelling by foot:

We understand that to walk the city and its environs is, in a very powerful sense, to use it. The contemporary flâneur is by nature and inclination a democratising force who seeks equality of access, freedom of movement and the dissolution of corporate and state control.

Meanwhile, the economics of having to transport people and goods, and the small matter of pedestrian safety keep other discussions down to earth. (more…)

Ecobuild 2012 – External Works notes


As the dust settles after the 2012 Ecobuild event, here are few observations, in brief, from the External Works corner. (more…)

Boundaries, fencing and connected landscapes


The relationship between fences, walls and barriers in public and private landscapes, and the need to design for ‘openness’, is not necessarily shot through with compromise.

Green infrastructure and crossing boundaries

The Landscape Institute’s Green Infrastructure position statement sets out a view on planning, design and management that takes into account ‘serious environmental, social and economical challenges’, and that recommends treating natural and built environments as ‘multifunctional’ and interconnected.


The problem with tidiness: the Kindle and urban design


Summary: Scandalously breaking the rules of blog-writing best practice (make one point), this is a meandering post that touches on e-books, urbanism, lego, ESI product development and the poetry of Les Murray. An untidy post on tidiness and over-tidiness.

I’ve recently joined the ranks of Kindle users, and I was very excited to do so too.

I had run out of room for bookshelves, and never really got to grips with note-taking and ‘processing’ books. I like traveling light. I’ve been navigating the shift from print to digital content in construction information publishing at work. I was in the mood for a panacea.

I was looking forward to a simpler, more streamlined life.


3 or 4 views on urban change


In a recent article about science fiction, philosopher John Gray says that the kind of books that used to be driven by a utopianism nowadays take a different tack:

During much of the 20th century, speculative fiction served an impulse of world transformation. Fantasy was understood as an exercise in which alternative worlds were imagined in order to create new possibilities of action. Today fantasy has the role of enabling us to see more clearly the elusive actualities. The question of action is left open. We debate what can be done to change the world, but no one expects an answer.

What’s interesting for us in this is the high profile of imagined cities and suburbs in the books he’s talking about: from the societies of Brave New World and Nineteen Eighty-Four to Ballard’s visions and China Miéville’s The City and the City.

So far, so abstract. So what?


Trends in urban planning


Tangwhisky on Flickr

Summary: The annual Planetizen list of Top 10 Books works as a neat summary of recurring themes in the urban planning conversation: human-scale cities, reconciling public and private space, understanding and visualising continuous change.

The Planetizen post includes a complete set of reviews, together with information about and links to the books themselves.

Human-scale cities

Practical observations are more compelling than abstract concepts. The idea of designing urban spaces that are fit for people comes across in new ways.

David Byrne’s Bicycle Diaries makes leisurely comments on streets and buildings from the saddle of a bike, while Darrin Nordahl’s My Kind of Transit connects public space and public transport, noting the virtues of allowing people to shape their own environment.

David Owen’s Green Metropolis makes surprising links between tall buildings, dense cities, and sustainable development. Likewise, Léon Krier’s The Architecture of Community decouples the idea of human interaction with place from pure nostalgia.

In the same vein, The Smart Growth Manual sets out to encapsulate and apply the Charter for New Urbanism.

Reconciling public and private space

Eric Freyfogle’s On Private Property resists oversimplifying arguments and settling for easy answers. Actual situations, legal cases and historical examples are used to give a more precise framing of the question of ownership, public and private, governmental and commercial.

The same kind of tension comes across in Anthony Flint’s Wrestling with Moses. Jane Jacobs’ victory in subjecting Robert Moses’s building work to public scrutiny in 1960s NYC, can’t be altogether distanced from the emerging culture of NIMBYism.

Understanding and visualising continuous change

Paul Goldberg’s accumulated essays in Building Up and Tearing Down provide a record of the way that buildings have impacted upon their host cities. The essays provide, in Planetizen’s words, “documentation of city change”.

Similarly, Mark Ovenden’s photos in Paris Underground, and the documents and maps in Eric W. Sanderson’s Mannahatta, give, in different ways, visual depictions of urban development.