Urban Update - 6 February 2017


Urban Design Directory - Featured Practice

Amec Foster Wheeler

Defence College for Technical Training, Lyneham



Masterplanning and design of new Defence College for Technical Training.  Creative re-use of disused military base including new build, refurbishment, conversion and landscape design.


The Defence College for Technical Training is currently under construction at Lyneham in Wiltshire, which when completed will create a joint college for Army, Navy and RAF.  The first phase of the project involves approximately 150000m2 of new build and 150000m2 of refurbishment and conversion of the of the former RAF Lyneham as well as extensive civil and landscape works to create the required upgraded infrastructure and external training environment. 

The design includes many innovative sustainability measures, not least the savings made in terms of cost, embodied energy and resources through the creative re-use of extensive areas of the existing estate.  The AMEC design team undertook a thorough process of building and requirements analysis and consultation with end-users to determine a strategy for the effective re-use of buildings where this supported the creation of a first-class training environment.  New buildings were carefully designed to complement the refurbishment and conversion of the existing estate, providing a combination of bespoke facilities and flexible new accommodation in a series of highly energy efficient buildings designed to create visual consistency across the site and helping to provide a campus-like environment.

The work completed by AMEC in securing planning permission for the college was commended by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) South West region as an example of ‘planning excellence’.  Aside from the sheer scale of the application, the judges were particularly impressed by the quality of the technical work and the extent of stakeholder engagement undertaken despite working to a very tight programme. 



12 Leading Cities cutting back on cars – Business Insider
Oslo, Madrid, Chengdu, Hamburg, Copenhagen, Paris, Athens, London (Congestion charge) Brussels (largest car free area in Europe), Mexico City, Vancouver, New York

Walkable Communities are making a comeback – Treehugger

“Freeways without Futures” lists Top 10 urban freeways for demolition – Congress for New Urbanism
Since the Federal-Aid Highway Act of 1956, America has spent billions to create the Interstate Highway System—an ongoing march of construction and investment that has fundamentally reshaped our regions, cities, towns, and rural places. That same highway infrastructure, however, came as a blight on urban neighborhoods, with disastrous consequences for cities”

Imagining City Life After the Car
Reallocation of roadspace, changes in density, growth of cities with skybridges – eg Calagary’s Plus 15

Energy, Climate Change

Business opportunities is “Climate Responsive Urban Design” – The Fifth Estate

New Book - Navigating the Adaptive Economy – Managing Business Risk and Opportunity in a Changing Climate – The Fifth Estate


Built Environment

Death of front yard could mean Edmonton’s rebirth – Edmonton Journal
Would front yards be better used for housing?

International Training Programme on Water Sensitive Urban Design and Planning in Kenya
Climate change and the impact on water supply; population growth and the impact on water demand; rainwater harvesting; potential for decentralised waste water treatment (centralised waste water treatment options has demerits in terms of collection, conveyance and treatment of waste water). 

Blot on the Streetscape – 6ft fencing free for all as commissioners for a New Zealand town uphold residents right to fence – Manawatu Standard
Commissioners have rejected a New Zealand councils attempt to restrict resident’s rights to erect 6ft / 1.8 metre high fences against the highway.  The person who had instigated the objection to the proposed measure had complained "There are enough obstacles to everyday life – we need to reduce barriers, not increase them."  (Apart from 6ft fences along streets apparently).   The commissioners concluded  “While we understand the (undisputed) urban design evidence that the security, privacy and amenity benefits of high fences are illusory, the fact is that a great many people obviously believe otherwise.”  

In one sense this issue is minor and trivial but the impact on streets is profound:  no natural surveillance, fear, loss of social contact, and an attack on people’s willingness to walk or cycle. There is little point in having quality architecture and urban design if the planning system allows it to be masked by fencing.

Plan for new town at Tengah Singapore introduces “Farmway” concept – Asia One
Wide green stretches that will run through housing estates and contain parks and farms.

Hull’s braille poem runs into criticism – BBC Humberside

How A Smart University Design Can Help Revitalize A City
Monterrey Tec's plan to reintegrate with its surrounding neighbourhood is bringing over $1 billion in investments to a previously neglected area.

Reinventing the United States Postal Service infrastructure and logistics system to provide food and tackle food insecurity – Next City
Includes re-purposing underused post-offices.


