London’s riots – can architecture cause social malaise?

My company, Space Syntax Limited, has released the first findings of a study into the 2011 London Riots. Described by Polly Curtis in The Guardian as “the most concrete evidence I think there is linking the summer’s riots to estates” the research suggests a connection between the design of large, post-war housing estates, the patterns of peer socialisation that occur among young people within them and the anti-social behaviour that took place during the summer.

Building on earlier work by Space Syntax founder and UCL Professor Bill Hillier, the study has analysed the locations of riot incidents, the residential addresses of convicted offenders and the spatial layout of London’s street network.

Click here to access a summary report of the Space Syntax research into the London Riots.

For further information, please contact Susannah Williams, Studio Manager at Space Syntax:

s.williams@spacesyntax.com
020 7400 1320

create space : create value

Teaching urbanism – it should start at school

OK, the big idea would be to teach urbanism to school kids, not only to replace Home Economics (ie lifestyle education) but as a pedagogical umbrella under which the established curriculum of maths, history, geography, physics, chemistry, biology (the classics)…can shelter. Reinvigorate learning. Prepare students for the change that’s coming.

So, we would have the mathematics of urban movement/property value; the history of settlement growth, including the modern history of divisive transport planning/the history of the slum; the geography of population change/urban agriculture/energy generation; the physics of land use attraction; the chemistry of the atmosphere/composting…

First thoughts. Am sure there’s more.

The end of ages for transport planning and the birth of an era of transaction planning

There is so much interest, from so many different interests, in the future of urban living. This suggests that, whatever else, people suspect that things will change. I’m sure this is right – technology, resource scarcity, population growth, energy shortage and climate change: all are factors that will provoke change. The question is, will these changing “inputs” affect the shape and form of the “output” ie the look and feel of the city?

Again, the short answer is “yes”. But not in a sci-fi, megalopolis, flying cars kind of way. Nor in a “let’s all abandon the city and live in rural bliss, connected to each other by the Internet”.

The reality, if done well, will look and feel strikingly familiar. We will in the main, by necessity, live at density and travel on foot and by bike, making lots of small journeys and a few larger ones. Likewise we will, by necessity eat local, reduce, recycle, reuse. Cities will be incredibly green because we will, by necessity need to harvest rainwater, prevent runoff, shade streets.

The effects on social and economic productivity will be enormous. The quality of human interaction will be enhanced.

Having been through an era of evermore globally connected urbanism, with the consequently divisive effects of major traffic arteries on local communities and the throttling or urban centres by that 60s badge of honour, the ring road, we will move to an age of continuously connected, convivial, landscaped urbanism.

For me, this can be summed up as a change from “transport planning” to “transaction planning”. This will necessitate an end of ages for the traffic engineer and the birth of an era of sophisticated, humane urbanism.