The pull of the park

Gosforth Shopping Centre opened in 1979: an internalised world of covered shopping. The centre offered a pedestrian-only alternative to the busy traffic of Gosforth High Street, historically the retail backbone of the town. Although a few storefronts opened onto the High Street, the greater part of the High Street frontage was taken up by the doorless side of a supermarket (originally Presto and currently Sainsbury’s). The majority of units, including the supermarket, opened onto the internal mall.

Lest it be a distraction to the act of retail consumption, the centre turned its back on Gosforth Central Park, the main open space of the town. The blank wall of the centre can be seen beyond the trees in the view below.

20110628-054807.jpg

The effect of this long, unpunctured elevation was visually and functionally negative – it looked terrible and it blocked access between the park and the High Street, each in its own right a major destination in the town.

Unsurprisingly (for most people but not for the designers and investors in the original project) the shopping centre never lived up to the potential of its location. While Gosforth thrived, house prices rose and the general sense of affluence increased, the shopping centre remained as it had from the very beginning – lifeless and soulless. The world quite literally passed it by.

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UNICEF Notes from Tim Stonor’s presentation

Upgrading Urban Slums
The importance of child-centred planning and design

United Nations
New York City, New York
UNICEF Headquarters

Speaker
Tim Stonor (architect and town planner)
UCL Space Syntax (Research Organization and Consulting Group)

UNICEF escort
Nikola Balvin

17 June 2011
1 – 2 PM

Report written by Sydney Keen

View presentation

Presentation
I. UCL Space Syntax’s approach
a. Many architects don’t consider the way space is used
i. A city is a city : they do not consider people’s movement habits or
tendencies, economic effects, etc.

b. It is important to focus on the movement and habits of people in urban planning

c. How does architectural planning affect the sense of community?
i. Social interaction and economic activity are directly related to spatial
planning
ii. Much of the social housing built after WWII has failed in these respects
iii. There’s room for the aesthetic but we must approach architecture as a thing to be used
iv. Consider the flow of traffic and the use of the city
v. Many slums have very specific layout with street plans which cut them off
from the city, limiting economic activity to the slum
vi. Cut-off areas are normally occupied by the very rich and the very poor
vii. 60-80% of movement flows are due to the structure of the network,
measured by spatial accessibility
1. More accessible places get more movement
viii. How will infrastructural developments affect the economic activity in the
city?
ix. “If I build a bridge over this river, will anybody use that bridge?”

II. We are in cities for economic and social activity so we must have these corridors of movement – boulevards and avenues
a. Spatial layout determines land value

b. Carbon footprint is directly related to spatial layout
i. Layout can encourage or discourage pedestrian flow, therefore
determining motor vehicle traffic

c. We need more boulevards and avenues, and fewer highways

d. Champs Elysees, Paris: perfect planning – high traffic, high pedestrian flow,
increasing cycling rate, high real estate value, high economic activity, beautiful
landscaping
i. These sorts of roads create the heart of the city: cities thrive on them

e. Areas that have undergone many redesigns (generally very old cities) tend to
share spatial similarities
i. These are the cities that “work” – i.e. Paris
Upgrading Urban Slums : The importance of child-centred planning and design

f. Office buildings tend to want to “protect” themselves from the city via a vacant
first floor
i. Instead, we need to activate buildings at ground level to increase
pedestrian flow through that street, and therefore economic activity
ii. 80% of London retail located on 20% most spatially accessible areas

III. Slums (unplanned and informal settlement)
a. Aside form the risks of violence inevitable in the destruction of slums, we must
mind the affect it would have on their economy

b. Because they are unplanned, many are well laid-out and have a strong economic
identity
i. Those that are poorly developed (high rise, etc.) tend to lack that identity

IV. Crime
a. Spatial layout influences crime and safety

b. You can design crime out by designing urban areas that create “natural
surveillance”
i. Encourage pedestrian flow
ii. Open the areas up

c. One is more vulnerable if he is alone
i. Urban planners can avoid street crime (mugging, etc.) if they take this into
consideration by promoting pedestrian flow
ii. The chances of being harmed when surrounded by hundreds of people
such as on the boulevards of NYC are much lower than side streets

V. Jeddah
a. Mayor : “I want a humble city.”
i. Strong social and religious identity, strong economy

b. 1/3 or Jeddah’s population lives in slum conditions
i. Over 50 slums in Jeddah
ii. Populations range from 3,000 to 120,000

c. Centre of Jeddah is almost entirely unplanned, informal settlements

d. Jeddah slums are surrounded by highways, disconnecting them from the rest of
the city, and with it, potential markets
i. Most “walkable” routes in Jeddah are located in slums
ii. Most “drivable” routes are the highways
iii. “walkable” and “drivable” are disconnected

