Editor: Sarah Jarvis Assistant Editor: David Rudlin Art Editor & Design: John Sampson Front Image: Jamie Anderson
URBED urbanism environment design Fith Floor 10 Little Lever Street Manchester M1 1HR
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The urban environment is something that affects all of us. The environments in which we live, where we go to work, meet friends and spend time with family affect who we are. Do we really want to live in some far-flung suburban cul-de-sac where we will meet no one except people like ourselves? Do we want to drive two hours in traffic to a soulless business park on a motorway junction? Do we want to shop in some fantasy of a shopping mall or a vast hypermarket where our every need can be met in a sanitised safe environment? We must want this stuff because until recently it was pretty much all we built. Well not everyone wants to live like this! Some of us want to live and work in lively mixed-use, multi-cultural cities, bustling with life, full of independent businesses and creative people. Somewhere that has an authenticity that comes from its history rather than from the brush of a set designer. Somewhere that isnâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;t always spotlessly clean and locked outside shopping hours. Somewhere where you can meet people from every corner of the world and walk of life but where you can be anonymous if you wish.
This is called urbanism.
It is something that was assumed for much of the 20th century to be alien to the English. The last decade has shown this not to be the case. Of course not everyone wants to live in cities and we must never make the mistake of forcing our personal utopia on others as the planners did for much of the last century. However, the revival of the UKâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cities means that there is now an alternative to the cul-de-sac, business park and mall. The revival of Britainâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s cities means that urbanism can now be found outside London, something that was last true in the 1930s. This is an urban renaissance born out of often heated argument and debate. The concept is simple but its realisation is complicated and involves jettisoning many of the principles that we have come to accept as given. Urban Scrawl is devoted to continuing this discussion and debate.
Welcome to the first edition of Urban Scrawl urban scrawl
Editorial What is this? URBED (Urbanism Environment Design) was established 18 months ago as an employee-owned cooperative. We work as urban designers and consultants to a range of public and private sector clients. In doing this we are involved daily in discussions with communities, developers, local authorities and businesses about urbanism.
We are launching Urban Scrawl to explore some of the ideas and issues we come across in this everyday practice as urbanists: not things that we are being paid to look at, but things that we think are worth questioning and exploring further.
In Urban Scrawl we will resist the temptation to talk about our work or promote our services â&#x20AC;&#x201C; we do that on our website, www.urbed.coop, which is being developed as an on-line archive of our work. However, as Urban Scrawl is owned and controlled by URBED it is driven by our world-view and the principles that guide us. We hope that these articles that interest us will also interest you.
What’s inside? Sustainable Communities: In the 1990s URBED ran the Sustainable Urban Neighbourhood (SUN) Initiative which looked at environmental, social and economic sustainability. Now everyone is talking about sustainability, but David Rudlin asks what it really means, and how we can learn from the past to create truly sustainable communities.
Branding Bullshit and the Built Environment: Urban Scrawl is being launched in conjunction with CUBE in Manchester at an event on 21st November that will explore the way that marketing has been used in Manchester’s renaissance. Peter Saville, Alex Murray and David Rudlin will provide perspectives on urban branding (to be published as a supplement to this edition). By way of briefing Andrew Kelham and David Rudlin each turn a critical eye on branding, together with images of Manchester by Jamie Anderson.
Socially responsible development: Sarah Jarvis talks to a property developer who is bucking the trend - Chris Brown of Igloo, who sets out a different way of creating new neighbourhoods that are well designed, sustainable and environmentally responsible.
Letter from Dublin: In the first of a series of international perspectives Frank McDonald, Environment Editor of the Irish Times paints a picture of the urban renaissance in Ireland.
What’s next? The second edition of Urban Scrawl will put the illuminating Manchester neighbourhood of Hulme under the microscope. Members of the URBED Coop are uniquely qualified to do this, having lived and worked in the various incarnations of this “mundane and radical” place from the 1970s to the present day.
We hope you will feel inspired to join in the debate, or to let us know about other issues that you would like to see discussed in future editions. We plan to cover topics that range across all of URBED’s interests - urban design, regeneration, sustainability and community involvement – and also our own interests outside of the office. Please email me at email@example.com.
