These are some notes from a talk I gave at Space Syntax’s last Urban Imperative: Improve, Extend, Create series of events in July. It looks at how to think about designing a city from scratch. The focus of this post is to look at exactly which components of a masterplan to design and why.
This shows some work that is slightly experimental. At the moment it’s about testing ideas through a process, and at the moment it’s only a process. It started as a real project to look at ideas about how to develop a city from scratch but then some further research work was done.
Earlier posts looked at why (master) planning hasn’t worked as intended, reaching one conclusion that the design outcomes weren’t flexible enough. The response was to aim to design the fewest fixed components and allow the city to grow more organically on a plot by plot basis within this framework. Changes in the economic or social context would be reflected by variations in density, land use, massing and speed of growth.
An early outline of fixed components includes solids (blocks, plots) and voids (street, infrastructure, and utility networks). Of course there are a secondary set of requirements that must be provided, but which there is some flexibility in terms of location or exact configuration – these include social infrastructure etc.
This post starts to set out how to develop this spatial framework. Building on Bill Hillier’s idea of the Movement Economy (1) – the configuration of space affects the distribution of people who affects the distributions of land uses and values – the starting point is the spatial network. Space is very difficult to change, with far-reaching impacts, while buildings can be replaced, and land can be bought and sold.
In turn this post becomes an examination into the geometry of spatial networks and urban blocks.
As always these are developing thoughts.
These are some developing thoughts about how to plan and grow cities.
Growing, as opposed to planning or building, is important as the cities we think of as successful today weren’t designed in one attempt, or built in a few phases, but grew over many years.
There’s a lot of criticism of the way cities currently respond in a physical way to their wider economic and social context. It is arguable that planning in its current form has not and does not achieve the objectives it sets out to. Many cities are fragmented by infrastructure, set out in low density single use zones, suffer poor health, are difficult to grow, irresponsive to market conditions, irresponsive to their residents, or uncoordinated in outcome.
all images (c) Ed Parham 2016