Tag Archives: urban planning

City-making and Sadiq

 

 

Writing for Make, New London Architecture chairman Peter Murray gives us his view on how London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan, might deliver the “good growth” he has promised.

 

Make partner Jason Parker recently gave a talk in the City of London’s Guildhall about development in the Square Mile and why its cluster of tall buildings is the way it is. He talked about the protected view corridors of St Paul’s Cathedral, the restrictions on building heights, the conservation areas and the composition of the towers – the maximum height of which is defined by the requirements of the Civil Aviation Authority and flight paths rather than urban planners.

How will Sadiq Khan set about shaping the capital as he sits down to write new his plan?

The London Jason described is one shaped by pragmatism – a system of creating pieces of city that come about as a result of argument, enquiry, and a response to geographical, commercial and electoral pressures, rather than from a grand vision of a desirable city. In light of the growing debate about tall buildings and density in London, how will Sadiq Khan set about shaping the capital as he sits down to write new his plan?

The mayor has said that he supports the idea of London accommodating as much of its economic growth as possible, and at the same time he wants to do that without impinging on the Green Belt. Thus he will need to intensify development across the city, particularly in locations with good transport capacity. This means higher-density development and, in some cases, additional taller buildings.

In the current London Plan, large-scale development is proposed to take place in Opportunity Areas. Some of these come under a single development entity, like King’s Cross and Earls Court. Others have multiple ownership, like Nine Elms and South Quay on the Isle of Dogs. The two mayoral development corporations, for the Olympic Legacy and Old Oak Common, create masterplans with developers delivering individual sites.

As of March 2015. Opportunity Areas are London’s major source of brownfield land with development potential (eg commercial or residential) and varying levels of public transport access. Typically they can accommodate at least 5,000 jobs and 2,500 new homes, along with other supporting facilities and infrastructure. Image courtesy Mayor of London website.

King’s Cross is a good example of how masterplanning can work. The developers and their consultants produced a clear layout for the site, retaining areas of key heritage and providing locations and size of buildings with a mix of uses around the site. The plan was flexible enough to change as the economic situation changed; based on a series of sound rules, it retained a level of coherence in scale and detail. The architects of individual buildings were given freedom in developing their own palette of materials in order to create variety and interest.

By contrast, South Quay, not far from Canary Wharf on the DLR, is in multiple ownership. Each landowner jockeys for taller and taller buildings, with guidance arriving late in the day from the authorities when it seemed that the density of the area could exceed even that of Central Hong Kong. Although a masterplan has now been developed, it gives no hint as to the overall form, the townscape, of this key part of the capital.

Next door at Canary Wharf, today’s development is still recognisable in drawings made as far back as 1984. The architecture has changed over time, but the shape of the development is pretty much as planned.

In addition to Opportunity Areas, the mayor will look to develop more public land, particularly some of the 5,700 acres owned by Transport for London. Since many of the sites will be around and above stations, one can expect to see denser developments taking place in town centres across the capital. One can expect plenty of debate about whether this means more clusters of towers or lower-rise but denser developments.

How do other cities do it? Vancouver’s towers are more consistent in height and less clustered than London’s, although the location of tall buildings is similarly determined by views, in this instance of the natural landscape and geography that surround the coastal city. The strategy of creating “intense, dense neighbourhoods with short commutes” was developed by city planner Larry Beasley and dubbed Vancouverism – a key element of which is the podium block, providing an animated street scene with mixed use, green space and family homes at the base and smaller apartments in the towers.

In 1977 Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, then president of France, upset by the impact of the 210m-high Montparnasse Tower, introduced a law that banned any buildings over 10 storeys high in the centre of Paris, which has over the years become increasingly museum-like, with low economic growth. In response, mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo has adopted a policy of permitting taller buildings in select locations within the central area, the first being the 180m Tour Triangle by Herzog & de Meuron. The Central Sydney Planning Strategy, meanwhile, has come up with an envelope of maximum heights created to protect the views and light of parks and places.