Sarah Jarvis Editor www.urbed.coop
We would like to thank Rob Cowan and Streetwise Press Ltd for permission to quote from The Dictionary of Urbanism.
Draining the sink Planning for sustainable communities Sustainable communities, a phrase that has become so overused that we hardly register what it means, must surely be the ultimate goal of all of our work. But if the communities we plan don’t stand the most basic test – that of time – what is the point? David Rudlin urges a better understanding of the lessons from the past when we design the future
For its first 20 years URBED was an urban regeneration consultancy, indeed we could lay claim to being one of the first. We worked with local authorities and public bodies as urban firefighters, dousing the flames of derelict land, empty buildings, troublesome council estates, run-down inner city neighbourhoods and anachronistic industrial areas. However despite all our efforts the fires had grown by the early 90s to engulf whole town and city centres, and still no one asked what was causing the blaze. The assumption was, to change metaphors mid-stream, that the UK’s urban fabric was essentially sound if we could just sew-up and patch the occasional tear and frayed edge.
As the 1990s progressed it became clear that something more fundamental was wrong. These problems were all symptoms of forces that were eating away at urban areas: the suburban sprawl that was sucking population out of the inner cities; the out of town shopping that was robbing town centres of their trade, and the industrial restructuring that was causing offices to flee to the bypass and industry to decant to places like China. At the same time urban areas were being strangled by the highway engineer and abandoned to people without choice over where they lived. These issues affected all urban areas, from the northern towns and cities to the heart of the stockbroker belt.
Grainger Town, Newcastle
Whalley Range, Manchester
How did we get here? URBED spent a lot of the late 1990s grappling with these issues.
not foolproof and in some neighbourhoods like Kentish Town and
This culminated in our book published in 1999
in which we
Somers Town the owners lost their nerve and the neighbourhoods
took the long view of these issues, tracing many of them back to
descended into slums. However where these schemes worked
the Industrial Revolution. There was a time in Britain, as on the
they were successful in creating aspirational middle-class urban
Continent, when cities were places of civilisation and safety. This
neighbourhoods here in England. One of the last of these to be
changed in the 19th century as industrial growth sucked millions
developed was Grainger Town in Newcastle, best known for the
into urban areas that became dirty, squalid and dangerous. This
sweeping curve of Grey Street. This was built in the early 1830s
is when the sustainability of urban areas first became an issue.
at the same time that the worldâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s first true suburb, Whalley Range2
Manchester was probably the worst of the industrial cities and it is
was being created in Manchester. The latter was to create the more
no coincidence that Marx based himself there when working on Das
powerful model for subsequent middle-class development â&#x20AC;&#x201C; not
Kapital. However one only needs to read Dickens or Zola to realise
within urban areas but in the leafy suburbs.
that London and Paris were little better. In Paris the problem of urban squalor was addressed in an altogether The initial response to these conditions was to create civilised
bolder way. Baron Haussmann working for Napoleon III essentially
urban quarters. Britain has some of the best and earliest examples
demolished 60% of the medieval city, cutting boulevards through
of this including Edinburgh New Town, Hope Street in Liverpool,
the tight medieval streets and carving out squares and parks. This
and the great neighbourhoods of Bloomsbury, Mayfair and
required a huge amount of new building of a quality that could
Fitzrovia in London. These were all developed in the same way. The
only really mean middle-class housing. Tax breaks were therefore
landowner commissioned a masterplan, structural infrastructure
introduced which meant that as the English middle classes were in
(including roads and squares) was created and plots were sold off
full flight to the suburbs in the 1860s, their French equivalents were
to small developers who would typically build five to ten houses.
clamouring to buy property in the heart of the city. The model was
These houses were regulated by conditions in the ground leases,
repeated across the Continent, generally not as the remodelling of
with the freeholds being retained by the owner. The process was
existing cities but as extensions. Most European cities have new
> > Stockholm satellite town
England 1981 and 2001
towns, grafted onto their historic cores and typified by their regular
modernist optimism until you realise that they house poor people on
blocks, boulevards and étoiles – Barcelona and Milan are possibly
the cold windswept hills of the city miles from the civilized centre.
the best examples. These were socially mixed neighbourhoods. A
Most European cities have these estates, including Easterhouse
typical building had apartments over shops or professional offices,
in Glasgow and Ballymun in Dublin. In England peripheral council
with the grandest on the piano nobile, and the value declining as
estates have tended to be suburban in form like Wythenshawe
you climbed the stairs (in a pre-lift era there was no premium on a
in Manchester, Scotswood in Newcastle or even the much more
recently built Blackbird Leys in Oxford that saw riots in the 1990s.
