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Tag Archives: urban design

Data

There are lots of interesting things going on using data in cities at the moment. Many articles and blog posts talk about how data, and open data in particular, has the potential to deliver public services better, start to address long-term outcomes (such as health problems), and create a basis for decision-making. In times when public sector funding is under pressure delivering these outcomes is even more important than normal.

Collecting data in cities is helpful as it provides something to measure progress against. It means measuring specific outcomes, which also means being very precise about what outcomes are important.

It can also be a link between deciding a wider objective (improve air quality) and a specific implementable actions (make public transport free). However, to do this requires both domain and data expertise:

  • to understand the difference between data on the outcomes of a system, and the variables in that system
  • to measure and analyse the urban systems that form the variables
  • to know how data is recorded on urban systems and what it actually represents Read More

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This is both a follow-up to an earlier post on filtered permeability in de Beauvoir, and a response to the current Walford Road area consultation.

The earlier post identified three negative impacts of filtered permeability:

  1. Filtered permeability breaks the street network and pushes traffic away from “residential streets” on to the surrounding roads which increases congestion, air pollution, and journey times.
  2. By describing these areas as “residential streets” it implies that no one lives anywhere else. Often the streets that traffic is filtered towards are actually high streets with higher densities and a wider mix of uses. There are consequently more people on them, and therefore more people exposed to increased traffic and air pollution.
  3. The streets where traffic has been restricted are already quiet, and experience further reductions in natural surveillance, reducing personal safety (and the perception of safety).

These points were made on the basis of street network analysis, and some further investigations in to the distribution of land use and density in and around de Beauvoir.

A further consideration in the earlier study is that the resulting distribution of traffic volumes (and air pollution) is socio-economically distorted: higher density, multi-dwelling, buildings are more exposed to traffic, while lower density houses are less exposed.

The drive for filtered permeability is to encourage cycling, and this is positive for many reasons. However, cities are complex systems that work across many scales simultaneously, and are formed from different layers of infrastructure, public transport, land use, density, and people, all of which need to be considered in an integrated way.

The last fifty years of urban planning, and specifically the dominance of traffic engineering, shows how negative outcomes for the whole city arise by working with one infrastructure system in isolation from the others. Despite the positive objective, the risk of using filtered permeability to try to deliver improved cycling infrastructure is that it will create unintended negative outcomes across the wider area.

Hackney council currently has a consultation running to extend a filtered permeability scheme further north into Stoke Newington. This post uses spatial network analysis to test the impact of these new proposals.

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A couple of weeks back the Design Council Newsletter re-published some work from 2014, looking at how Hackney had become one of the most liveable boroughs in London. This is evidenced by an increase in people cycling to work and a decline in those driving – both around or over 10%.

One of the reasons set out for this change in behaviour is the success of policies implemented over the last 10 years, which include re-designing residential streets. In particular the use of “filtered permeability” – using bollards to make some streets only accessible to pedestrians and cyclists – is described as part of this achievement.

Increasing active travel share and decreasing private car use is very positive, however, closing streets immediately raises questions around the wider impacts.

In a very quick summary there are three major issues with filtered permeability:

  • Fragmented networks increase congestion and lengthen car trips
  • Increased likelihood of air pollution in higher density, mixed use areas
  • Reduced levels of natural surveillance impact personal safety

These points are expanded in the post below: Read More

Centrelines

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.

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This is the combination of a couple of talks I’ve given in the last few months to the ULI Urban Tech Committee and the Academy of Urbanism Digital Urbanism groups.

Urban Tech is something that has developed a lot in the last 10 years and which now seems to have a lot of interest and attention. There are a lot of terms – Future Cities, Smart Cities, Prop Tech, Urban Tech, etc – which are all slightly related but not quite connected in the way they could be.

One way of trying to understand how they fit together is by tracing what has changed in this time and what this means for the way we interact with cities.

While its interesting to see how things have changed, what is possibly more important, as professionals who work with, and in the context of cities, is to ask the more difficult “so what” questions of why things should change?

Here’s an outline of the reasons Why that will be explained in more detail below:

  • Better outcomes for cities and people
  • Creating benefits between public and private sectors in the short and long terms
  • More transparent and inclusive decision-making
  • Crossing siloes between planning and service delivery for more effective and efficient spending

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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.

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sherafiyah

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.

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