Politics, Philosophy, Economics

Britain has enough land to solve the housing crisis – its just being hoarded – The Guardian

Cities Outlook 2017 – Centre for Cities

High property prices force some Hong Kong residents into “Coffin Homes” – Daily Mail

Fifty years on, Milton Keynes could help to solve today’s housing crisis – Conservative Home

Overseas investment to support UK commercial property market in 2017 – Buy Association

The Road to Wigan Pier Revisited – The Mirror
George Orwell’s journey from London to the North West that highlighted poverty outside the South East of England.


Professional Practice

The Age of Architecture Review Boards – Urban Milwaukee
Review boards may help to prevent bad buildings, but do they also kill the great ones?

Anti terrorism guidance for Australia Public Spaces published
Improvised Explosive Device Guidelines Guidelines for Places of Mass Gathering

Safe Places Vehicle Management: A Comprehensive Guide for Owners, Operators and Designers

Active Design and Affordable Housing -  Centre for Active Design – USA
Further reporting

Dementia and Town Planning – Practice Note - RTPI

Handbook of Biophilic City Planning and Design – Book Review – Urban Land



Humans, Health and Society

If you are not gaining from exercise – you will have to do more of it – Journal of Physiology
One in five adults following physical activity guidelines are reported not demonstrating any improvement in cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF).  Researchers have found that increasing the level of exercise resolves this: “in conclusion, individual CRF non-response to exercise training is abolished by increasing the dose of exercise and primarily a function of haematological adaptations in oxygen-carrying capacity.”

Using water to improve life in global slums – Stanford University
Project uses green technologies and urban design to safely recycle wastewater, harvest rainwater, and protect against flooding and pollution. 

Could North Somerset become healthier – all thanks to housing policy? – WMS Mercury
Improved bus routes, more green spaces and new paths and cycle routes are just some of the ways North Somerset Council is ensuring new development in the area does not damage people’s health.




Sydney's last stand: the residents holding out against gentrification – The Guardian

Green Tower proposed for Brisbane Waterside Development – The Urban Developer



Winter Cities Shake-Up conference – hosted in Edmonton
Delegates from 40 cities around the world will gather to discuss winter strategies and brainstorm new ways to approach winter living in the areas of business, urban design, culture and wellness.

Long range transportation plan in Peel region of Toronto looks to reduce car use – CBC
Protected bike lanes (not just painted bike lanes), lower traffic speeds, mass transit systems needed to encourage walking and cycling.  Details



Embracing density and mixed-use in Shanghai – Urban Land



Egypt’s new capital city concept reviewed – The Independent
Seven million people, pedestrian friendly streets, solar farms, electric trains.



Restoration of Bomanjee Hormarjee Wadia Clock Tower helps Mumbai recover lost glory 



New Zealand

Tauranga City Council, New Zealand seek experts for Technical Advisory Group to advise on city’s future




End of Road 40 year dream of Ribble Link Road? – Lancashire Post
A similar issue to Charlotte – how many communities have been wrecked by road schemes devised in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s, around a transport and land use philosophy that has been long-since discredited?  Unfortunately the financial appraisal system for new road investment continues to place an absurd bias on time-saving over quality of life, public health and sustainability.  Consequently zombie road schemes, that should have been buried decades ago, continue to be built.

Generic development, inadequate transport, clone shopping hold back growth in Cambridge, experts say – Cambridge Independent
“Talent wants to live well and companies follow talent.”  

A concern with Cambridge and other towns and cities in the UK is the centrally directed funding system which leads to strategic decisions being taken by national government offices which may not have the knowledge, vision or technical competence necessary.  The result can be a waste of public funds, out-dated “solutions” and lost opportunities.  It is surely better if local people, businesses and politicians work together to plot the future of their communities.  This report of Cambridge Futures conference is an example of what can be done locally to at least develop a vision.

National Association of Local Councils calls on Government to respect and reinforce neighbourhood planning – Rural Services Network

Dissington Garden Village, Northumberland commits to Dutch-style fine grid of cycle streets – BikeBiz



London citywide urban design manual on hold – (London Ontario) – The Free Press


The American suburbs are the next fertile ground for architectural and urban experimentation – The Architects Newspaper
3 percent of all land in the U.S. is covered by “cities,” while upward of 5 percent is taken up by suburbs.

Charlotte dispute over car-dependent hotel raises prospect of perpetual car-dependency  - Charlotte Observer
A minor, local issue, but one which is repeated thousands of time the world over, and which must be confronted if towns and cities are to become healthier and more sustainable.  The aerial photo shows a landscape of large carparks, very low density suburban streets, and a multi-lane interstate.