With the extreme pressures that London is facing to accommodate growth within a limited footprint, Khan needs to shift away from the current reactive and regulatory planning system to one that is more proactive, positive and creative if he is to provide the “good growth” he is promising in his planning consultation document A City for All Londoners. A proactive plan will give a better idea of the 3D shape of the future city than the current 2D local plans, which leave it to developers to fill in the gaps.

London’s population has grown every year since 1988, and in the last five years has grown much faster than anticipated in the 2011 London Plan. The population projections of the 2016 plan show London growing from 8.2 million in 2011 to 10.1 million in 2036. Image courtesy Mayor of London website.

Providing a clearer idea of the shape of the future city will give greater certainty to developers and communities alike; it will reassure local people about what is going up in their backyard, reduce land speculation and make development less of a gamble. The London Plan sets out where development happens and what density it might be, but gives little thought to what it is going to look like or what form it might take.

As the mayor writes his own version of the London Plan, he has the opportunity to not just say what the London of the future will contain, how many people it can accommodate and what sort of jobs they will do, but also give us an idea of what it is actually going to be like.

 

Peter Murray is the chairman of New London Architecture and The London Society, and president of the creative agency Wordsearch. A trained architect, he founded Blueprint Magazine and the London Festival of Architecture.

Article extracted from Make Annual 13.

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Digital Danube

 

Juraj Porubský, editor of Forbes Slovakia, banishes old stereotypes for good with his account of today’s dynamic world of tech in the Danube Valley.

 

 

You pass the Vienna Opera House, go up the stairs to the Albertina gallery, then past the Imperial Butterfly House, and there it is. The Hofburg Palace, heart of the once-mighty Habsburg Monarchy. You enter the majestic building with thoughts of Empress Elisabeth but instead find a completely 21st-century spectacle. The great halls of the palace are lit up by young entrepreneurs, start-ups and chats about the next big business ideas. It is the Pioneers Festival, the biggest start-up summit in the region.

You close your eyes and listen to the mixture of different languages: German, Czech, Slovak, Hungarian, but mostly English. If it weren’t for all the English, you could easily imagine going back in time, enjoying the Viennese Café Central, maybe meeting Sigmund Freud. You might take the Pressburger Train from Vienna and jump out in the heart of Pressburg, as Bratislava used to be called. You could stroll the boulevards of Budapest, the most dynamic city of the empire at the beginning of the 20th century, or admire the work of Ludwig Mies van der Rohe in the famous Villa Tugendhat from the 1930s, which sits nicely above Brno.

But when you open your eyes again, you’re still at the Hofburg Palace and see that the present is much different from the traditional, romantic view of the Danube Valley. Today it is young, high-tech, open and full of energy. It has a vibrant start-up environment and attracts innovators such as Hyperloop, creators of a mode of transportation with the potential to move passengers faster than aeroplane speed, connecting Vienna and Bratislava with less than ten minutes of travel time.

The Pioneers Festival, now in its sixth year, hosts 2,500 tech innovators from over 100 countries at the Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna. Image copyright Michael Holmes.

Tech change

In a world where computers can be as dangerous as arms, where major elections are won or lost on the battlefields of social media networks, it is the heart of Central Europe that holds the three major cybersecurity companies: Eset, Avast and AVG. Just recently Eset detected the source of the attack on Tesco Bank that took away money from the accounts of 9,000 customers. These companies are global, but with owners and headquarters located in the region, they support the business environment and invest a lot in local real estate projects – like the famous Savoy-Carlton Hotel, in the heart of Bratislava, which was bought by the owners of Eset this year.

If you want to understand the transition this region is going through, just think about other companies – for instance Prezi, a Hungarian software firm that offers a world-class way of making presentations, or Pixel Federation, a Slovak gaming studio whose TrainStation game has over 20 million players worldwide. These businesses have grown from local backgrounds but enjoy the opportunities of the global digital market. They are part of the driving force behind the new development of the local environment.

Starting out in the mid-90s, there was no state aid, no push from universities. Just a bunch of local entrepreneurs with global know-how and some money they earned thanks to the business opportunities presented by the marvellous new world wide web. They understood the power of sharing knowledge, contacts and money, and supporting others to develop interesting new ideas.

