Change in any form requires political bravery. And shaping our cities as healthy and democratic places is no exception. Birmingham has been on an extraordinary journey - a place where car was king to a city that is set to become net zero carbon by 2030.
When the National Urban Design Awards were first conceived in 2009, the Urban Design Group, supported by the Francis Tibbalds Trust, wanted to recognise the best of the profession and inspire others. If we are to make better places, we need to raise the profile of urban design. What better way than awards to celebrate the best ideas and achievements delivered over the course of a year.
During the lockdown and social distancing, the Urban Design Group (UDG) has not stood still.
The Coronavirus has had big effects on movement and lifestyles, and therefore on our energy consumption and carbon emissions. There has been a lot of coverage of air pollution drops across countries during the pandemic. Here we provide some useful links on this topic as well as other aspects, highlighting the opportunities for urban designers to help take the good from this crisis.
At last year’s UDG annual conference I ran a quiz on Great Streets, asking participants to identify pictures of European streets in Allan Jacobs’ book of the same name. I did consider putting in a rogue picture in order to confuse. The one I had in mind was High Street Deritend in Birmingham, which I rate as the most unpleasant street in the city centre. It is a mediaeval street, which originally connected the small town of Birmingham around the marketplace of the Bull Ring to the village of Deritend, on the other side of the river Rea.
De Dijk, Rijwijk, The Netherlands
The pandemic provides us with time to reflect on the kind of world we have been building. Do we continue to treat the planet and its resources as commodities to be traded for our own benefit or do we re-emerge after the crisis with a different set of priorities?
Covid 19 has changed the world in an unbelievably short period of time, and we will not be able to go back to our old ways anytime soon, or arguably ever. People will need to adapt to new ways of life for the foreseeable future, whilst our towns and cities will need to change to reflect new norms. With this, our streets offer an attractive and flexible solution to help us do so - protecting people from COVID19 and any future crisis we might face.
As urban designers we aim to be as comprehensive as possible in our baseline evidence gathering, but many of us have been grappling with capturing climate change information at this baseline stage. However, an increasing number of data sources are coming to our aid. In this quarter’s climate change digest, we flag up useful data and maps that urban designers can now draw on to better support the climate change and environmental side of their baseline analysis.
I do enjoy making a counter-scheme. I admit to being a bit equivocal about my competitive instinct, to which the idea of the counter-scheme appeals. It’s not all good but I think a context in which counterschemes can be made, enabling a comparison of attitudes and values, and generating a productive debate, is healthy.
The Liverpool City Plan (aka The Shankland Plan)
Almost a decade after London hosted the Olympic Games, we look at how the largest new piece of city in the capital is maturing into a place of its own.
The UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were established in 2013 as a global set of goals for every country to work towards. February’s event was convened to explore their use in the UK and their relevance to the work of urban designers.
2019 was the year when the world woke up to the prospect of climate change. It is fitting that the first event of 2020 was the launch of the year-long programme on Climate Responsive Urbanism, staged jointly by the UDG and the Edge Debate.
First floor plan, Markthal in Rotterdam, by MVRDV
The commitments that local authorities have signed up to in declaring climate emergencies are about to be tested. Client Earth has written to 100 planning authorities that are about to start a full local plan review. Planners will now be under considerable pressure to demonstrate action whilst also hitting housing and development targets. Staying true to the declaration made by councils will bite at many levels in the plan-making process.
The organisers of the Tour de France chose to delay the start of this year’s final stage into Paris, to ensure that the race ended shortly before sunset. So an always dramatic, climactic event was made even more theatrical. As the peloton tore nine times up and down the pavé of the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, the setting sun poured through the Arc de Triomphe and down the avenue, and the monument became a dark silhouette against a blaze the colour of the winner’s maillot jaune.
Ten years after it began, how is this most famous and controversial shared space standing the test of time?
Behaviour Change programmes have for some time been relied on to encourage people to do things that, rather obviously, they aren’t currently doing. This is often a difficult task, as people normally have reasons for behaving the way they do, behaviours that are, in essence, the result of an environment which has invited us to act in certain ways
On 1 May the UK government became the first in the world to declare a climate change emergency. This marks a pivotal moment and decisions over the coming months will indicate just how seriously the government takes this decision.
In advance of this national declaration, many local authorities and local councils have been declaring their own emergencies and committing themselves to action on climate change.