Fifty years ago, on 20th March 1969, the magazine New Society published a feature titled Non-Plan: an experiment in freedom, which became notorious and controversial. It derived from a conversation in a pub between the magazine’s editor Paul Barker and the geographer Peter Hall, one of his regular contributors. Discussing the current state of planning and development, Barker floated a subversive idea – could things be any worse if there were no planning at all? They might even be somewhat better.
I referred in the last Endpiece to Jane Jacobs’ ideas about urban diversity, and I am drawn back to the subject again. Ever since reading Death and Life for the first time, in the final year of my architecture course, I have accepted as an axiom of urban design Jacobs’ argument that cities manufacture diversity, and that a big urban concentration of people is necessary in order to create a diverse and rich range of activities and facilities
Parc de la Villette, Paris, ©Bernard Tschumi Architects
As a child in the early 1950s, one of my literary heroes was the great athlete Alf Tupper, who appeared weekly in the Rover magazine. He was a working-class mile runner, whose diet was mainly fish and chips. He worked as a welder in an arch of a railway viaduct, and he sometimes slept there too before a race. Ever since I have been interested in railway arches and the businesses that are found in them. Being an academic, I now refer to their premises as parasitic architecture.
First National Bank of Boston map of Buenos Aires
Taunton Vision 2005
Urban designers like to bang on about the sanctity and the inviolability of public space (well, I do). But there is a sliding scale of value which we put upon different kinds of street. We put a lower value on one which is full of motor vehicles passing through, and a higher value on one where people on foot can move freely and use the street as a social space.
Evolving Lobtau, Reviving the town for Dresden
At a meeting of a design review panel we assessed a scheme for 40 houses, most of which were to be built on two cul-de-sacs. We were all decidedly unpersuaded by the proposal, on the grounds of its internal ‘unconnectedness’ as well as for other failings.
Josef Kleihues’ masterplan for Potsdamer Platz, Berlin
London Underground Map, 1992
In July I gave a talk about early municipal housing in central Birmingham. I showed seven case studies, which went from the first council houses (1890), to the first council flats (1900), and on to the first high-rise flats (1955).
Copenhagen ‘Finger Plan’ (Fingerplanen) 1947 Regional Planning Office (1947, reprinted 1993) Skitseforslag til Egnsplan for Storkøbenhavn (Copenhagen: Regional Planning Office)
The wonderful Flatpack film festival hit Birmingham again in April, with a packed six-day programme of events in 24 different venues. Two documentaries made last year about two parallel lives, those of Jane Jacobs (1916-2006) and Laurie Baker (1917- 2007), were outstanding films for me.
Apart from stealing the title of Martin Creed's exhibition at the Hayward Gallery a few years ago, I wanted to collect my thoughts on the power that cities and the public realm have over our health, happiness and prosperity.
Palmanova, as depicted in 1598
I am working for a heritage regeneration trust, making a masterplan for the regeneration of the Chance Brothers glassworks site in Smethwick, Sandwell. It is a very historic place: a scheduled ancient monument, in a conservation area, with eight listed buildings.
A Plan for Todmorden: Thomas Sharp & Todmorden Borough Council, 1946
I was recently on a panel which reviewed a development proposal by University College Birmingham. As well as substantial demolition of old buildings in a conservation area, and their replacement by new buildings, it proposed to take over ownership of a street running between the buildings.
Redditch New Town Masterplan, Second Generation New Town, designated 1964