My Favourite Plan, from Towards an Urban Renaissance
The key components of a mixed-use and integrated neighbourhood, from Towards an Urban Renaissance, Final Report of the Urban Task Force (1999)
The key components of a mixed-use and integrated neighbourhood, Figure 2.8 in Towards an Urban Renaissance – Final Report of the Urban Task Force, 1999. Image by Andrew Wright Associates
WHY I LIKE IT...
When I joined Terence O’Rourke from Westminster City Council in late 2000, Lord Rogers’ report had been published a year earlier and had made a major contribution to maturing debates on creating sustainable new urban settlements. These were still the heady days of New Labour when CABE, Essex County Council and many others were researching, defining and designing a brave new future for us all. My new private sector role, and colleagues like Andy Ward, Gerald Brady and Richard Eastham, helped me to see the challenges inherent in creating plans and images like these, and the value to be gained by getting them right. The ideal plan or image was one that explained itself – as this one does. It also needed to appeal to non-specialists.
Coincidentally the plan was created by one of Gerald’s former colleagues, Andrew Wright, and in my view has a beautiful balance between detail, clarity and charm. I would even describe it as pretty. I guess it would have first been drafted by hand, and I would love to see that first version. If the process was anything like our experience, it will have taken a lot of thought and many iterations before the final draft was arrived at. Graphically, the plan communicates a huge amount of information but with the fewest possible number of lines and colours. From a distance its shape and colouring draw you in. Zoom in and the sweeping routes and tiny public spaces reward closer examination. My only criticism is that the layout in the frame means that the keys somewhat crowd the principal image.
The plan summarises what urban designers are trying to do every day: mix uses to encourage street life, create structure and legibility through a hierarchy of spaces and integrate walkable facilities and a range of transport options. It could work as the only image used in a three-hour lecture on What is urban design?
WHAT TO LEARN FROM IT...
Rather like a well-chosen phrase, this plan exemplifies what can be achieved with careful thought on a single page. Graphic design is often of critical importance to the communication of urban design ideas, but I had not appreciated this early in my career. As great champions of jargon-free accessible documents, urban designers often rely on a limited number of images or plans to make key points. If one can create a plan as seminal as this, one should be able to dine out on it for life.
Through it, I have also learned to value the contributions of colleagues who have the ability to create plans and images that convey clear messages. I have enjoyed many hours identifying the critical messages in a project and heated debates over whether scribbled drafts should be pursued or binned in favour of yet another attempt.
Director, Boyle & Summers – architects and masterplanners. Previously Urban Designer at HLM, Westminster City Council, Terence O’Rourke and LHC.
BA (Hons) Urban & Regional Planning, Coventry Polytechnic
MAUD Oxford Polytechnic
Drawing, writing and colouring in – I am a fairly decent generalist!
To see our team at Boyle & Summers develop even further; to walk around more places that I helped to create through drawings on a piece of paper; and to be part of the urban design community way into my dotage.