After a couple of years, supporting a start-up became a sexy hobby for local businessmen, big corporations and even governments. The EU’s Joint European Resources for Micro to Medium Enterprises (JEREMIE) programme supported the biggest venture fund in Slovakia, pledging €16 million, while Vienna and the Austrian government offer incentives to the Pioneers Festival, which also gets backing from Red Bull’s Austrian cofounder, billionaire Dietrich Mateschitz. South Moravia in the Czech Republic has a great municipality programme for start-ups called JIC. But the core of this movement is entrepreneurs. Nowadays, it’s not just about money but also the talent to execute an idea.

Business engine for development

So how do the region’s cities cope with this fresh wave of economic activity? Of course Vienna regularly enjoys the top spots in many rankings of standard of living, but what about Budapest, Bratislava, Brno? They’ve been all going through massive development, and though the old hearts of these towns will keep their spirit, some of the newer parts will completely change.

As towns attract more and more millennials, some of the old parts will get a much-needed revival. Just think about the famous ‘ruin pubs’ in Budapest’s District VII (the old Jewish Quarter), very close to Andrássy Avenue, a main high street of the Hungarian capital. These formerly empty buildings have been turned into bars (often doubling as cultural venues) that are now an important part of the city’s nightlife and have helped to revitalise the district.

As businesses grow and towns need more offices, some of the brownfields in the region are being completely redeveloped. The best example is the Mlynské Nivy quarter in Bratislava, which used to be occupied by old industrial halls but now will host major blue-chip brands, including Swiss Re, Microsoft, Accenture and PwC. Many of them are bringing their ‘shared services centres’ to Slovakia, employing tens of thousands of people in the country.

The mixed use Sky Park development in Bratislava, by Zaha Hadid Architects. The scheme will deliver three residential towers and two office buildings. Image courtesy Penta Investments.

Danube Valley vision

In case you get lost in this fast-moving new world of Central Europe, you still have the leading navigation company Sygic, based in Bratislava, sitting in the new heart of the town. However, not even the best navigation can solve the problems of infrastructure and transportation. These will continue to be main issues for all the countries coming out of the old socialist era. It will take a lot of public investment and skills to find smart solutions.

Bratislava’s EU funds are mostly limited to infrastructure projects outside of the most developed towns, and after 2020 they will shrink anyway. Money will then have to come from public funds, or private developers will need to calculate extra costs into their projects, a trend you can already see in Bratislava.

Of course you can still be a dreamer, because at the outskirts of Bratislava AeroMobil is building a plant for its flying car. Who knows, maybe we’ll have self-flying cars in the near future that will bring these four countries of the Danube Valley even closer. (A more likely scenario is that they might help people in places like China, Africa or Australia, where infrastructure is often lacking.)

Until then, with distances here easily accessible by car, a common history and a young generation with no borders in their minds, this place offers unique potential for the future. Some people say that the Habsburg Empire was the most prosperous period for this region. I say the coming one can offer much more.

 

Juraj Porubský is the editor-in-chief of Forbes Slovakia and former editor-in-chief of Pravda, one of Slovakia’s major daily newspapers.

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Relevant Cities

By John Prevc

Cities need to keep pace with societal changes in order to ensure that they remain relevant for their inhabitants. This means designing flexible and adaptable cities where streets, spaces and buildings are able to slowly metamorphosize into places that resonate in their own time. Cities need to mature carefully, keeping the best and most significant markers of their culture and identity and hence preserving their individuality and essence.

We are unable to accurately guess where we will be even in the not-too-distant future. Keeping our cities relevant for the communities that inhabit them requires an understanding of the human condition and in particular our social and economic interdependence and our need to exchange information with each other. The human condition is consistent and universal, adapting to the context of place and time. Relevant cities are therefore a product of time and how we as humans interface with it.

Today’s relevant cities

Successful cities are cities that offer people opportunities to improve their lives. Whether it’s through an increase in employment opportunities, better housing, a well-established social infrastructure, a connected and well-maintained transport system or simply a cool place to be and hang out, it’s choice that’s the differentiator.