Thus were established two very different urban dynamics – the
The design of these areas is, of course, a factor in their unsustainabilty,
Continental system with its aspirational city centre housing in lively
but it is not the whole story. No neighbourhood is immune to these
urban quarters, and the English with its idyllic villa suburbs and
problems, and their vulnerability is greater when the neighbourhood
nightmare city centres. It is easy to conclude, as many urbanists
is isolated and stigmatised by its location. In August 2002 URBED
have done, that the French got it right and that they provide a model
produced a report for the Mayor of London3 on the sustainability of
for the reformation of the Anglo-American city. This is, however, over
the city’s suburbs. We concluded that London’s rate of growth meant
simplistic, as demonstrated by the 2005 riots in Paris. These took
that there were no suburbs in decline at the moment. However, if it
place in the suburbs of Paris where of course all the poor people
were to enter a period of decline it is the remote suburbs with poorly
ended up. It is arguable that if you have to be poor in a city it is
built semis that are likely to be hit hardest.
better to be within a stone’s throw of the city centre, as has been the case in many English cities, than stuck in some far-flung suburb at the end of an expensive and intermittent bus ride. Arguably if you
The unsustainable neighbourhood
want to appear to be a civilized urbane city and attract tourists it
The process by which neighbourhoods become unsustainable
is better to put your poor people well out of sight in the suburbs. If
has affected cities since the first cities were built. Sooner or later
anything the potential for social sustainability is greater in England
a neighbourhood becomes unfashionable and people who have
than it is on the Continent.
the means to do so start to move away. As these neighbourhoods struggle to retain talented people they gain concentrations of the
This point is made even more forcibly if you visit some of these
poor and those without a choice over where to live. Aspirational
peripheral estates. A few years ago I was taken on a tour of
parents take their children out of local schools and neighbourhood
Stockholm’s satellite estates, which are awe-inspiring examples of
shops suffer from the loss of local spending power. The address
Housing market decline
The Cresents, Hulme, Manchester
becomes stigmatised as people are judged by their postcode.
private sector and filled to the brim with vulnerable people and their
The community loses pride in the neighbourhood, and crime, anti-
children. The problems were documented in a landmark piece of
social behaviour and graffiti go unchallenged. The area gets a bad
research by David Page for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation 4 who
reputation. It becomes a ghetto.
showed that ‘the process of rapid decline of large social housing estates, which some had thought peculiar to council housing, can
In Hulme a deal was done with the local brewery in the 1980s to
also apply to the stock of housing associations’. What is more,
allow them to expand by knocking down a block of flats. In return
while council estates had taken years to decline, in some housing
the council asked that all of the jobs created go to local people. This
association estates decline had taken place in as little as four years.
happened, but a couple of years later surveys showed that none of
One of the lessons of social sustainability that Page drew was the
the brewery’s staff lived locally. The reason was not the unreliability
importance of ‘child density’. In the general population there is
of local people, but rather that, having got a decent job the local
approximately one child to every four adults, whereas in new social
employees had taken the opportunity to leave the area. This is the
housing estates there were often fewer adults than children. Even in
sink estate process at work.
an affluent middle-class neighbourhood this would cause problems. In a vulnerable social housing estate it was a disaster.
In the 1990s this was a huge issue with social housing. At the time social housing budgets had been cut and housing associations got
The turn around in social housing since the 1990s has been
credit for building more homes with less grant, rather than building
extraordinary. Good management combined with the demolition
communities. There was little social housing being built at a time
of many of the worst estates has averted the collapse of social
when much of the best stock was being lost to the Right-to-Buy
housing. However one of the ways that this has been achieved is by
programme. As a result only the poorest households, with the largest
getting tough on the most disruptive tenants. Many social landlords
numbers of children had any hope of being allocated social housing
adopted a zero tolerance approach and evicted anti-social tenants.
