Category Archives: Cities

Beyond placemaking: 7 dimensions of “Place Performance”

Notes from a talk at the Bartlett Real Estate Institute, University College London, 24th April 2019.

Placemaking is the art and science of planning and designing spaces for human activity, however that is done: ‬

– by a single hand (usually not a good approach) or by multiple hands (usually a good approach)

– by academics, professionals and non-professionals. ‬‬

‪But beyond placemaking is “place working”, or “place functioning”, or “place performance”: when the planning, design and construction work is finished and the place becomes operational. When it fills with the mysterious liquid called human behaviour. ‬‬‬

And key to which is human transaction: the everyday social and economic exchanges that take place between people – these transactions not only sustain lives but bring about inventions that shape cultures.

Place Performance has many dimensions. Here are seven that I have seen work in practice:

1. Create transactions between people, using places as “Transaction machines”. The first function of a place is to create the conditions for human interaction and transaction.

2. Reduce traffic speed and make it easier for people to be in places. Alongside its health and safety benefits, a 30km/h speed limit is a key method to enhance Place Performance.

3. Avoid fragmentation and the risk of over separation between people, created by well-intended but divisive environmentalism. If not, places will be built where there is little everyday human transaction.

4. Enhance functionality so that, as with single use plastics, we avoid the creation of single use places. This has two parts: first, that there should be more than one activity happening in any place and second, that any place should be adaptable to new uses.

5. Build people-centred main streets as the lowest common denominator of place. The people-centred main street has not been part of urban planning practice in recent history and needs to be reinstated in planning policies as well as in the toolkit of designers.

6. Plan grids because, if effective human transaction is the goal, then the continuously connected grid of streets is the fundamental input mechanism. In so doing, plan integrated cities of continuously connected neighbourhoods, bound together by people-centred main streets.

7. Develop a science of place so that the Placemaking industries are provided with better tools to a) understand the value of place and b) create the policies & plans that will deliver Place Performance. The more we study places – their street networks and their use patterns – the more we understand their value. Connected layouts generally create higher property values. Knowing this means that policies and plans can be presented in terms of how effectively their human performance will deliver a return on investment.

Until there is an established science of Place, the Placemaking industries are acting like Galileo in 1610, trying to understand the detailed surface of the Moon with little better than his eyesight.

We need a new science of space exploration – focused this time on place.

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Transport & housing: tools, standards, principles

Notes for presentation at Transport & Housing conference:

https://www.transportxtra.com/tx-events/?id=2400

To understand where we are & where we need to go, we first need to understand where we come from. And where we come from is a relationship with the car that has fragmented cities & damaged lives.

Transport & housing

Big problems:

– obesity

– mental health

– social unrest.

The irony. The paradox.

We have never been as connected.

We have never been as spatially segregated.

We need to integrate planning (too diagrammatic) and architecture (too specific).

We need urbanism.

We need to integrate spatial planning and transport planning.

Space Syntax

Academy of Urbanism

We need to integrate the Catapults: that is happening – from Future Cities and Transport to Connected Places

But…

Need:

Principles

1. Slow urban movement

– 20mph national limit.

2. Continuously connected urbanism

– agree the foreground grid.

3. Large urbanism

– public transport

– innovation.

4. protected villages – possibly a premium for non-essential residential or a subsidy for protected employment.

Standards

If we can’t measure it, it doesn’t exist.

Processes

– design at the heart of them: value of design industry. Need to recognise this and should want to be part of it.

Need design training: double diamond – bold/analytic, imaginative/decisive.

Summary

We have:

Policies & principles.

We need:

Tools, standards, principles.

In order to achieve:

Integrated practice.

Cities from scratch – Astana Economic Forum

Good afternoon. I’m delighted to be a member of this panel today.

Let me start by describing my organisation’s approach to the creation of cities from scratch.

Space Syntax is an international urban planning and design studio and has been involved in plans for new cities and new city extensions throughout the world, including here in Kazakhstan.

Our approach is built on three key ingredients: Continue reading Cities from scratch – Astana Economic Forum

The return of the impossible – Astana Economic Forum

Good afternoon. It’s an honour and a pleasure to be here in Astana today with this distinguished panel.

In speaking about the cities of the future I’d like to speak about three technologies that I think are not only exciting but are also capable of genuinely addressing the “Global Challenges” theme of this Forum.

The first is a mobility technology. The second is a physical transaction technology. The third is a digital technology.

As an architect involved in the design of everything from new buildings and public spaces to entirely new cities, these are three technologies that I’m particularly invested in. Continue reading The return of the impossible – Astana Economic Forum

Intelligent mobility: risks & rewards

第一页   技术就是答案
Slide 1       Technology is the answer

Slide01

1966年,塞德里克·普莱斯说,我喜欢一开始就对新技术进行一点质疑。当然,“技术就是答案”。他也强调:“不过问题是什么?”。
I’d like to begin with a little scepticism about new technology. Of course “Technology is the answer“, said Cedric Price in 1966. He also said, “But what is the question?”