VI. Pedestrian Studies
a. Studies in Camden, UK, suggest that the pedestrian flows of adults v. children are
nearly opposite

b. The deeper you enter into a community the fewer adults you see

c. Housing
i. Successful : adults v. children – directly proportional
ii. Problem : adults v. children – inversely proportional

d. Adults avoid “deep space where they’re on their own; kids, on the other hand,
love it because they can get away from the adults and socialize on their own”
i. Kids do not learn the basic rules of behaviour
ii. Adults aren’t there to encourage “socially acceptable” interaction
iii. Increases the stereotypical “juvenile behaviour”
Upgrading Urban Slums : The importance of child-centred planning and design

Discussion
I. How does urban planning affect children?
a. Urban planning must consider sociology and psychology, because it is ultimately
about human interaction and movement

b. Families in the slums want the same benefits and privileges that people outside
the slums have (i.e. Schools, hospitals)

c. Different cultures have different spatial styles

d. Whether or not streets are paved affects movement – particularly with children

e. Must consider children’s ages – children’s needs vary based on age

f. Children’s habits of movement through streets are perhaps more important that
simply their location
i. A better method for taking this data is necessary
1. Something like tracking mobile phones

g. Urban planning affects the prevalence of “juvenile behaviour” (socially
unacceptable behaviour)

h. the more mutually child-friendly and adult-friendly urban areas are, the lower the
crime rates will be

II. How can we ensure that children’s rights are included in urban planning?
a. In NYC, children are given the opportunity to design a space, and the results are
compiled in order to integrate the children’s ideas

b. Children tend to know streets better than adults do

c. Visual design and maps area appealing to children

d. Reach out to the schools for design ideas

e. Study the movement tendencies of children in order to gain a better idea of their
needs

III. What scale of social integration do you propose? Privacy is desirable as well as economic activity
a. The key is a balance between pedestrian traffic and strangers, which help
economic flow, and maintaining the option to live in more private, residential
areas
b. To create a plan for a whole city takes five years before implementation

IV. Viability of a plan
a. Consultation of inhabitants of the area being redesigned is necessary
i. Take people through the logic of the argument

b. Citizens are much more receptive to a scientific approach than architects are

c. Planning based on natural movement

d. Comment: usually, drastic dissection of an area is negative
i. Vehicle speed, physical design (dimensions), etc. are necessary to consider
in designing such a cut through a neighbourhood

e. Key considerations
i. Shopping centres are less economically beneficial because they are
segregated from the rest of the community
Upgrading Urban Slums : The importance of child-centred planning and design
ii. Connectivity must be readily available between residential areas and
health facilities, food providers, and schools
iii. Climate, region, and social norms make differences in the planning of
cities
1. You cannot plan a city in China in the same way you would a city
in Morocco – different customs, religions, ideals
2. Jeddah: public spaces are busiest at night, as well as beaches
3. In Saudi culture, wealth = driving. The wealthy do not walk.
iv. Gender roles
1. Studies of movement in terms of gender is different in different
societies, according to gender roles in a given area
2. Women tend to use fewer, busier streets, whereas men use a wider
range because of their lower risk of danger
v. The presence of people on their own is much more prevalent in the slums than in other urban areas in Jeddah

The ultimate goal: integrate slums with cities and children with adults to create more harmonious communities

Weekly update

13th-19th June 2011
Monday
Fly to Chicago.

Meeting with SOM Chicago, BlackBox Studio.

Tuesday
Fly to Washington DC.

Meetings at British Embassy with UK Trade & Industry and Science & Innovation teams.

Wednesday
Presentation at the National Capital Planning Commission.

Train to Philadelphia.

Thursday
Meeting at OLIN landscape architects.

Train to New York.

Friday
Presentation at UNICEF on “Upgrading urban slums“.

Train to Boston.

Weekly update

6th-12th April 2011
Tuesday
Meeting with Richard Burck Associates, landscape architects.

Meeting with Ronee Saroff, Content Manager at Harvard Graduate School of Design to discuss Loeb Fellowship digital communications.

Wednesday
Meeting with Ken Kruckemeyer and Barbara Knecht, Program Directors at IHP Cities in the 21st Century.

Thursday
Skype meeting with Space Syntax London management team.

Friday
Meeting with Jim Stockard, Loeb Fellowship Curator.