and the tenure became a badge of disadvantage. This made sense
But these people didn’t just disappear: they ended up on housing
in the allocation of a scarce resource to those in greatest need but
benefit in the private rented sector. It was therefore no surprise
it was a disaster for new social housing estates. These were being
that the problem in the 2000s has been the collapse of Victorian
built with the cheapest first time buyer homes borrowed from the
terraced neighbourhood and that the major policy initiative has been
10 //ISSUE 1
Holding on, Liverpool
Housing Market Renewal. This process was described in a report
The problem is that this process has become stalled in many
by Anne Power 5. A terraced house would be bought by a private
of todayâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s ghettos. One problem is the way in which society
landlord and let, perhaps unwittingly, to a problem family. Without
has changed. Social housing estates and Victorian terraced
the protection of a management system the family would wreak
neighbourhoods were once home to large and relatively stable
havoc in the street causing values to fall and other houses to come
working class communities. These neighbourhoods were built on
onto the market. Landlords could take advantage of this by buying
social structures and community ties that sustained the community
up other properties and moving more housing benefit tenants in.
and exerted a degree of control over behaviour. They were not
Even if a small proportion of the benefit tenants caused problems,
without problems but they were self-sustaining. Since that time
the process could transform a sustainable street into a burnt-out
there has been a huge decline in large-scale manufacturing, while
shell in as little as six months with houses once worth ÂŁ30-50,000
government targets seek to get 50% of young people into university.
changing hands for less than a thousand pounds in the local pub. Of
The majority of the working class has been recruited to the middle
course there are other aspects to the problems of terraced housing,
class leaving a small underclass without qualifications, training or
not least the polarisation of white and Muslim communities in many
employment. Increasingly the problem of unsustainable communities
northern towns. That however is a subject for another time.
is the problem of housing this underclass. I am not sure that anyone has yet come up with a convincing answer to this problem.
There is an argument that this process is an extreme example of a natural process within cities. When neighbourhoods fall out of favour and property becomes cheap and easily available an opportunity is created for people seeking to gain a foothold in the city â&#x20AC;&#x201C; whether they are new immigrants or creative people looking for space to work. The energy that these groups bring is an impetus for regeneration of the neighbourhood and a spur to the rejuvenation of the city as a whole. In this argument, ghetto neighbourhoods are indeed a vital part of the system and are part of a long cycle of decline and renewal affecting all urban areas.
12 //ISSUE 1
Building sustainable communities How do we learn the lessons from the experience of the last 20
to locate the social housing at the unattractive end of the site or in
years and build socially sustainable communities? In one respect
the north-aspect flats facing the ring road. This is not creating mixed
this is easy. All that you need to do is ship out all of the poor people,
communities, it is storing up problems for the future.
knock the housing down, build some nice new private housing, employ some slick marketing, price it competitively (using grant),
We need to relearn the art of building such mixed communities.
invite the minister to open the scheme and... ‘job’s a good-un’! We
There is a great deal of debate about pepper-potting and tenure-
shouldn’t knock this, after all the developers involved in this type of
blind design, but just as important is the design of the public realm.
urban renewal were building cul-de-sacs on green fields only a few
Urban areas have always allowed different activities to mix in a
way that controls conflicts. This is achieved with a clear separation between public and private spaces and with a public realm that
However we should be clear which problem we are solving. What
is supervised and activated by surrounding buildings. It is also
happens to the people who used to live in the area? Are they able
achieved in accessible neighbourhoods with easy access to shops,
to buy into the new housing, or are they pushed into other areas?
facilities and employment as well as good quality public transport.
If it is the latter what will stop the problems re-emerging in these
It requires housing types that achieve reasonable densities without
areas? This is the approach taken by most Housing Market Renewal
compromising space standards or creating unsupervised space
Pathfinders and it remains to be seen whether their approach will
such as long internal corridors. Finally it implies neighbourhoods
bring about fundamental change in the local housing markets or just
with a local management presence to deal with problems early
shuffle the incidence of deprivation.
and to maintain the neighbourhood’s fragile balance. This last requirement is the one where we have made least progress and
Creating a socially mixed sustainable community where homeowners
there is great potential in ideas like Community Land Trusts to
live alongside the very poorest in society is more difficult. Yet this
provide this locally controlled management presence.
is what we must do if we are not to condemn the poorest 10% of society to their own ghettos. There was a time when Manchester
At no time in the last fifty years have these issues been so little
used to house all of its problem tenants on the Cardroom Estate
debated. In the 1950s, 60s, and 70s the housing of the poor
(now New Islington) based on just this premise but there are not
was a central concern of politicians, professionals and designers
many people who would find this acceptable today.