这些问题就是我们试图去获得无人驾驶技术。
What are the questions that we are trying to answer in the pursuit of autonomous vehicle technologies?

我认为仅仅从驾驶员的角度去谈论智慧出行,并不充分。 我喜欢从整个城市的角度去考虑收益。如果我们过度关注车辆而不是城市,那么风险也是需要考虑的。
I don’t think it’s enough to talk about intelligent mobility from the perspective of the driver alone. I’d like us to think about its benefits for cities as a whole. And the risks too, if we focus too much on the vehicle and not enough on what’s around it: the city. Continue reading Intelligent mobility: risks & rewards

Notes from first ULI UK Tech Forum

1. We need to have a clear definition of technology. Physical as well as digital technology. Users and uses as well as creators and providers. Pre-construction, construction, post-construction. 

2. Because we’ve always had technology:

a. Writing (wooden stylus & wax tablet) movement

b. Air conditioning – occupancy

c. Underfloor heating – occupancy

d. The shower – personal

e. Bicycle – movement

f. Revolving door – occupancy

g. The elevator – occupancy

h. The car – movement

i. Solar panels – occupancy

j. The Internet – movement & occupancy

k. Autonomous vehicles – movement

l. Drones – movement

m. Photofungal trees – place
We’ve always had technology. It’s always changed. Perhaps the pace is accelerating globally (but we shouldn’t forget the industrial revolution). 

3. What hasn’t changed is the fundamental purpose of cities: social and economic trade. 

4. In the future, autonomous vehicles will change the nature of movement. They will permit people to be far more productive while they drive. 
5. Another key, and consequential, change will be in the nature of physical connections, transformed from highways to streets. Connectivity (as Chris Choa suggested) as an asset. 

6. Therefore the street as an asset. The piazza as an asset. Not just the buildings that line them. The suburban business park will go the way of the dinosaurs. 

7. The nature of online interaction is a further area of significant new change. 

Growth. Are you old school or new school?

There are two different schools of thought about how to accommodate urban growth. The first says that cities should build more road capacity to handle private vehicle traffic. The second says that less space should be provided for private vehicles and more investment should be made in public transport and “active travel” i.e. walking and cycling. The first approach is generally more costly than the second.

The old school of thought has prevailed for around a century. The new school is relatively more recent, responding to the frequent failure of the former, where more road space has created more road traffic, which has created more congestion.

Cities all over the world are now removing expensive car-oriented infrastructure and introducing space for walking, cycling and public transport. Ring roads and bypasses are being unpicked and cities are thriving as a result. Look at Copenhagen, Paris, London, Birmingham, Boston, Poynton or any number of places that have employed the new school approach.

On Poynton…”This was the busiest junction in Cheshire, with 25,000 vehicle movements per day and the fourth worst performing retail centre in Cheshire East. It now accommodates a similar volume of traffic, but since average speeds have fallen to below 20mph, drive times through the centre are significantly reduced. Anecdotally people feel safer crossing the carriageway and cars will stop for them, make eye-contact and usually elicit a wave of thanks from the pedestrian.” The Academy of Urbanism

Road speeds are being reduced, from 40 or 50mph to 20 or 30mph. Not only on residential streets but at the intersections of major roads too. Why? Because when you slow traffic down it flows more freely. Why? Because at lower speeds, more vehicles can fit into the same space. This isn’t rocket science. It’s simply a different school of thought.

When a city pursues “old school thinking” of road capacity increases and banned turns then not only is this going to generate more road traffic it is also going to make it ever harder for people to do anything other than drive. In these circumstances, walking and cycling become harder. “Walking and cycling facilities” might be put in but these are often token gestures because they are fitted in around the needs of traffic. Desire lines – the paths that people prefer to take – are severed and people are encouraged to walk or cycle on unnaturally twisted journeys. What happens as a result? They don’t use these “facilities” and they take risky alternatives, dashing across road lanes or cycling among fast-moving traffic.

Old school thinking is voracious – once started it is hard to stop. Nevertheless, evidence, analysis and creative thinking can help. If there is a willingness to listen.

I speak from the perspective of practice – of having observed the behaviour of people on foot, on bikes and in vehicles in a scientific manner for over 25 years. Of having presented evidence of fact to local authorities and of overturning poorly thought-through, old school proposals. Of having designed alternatives that don’t put anyone in particular first but instead balance the needs of all. This isn’t about being pro-bike and anti-car. It’s about being pro-place and pro-cities.

And let’s be clear, new school thinking is fundamentally about being pro-growth. But pro a form of growth that is smart and sustainable: growth that doesn’t sacrifice the profound benefits of local places for the expedience of cross-city commuting, but growth that promotes alternative ways of traveling and enhances the attractiveness of cities as places to live in and invest in.