Urban Design 97 - Winter 2006

Can urban design improve behaviour?

Publication Date: 01 January 2006

Anti-social behaviour is very much on the political agenda and ways to combat it have been put forward by ministers, media pundits, academics and social commentators. The winter edition of Urban Design, the quarterly journal of the Urban Design Group, addresses the issue from the point of the view of the built environment.

The topic editor Joe Holyoak, reader at Birmingham School of Architecture, has assembled a series of papers, some of which were presented at a conference on the subject which took place a year ago at the University of Central England. One important question he asks is how we resolve the contradiction between on the one hand the ‘urban renaissance’ – a real interest in the use, shaping and design of urban spaces – and the increase in aberrant behaviour in the same places on the other. For urban environment professionals the related question is whether there is a connection between the way places are designed and people’s behaviour.

Contributors to the journal range from academics like Henry Shaftoe (University of West of England) to a chief constable (Stephen Green from Nottinghamshire), and from developers (Gary Taylor, director of Argent Estates) to practitioners (Roger Evans). Rachel Eaton, research advisor at CABE, and Tim Stonor of Space Syntax also discuss the role of place making and social behaviour in the context of their experience.

This issue of Urban Design also includes a number of Viewpoint articles that tend to challenge some of the received ideas on professional approaches to the city. Tony Hall defends the front garden, so often dismissed by urban designers. Karl Kropf criticises the holy cow that is the perimeter block, though mainly as an analytical tool. Anne Cronin gives an insight on the role of advertising in the urban environment, perhaps an unjustly neglected subject. Other articles cover areas further afield from Wales to Calgary, with a stop in Hamburg. A number of conferences and recently published books are also reviewed in the issue.