(admittedly with disappointing and often disastrous results). Today
The premise behind a socially mixed community is based partly
these issues are being dealt with by planning conditions and Section
on the idea of dilution – mixing potential ‘problem’ tenants with a
106 agreement and left to private house builders. As housing once
sufficient number of people to neutralise their effect. However the
more finds its way onto the political agenda, with large increases in
potential of a mixed community is far greater than this. It is true that
house building both private and social announced in the Queen’s
research has shown people living side by side in private and social
Speech, it is important that these issues are better understood.
housing do not mix, but that is not the point. A mixed community
Otherwise we will repeat some very unfortunate mistakes. us
will not be stigmatised, and therefore people will not be judged by their postcode. Local schools will include children from a range of David Rudlin and Nicholas Falk (1999) Building The 21st Century Home: The Sustainable Urban
backgrounds, encouraging aspiration, communities will develop
an internal cohesion helping to control anti-social behaviour; local
Neighbourhood, Architectural Press, Oxford
shops and facilities will benefit from greater local spending power.
Robert Fishman (1987) Bourgeois Utopias: The Rise and Fall of Suburbia, Basic Books
David Rudlin, Nicholas Falk, Nicholas Dodd and Sarah Jarvis (2002)
Is this nirvana possible? It is true that not many examples of it
A City of Villages: Promoting a sustainable future for London’s suburbs, Greater London Authority
have been built in recent years. However with the social housing
requirement on private house builders now as high as 50% in the
Joseph Rowntree Foundation
southeast and 20% in most other places, it is a pressing problem that
all developers are going to have to address. It is not good enough
Urban Renaissance, Joseph Rowntree Foundation
David Page (1993) Building for Communities: a Study of New Housing Estates,
Anne Power, Katharine Mumford (1999) The Slow Death of Great Cities? Urban Abandonment or
////////////////////////////////The Way I See It
The Power of the
The fate of a Manchester icon shows Andrew Kelham what powerful promises the â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;brandsâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; of our neighbourhoods and cities can make to those who live there. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time for us as urban designers to face up to that responsibility
The Hacienda was not rebuilt. No one came home. The brand was completely and utterly bastardised.
It was knocked down and in its place a
When done well, branding is a powerful tool
tawdry block of flats (not apartments,
that places buildings and neighbourhoods
there is a difference) with low ceilings,
in a wider story, filling them with
economical room sizes and ground floor
compassion, ethic and personality whilst
car parking was created. An entirely
acting as a magnet to draw people into a
average development trading on a history
narrative they can articulate and actualise
it had no part in creating and will take no
once within. When done badly, branding is
share in perpetuating is just one example
a developer using an anti-capitalist motif
of how developers and designers are
to market a product aiming at maximising
mythologizing the urban renaissance with
financial yield and nothing more than
a false sense of scale and importance that
the crude amalgamation of ideas into an
threatens to undermine the work of the
embarrassingly gaudy pastiche.
14 //ISSUE 1
We came to rely on brands to give us meaning in the modern era
Branding and cities have had a vaguely
became increasingly imbued with emotional
Our work as designers is to brand as part
reciprocal history; industrialisation focused
and relational value to further draw the
of our processes and to realise that we are
the world around its cities and with rapid
consumer into a relationship offered only by
facilitators of a relationship between the
growth came production on a scale never
that brand. Eventually we came to rely on
people and the products of the modern
before witnessed. Goods once created in
brands to give us meaning in the modern
city. This requires an honesty that has
local communities now had to compete
era the way we used to rely on cities to give
perhaps been lacking in recent years, too
with mass replicated products born
us work in the industrial era.
often and too easily does a scheme get
in factories and shipped far and wide.