So how do successful cities optimise choice? We believe that one of the most significant factors is greater density. The exchange of information is at the heart of both economic and social success in the community. Through increased density connections are improved. Dense cities encourage social inclusion, foster business development, improve connections between members of the community and help to reinforce identity and a sense of place through design excellence.

High density life

High density brings life to the city

How do we deliver design excellence within a high-density city location? Our starting point would be to ask the community what it is that they feel they need. Consulting with the community and broader stakeholders will make cities more relevant. The specifics of place and the maintenance of uniqueness is something that lives in those who experience the area on a day-to-day basis. It is when a community is asked to adopt a commercial or political vision imposed from those on the outside that relevance is lost.

We can no longer consider the family unit in the traditional way. We are a more mobile society, more often than not living away from our families as we follow work opportunities. We live on our own for much longer at both ends of our lives and the fear of isolation brings us closer to those living and working around us. Our city communities are an extended family and often bring more relevance to our lives than our own blood line.

These social changes, together with an escalation in property prices especially in London, suggest that homes need to become more affordable either through a policy of subsidy or/and the consideration of smaller homes for single person habitation. Smaller homes will not however help families with children. Families with children are finding it increasingly difficult to afford three and four bedroom homes. If we are to encourage whole life city living and a more balanced community we will need to build variety of size and tenure.

Cities with greater densities encourage people to walk and cycle as distances between destinations are reduced and more accessible. Improvements in health and wellbeing are tangible results of this, with all of the social, environmental and economic benefits that this brings. The reduction in the pace of movement increases opportunities for people to meet informally and exchange information. This improves social cohesion and has economic benefit. It also makes for a more vibrant and active public realm which is safer.

Lower car use

Dense cities have lower car use than small suburban towns

Dense cities are green cities in both the physical and figurative sense. They offer visual and functional amenity at all scales, from the balcony to the private garden through to the public square and park. Density is a balance between building and open space giving people an environment where there are clear and well-defined boundaries between their public and private lives.

Density improves choice not only in terms of jobs and housing but also in terms of the types of goods and services available on the high street. Competition increases choice, reduces costs and improves quality. A significant population within the local community allows the market to offer a bespoke service which is adaptive and flexible following the societal needs which it will reflect if it is to be successful. For cities to remain relevant they need to be nimble and responsive adapting to the community they serve.

Flexible buildings

Flexible cities enable buildings to evolve with time

 

This essay was extracted from the Future Spaces Foundation report: Vital Cities not Garden Cities: the answer to the nation’s housing shortage?

 

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Greener Cities

by Frances Gannon

The value of green
Describing his vision of the ‘Town-Country’ Garden City, Ebenezer Howard said: “Human society and the beauty of nature are meant to be enjoyed together.” This chimes with contemporary research relating a connection to nature to people’s psychological state and social cohesion. Close proximity to nature has been linked to healthier babies, less lonely and depressed seniors, and more productive workers. Dutch researchers have investigated the value of ‘Vitamin G’, the effect of green space in the living environment on health, well-being and social safety. The Biophilia and Biourbanism movements are strengthening, asserting that humans seek connections with and gain positive feelings from ‘the rest of life’, including the whole of the natural world, be it plants, animals or the weather.

Vitamin G

Vitamin G: Visibility in a green city is just as important as direct use

Increasing densities = intense green
Accommodating an increasing population in higher density urban environments gives the opportunity to intensify the connection to nature. Rather than walking for 20 minutes through a suburban sprawl of tarmac driveways and fenced-off back gardens to reach a park, in dense urban environment accessible green places can be layered throughout. Faced with urban growth and limited land, the Singaporean Government has developed a strategy to transform Singapore from a ‘Garden City’ to a ‘City in a Garden’. This aims to raise the quality of life by creating a city that is nestled in an environment of trees, flowers, parks and rich bio-diversity. Key elements in bringing parks and green spaces right to the doorsteps of people’s homes and workplaces are: roadside greenery, planting and maintaining one million trees and creating a network of ‘park connectors’, green corridors which link between parks. Singapore is also tackling ‘vertical green’ with roof gardens and green balconies becoming the default.