designed, detailed and then badged with a
These goods were initially branded in a
Where once the growth of the city created
brochure that encourages people to ‘live,
physical manner as the company mark was
the brand, now the power of the brand
work and play’ or ‘eat, sleep and relax’
scorched into barrels and containers but
is recreating and redefining the city that
when the reality of life in that development
later they were packaged and presented
will more resemble ‘work, work and binge
in a standardised form to attract the
drink’ or ‘work, stress and slowly die’.
consumer. This packaging formed an
How do we respond to this situation?
offer that was expanded and expounded
Should we design our masterplans, our
alongside communication infrastructure and
buildings and our wider cities then brand
with print, radio and television the products
them to enhance their market value and
We are facilitators of a
public perception? No. Because then we end up with empty slogans such as ‘Leeds,
relationship between the
Live It, Love It’ and buildings tainted by association with values it has no sympathy
people and the products of
for and no ability to engage with.
the modern city
16 //ISSUE 1
* The supplement will be published following the event â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;Branding, Bullshit and the Built Environmentâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; to be held at Cube Gallery on 21st November 2007. For more information on the event go to www.urbed.coop
////////////////////////////////The Way I See It
If a masterplan is a promise then a lot of us have told lies. This needs to change
We need to address our responsibilities
monolithic residential blocks sandwiched
What we design is a reflection of
and realise masterplanning is becoming
between a large train station, an 18,000
ourselves, a refraction of client will and
so much more than a spatial framework
plus seat arena and a sizeable distributor
a re-imagination of a future unknown;
for the development of our urban
road being called a green quarter, an
the combination of these elements is
neighbourhoods and quarters: it is the
oasis or a true urban village. But we do
the metaphysical fabric woven into the
foundation of an identity with principles,
laugh (and sometimes cry), because
essence of the end product. We need to be
priorities and psychological implications
these attempts to qualify, justify and
alive to the story that we may have been
for those that choose to engage in the
post-rationalise with prolix just sound like
unwittingly creating whilst responding to
consumption of the residential, social or
bollocks. It is entirely possible to confuse
the brief; we brand as we work and we
fiscal opportunities created by it.
â&#x20AC;&#x2DC;placemakingâ&#x20AC;&#x2122; with pisstaking, and when
need to become much more active in the
we apply branding without circumspect,
definition of the drawing to ensure the
truth and self-awareness in the aftermath
ideas and ethics contained abstrusely can
It is a statement of intent.
of design we firmly engage in the latter
be affirmed by the thousand touches that
A social contract.
rather than the former.
will lead to its eventual realisation.
Perhaps we were scared because we
Buildings need branding in the modern city
confused branding with commodifying,
and branding has rebuilt the need for the
If a masterplan is a promise then a lot of us
perhaps we had a genuine desire for the
modern city. We live in this tension, we play
have told lies within our building lines. This
scheme to be value neutral until people
in this tension, and we work in this tension.
needs to change. We need to change.
could define values of the place or perhaps
We do everything in this tension, itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s time
we were just too busy; either way we have
we realised it and addressed it. us
We need to understand that branding is not something another consultant does once we have finished the design work and handed the drawings over to the client. If that were true you would not laugh at the idea of a set of thinly veiled
18 //ISSUE 1
missed the point.
Pride Jamie Anderson asks the question – is ‘Manchester’ a brand?
////////////////////////////////The Way I See It
20 //ISSUE 1
Is it possible to capture the energy, flamboyance, the irregularity of Manchesterâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s gay community in new places and their branding?
////////////////////////////////The Way I See It
Can branding ever be honest?
22 //ISSUE 1
Branding, Bullshit & the Built Environment
The way that developments are described is all about what young buyers want to hear, such as notions of a green lifestyle or living in an urban quarter. The gulf between these concepts and the reality of the
David Rudlin asks how we were made to
development can be huge but somehow it can be bridged with the right words.
reconsider our attitudes to urban areas
The same is true of urban areas in general. Talk something down, slag it off in the press, emphasise the negatives, the crime, the pollution, poverty and dirt and people
As poets, politicians and advertising
come to see this as reality. Conversely tell
copywriters all know, if you want to change
people that ‘things can only get better’ – in
hearts and minds there is nothing more powerful than language. The right word
The gulf between concept and
or carefully crafted phrase can make the unpalatable acceptable, convert the
reality can be bridged with the
sceptic and change the way that people feel. This applies as much to the built
environment as it does to toothpaste or corporate image.
the words of the song by Manchester’s M People – and, in the hands of a skilled
The power of words can influence how
communicator like the Labour Party circa
people feel about urban areas, about
1996 or Manchester City Council after the
particular places or indeed about an
IRA bomb the same year, it becomes a
apartment they are considering buying.
promise people will start to believe.