Functional green
Green spaces provide a setting for relaxing or sunbathing, meeting and entertaining, walking, jogging, playing, gardening or bird-watching. In a subliminal way, walking past trees keeps us in touch with the seasons. Modern life is often disconnected from food production and there is value in re-establishing that connection: be it views of wheat fields, grazing animals, tomatoes in allotment polytunnels or lettuces growing in window boxes. Reducing suburban sprawl leaves more land available for food production, protecting that possibility for future generations and as-yet unknown challenges. Trees and planting in cities reduces air pollution and the urban ‘heat island’ effect. It reduces flooding and pressure on drainage infrastructure. Planting provides habitat for animals, birds and insects. It gives character and identity to an area and enhances local pride in the environment.

Embedded green
A wide variety of green spaces should be embedded at all scales of the city. The greater the density of the inhabitants, the more parks there should be and the closer they will be to each resident. Filling streets with trees and planted verges is an easy win in terms of visual amenity, environmental benefits and birdsong. Private individual back-gardens are the default British model for families and later life but investment needs to be made in other models in order to maximise value and relevance to a wider variety of households.

Most balconies built today are too small to be valued amenity spaces, usually home to drying washing and bikes. Making balconies large enough to be real useable ‘outdoor rooms’ with space for planting would make apartment-living immediately more appealing to a wider demographic, perhaps reducing the flight of young families to the suburbs. A simple move, such as offsetting apartment layouts on alternate floors so that a double-height outdoor space which is much more bright and airy. Built-in window boxes encourage micro-scale gardening, personal expression and character, giving visual amenity to many. Green and brown roofs play an important role in providing habitats for birds and insects, reducing water run-off, increasing insulation as well as visual amenity, without necessarily having to be accessible useable spaces.

Open space

There are many different types of open space that can be used in a dense urban setting to give residents the benefit of the vitamin G effect

Shared green
Shared private spaces, such as roof gardens or courtyard gardens are very popular in other European countries but not so common in the UK. Allotments or community gardens are being set up in neighbourhood parks and empty sites but these could also be established on roofs or in courtyards of new residential developments. Gardening, composting and play equipment, for example, can be much more effective on a scale bigger than a single household. The key is finding the size of the community where a sense of individual investment, responsibility and defensible space is maintained – easiest with a group of families perhaps. The exploration of semi-private or shared spaces can unlock many opportunities. Commercial units can also provide amenity in a city, such as a plant nursery or urban farm or café garden.

The built environment must always make way for some areas of ‘deep rooted’ green: mature trees or parkland that can become long-term habitats for plants and animals. Embedding nature at all scales and vertical levels of a building, a street and a city brings a vital connection into everyday lives.

Maximising green

Maximising green space in a dense city:
1. Juliet balcony
2. Balcony
3. Roof terrace
4. Private garden
5. Communal garden
6. Playground
7 Public square
8. Park
9. Avenues and boulevards

 

This essay was extracted from the Future Spaces Foundation report: Vital Cities not Garden Cities: the answer to the nation’s housing shortage?

 

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Future of architecture – Gavin Mullan

We asked ten architects – each of whom joined Make in a different year since 2004 – to write about how they see architecture and the built environment changing over the next ten years. Here is last instalment in the series, from Make partner Gavin.

Gavin Mullan
Gavin Mullan
Make Partner since 2013

I see the industry today as being at a critical point of opportunity. As a student architect I am only too aware of the amount of education it takes to become even an average architect these days. I think young architects today need to listen to experienced, much wiser architects who have seen successes and failures, but we also need to establish a style for this era! I see this as including a much more energy-efficient approach. Solar energy is becoming a huge part of everything architects are involved in today. If this industry grabs all the potential solar power possesses, as well as other natural resources, we can inspire the world to become more green and totally energy efficient. My generation of architects can really set a new style and a new standard of architecture for years to come; if we put our heads together we can come up with something exquisite.

Will the car be here in ten years? Today’s streets have the same structure as those of thousands of years ago, when pedestrians and transportation coexisted. Vehicles of today and tomorrow need high-speed routes, while walkers need quiet itineraries. I’m interested in reduced dependency on the car and how the roadway could become detached from the pavement, like urban railways, and how architecture and urbanism could deconstruct the street corridor as we know it today.

On a different note, what also excites me about the next ten years is the unforeseen potential for there to be a discovery that fundamentally changes the way we all approach architecture and design. I see the seemingly exponential development of technology sparking demand for a new building type, fuelled by a new generation of architects. Vernacular will fundamentally change for good.

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The future of architecture – David Patterson

We asked ten architects – each of whom joined Make in a different year since 2004 – to write about how they see architecture and the built environment changing over the next ten years. Here is the second instalment.

 

david-patterson-profile

David Patterson
Make Partner since 2005

By 2024 the population of London will have increased to an unprecedented level. While this is representative of London’s success globally, it also places significant pressure on the city’s already overstrained infrastructure – in particular our streets, which have lost their sense of purpose. Over the next ten years we will need to fundamentally rethink how our streets are used.

London is world-famous for its green parks and squares, which make a significant contribution to the unique qualities of the urban environment. Unfortunately the same cannot be said of the city’s streets. Clogged with traffic, they are hostile to pedestrians and cyclists. This has not always been the case; in the recent past our streets had a real sense of purpose – they were destinations in themselves, places to go to rather than go through. They were elaborately balanced in order to meet a variety of different needs. Today they have lost that sense of purpose – the balance is firmly in favour of the car, above all else. Our streets provide a significant opportunity to improve the quality of life of the people who use them; they should be an integral part of our built environment rather than a separate entity.

We urgently need to rediscover our streets’ sense of purpose, in order for them to become destinations rather than routes to other destinations. I see our role as architects becoming more significant in creating streets which address this. If we are to successfully meet the needs of our increasing population, this transformation will become critical over the next decade.

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The socio-economic value of people focused cities

By John Prevc

Cities throughout the world are locked in battle with each other as they try to attract capital investment from both private and public funders. Their focus is to try and attract new jobs and they are happy to entertain both the well-established and the new start-up businesses to help kick start their generally static economies.

Significant financial incentives from both local and national governments tend to be the biggest deal makers, but as businesses try and attract the best people, the quality of the city’s built environment is seen more and more as a significant factor in this extremely competitive decision-making process. This has meant that the role of urban designers and architects has grown significantly over the last ten years. They are seen as being the people who are best able to refresh a city through sometimes small interventions which can really help to change people’s perception and therefore help attract investors.

Very much linked to economic investment is the real opportunity of repairing the social ills that seem to ravage certain areas of our inner cities. If we are to design socially cohesive, well-used, popular cities we need to better understand the relationship between streets and spaces, and the buildings that form their edges.

Public spaces 1 Public spaces 2 Public spaces 3

Public spaces can often feel anonymous – nothing more than connections between buildings. They should, however, be places of substance which add to the interest and excitement of city life. If designed well, they can instil a sense of ownership, pride and wellbeing, as well as promote economic growth. If designed badly, they can produce ghettoes, social tension and communities which may well fail.

The role played by buildings cannot be underestimated; their uses, especially at ground floor level, are critical in defining the nature of the spaces they spill on to. The edges between inside and outside spaces are often where much of city life is to be found; the broader the edge, the better the relationship between the building and the public realm.

Urban edges have a number of characteristics; they have different “thicknesses” relating to their level of accessibility, both physical and visual; they can be external or internal spaces, or both – such as shops, cafes and markets; their use and character can change depending on the time of day, the day of the week, the season and the weather. An appreciation of both the context and the culture of the place in which the edge exists will better ensure the success of the urban realm and the community which occupies it.

Successful cities operate at a very simple level. They need to take the ultimate building block which determines scale, the human being, and measure life accordingly. Having successfully attracted new businesses into our cities, the real challenge then is to have them stay and expand and attract others to join them. I believe that the quality of the public realm and its interface with the buildings that enclose it is so incredibly significant in the success of city economies that if it were to fail, the city would ultimately fail too.

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