These words can sometimes have little to do with notions of truth and reality – words can turn snake oil into medicine or indeed a fourteen-storey slab block into a ‘Green Quarter’.
////////////////////////////////The Way I See It
extended focus groups across the country to understand how people really felt about urban areas 1 . The research showed how there were conflicting messages about the city. On the one hand there was a set of positive images in the media about cool urban lifestyles. Tom Bloxham recalls the impact of the building society advert of the late 1980s in which some cool dude lounges on a warehouse apartment
newspaper or tune into a local news
balcony to the strains of ‘easy like Sunday
programme and every other story is
morning’. The irony, he points out, is that
about murder, rape, theft, and anti-social
the same building society was refusing to
behaviour together with a healthy mix of
The ten years since 1996 have shown that
mortgage apartments in Urban Splash’s
public sector incompetence. The reason
attitudes can change, both in general – the
first scheme in Manchester. However
for this is largely economic – it is cheaper
way people feel about living and working
the developers of the early city centre
to send a reporter to the local courts than
in urban areas, and specifically – the
apartments were quick to pick up on this
to go out looking for news, however it
transformation in the image of cities like
cool image. What they were selling was
also taps into the fear and prejudices of
Manchester and Liverpool. In both cases
not the location, or indeed the apartment,
the reader. As a result fear of crime has
language and marketing have played a
but a lifestyle – the ‘Friends’ lifestyle as the
risen during a period when actual crime
major part in this transformation, not just in
focus groups put it. They were appealing
communicating the improvements that have taken place, but also in creating confidence
Fear of crime has risen during a period
and a perception of success as a vital component in making change happen.
when crime has actually fallen
Because of this we have devoted much of
to the ego and self-image of the potential
this first issue of Urban Scrawl to language
buyer who was pictured as someone
and the built environment. Those of us
with ‘discerning taste, cosmopolitan and
trying to regenerate urban areas need to
urbane… seeking to step out from the herd
learn from the snake oil salesmen and
as represented by suburbia’.
turn their tricks to our advantage. Back in
Set against this is the picture of the city
1999 URBED’s small contribution to the
painted in the media. Pick up any local
work of the Urban Task Force focussed on just this issue. Together with MORI and Bristol University we ran a series of 1
But would you live there? Shaping attitudes to urban living - MORI, URBED and the
School for Policy Studies at the University of Bristol, published by the Urban Task Force, February 1999, available on the URBED web site http://www.urbed.coop/
24 //ISSUE 1
In our focus groups for the ‘But would you live there?’ research, people’s aspirations and anxieties about urban areas were also expressed through language. Despite the
‘Urban is smog, it is traffic, it is
picture painted by local newspapers, people were surprisingly positive about urban areas
noise, constant noise, it is malls, I
but they very rarely used the words ‘urban’, ‘mixed use’, ‘brownfield’ or ‘density’ in a
don’t know, purgatory, hell’
positive way… ‘Urban is smog, it is traffic, it is noise, constant noise, it is malls, it is Woolworth, Boots, I don’t know, purgatory hell…’ Yet the words that were cited as
This is particularly damaging in cities where
The local newspaper is very important
‘positive’, including ‘city’, ‘lifestyle’, ‘vibrant’,
crime is seen to be concentrated and
in this respect. This is partly because of
‘central’ and ‘cosmopolitan’ strangely enough
which many people in our focus groups
its influence on its readership but also
mean the same thing. While we urbanists
perceived to be threatening and dangerous
because the national media trawls the
continue to use the unpopular words, there
despite not having personal experience of
local media for stories. The jaundiced view
are no prizes for guessing which words
that the people of Birmingham had of the
appear on advertising hoardings for new
Some of the students in the Manchester
city in the 1990s was due in part to the
apartment blocks across the country, an
focus group suggested that their parents
relentlessly negative reporting of the city
increasing number of which are neither
had not wanted them to move to the city
and the council by the then Birmingham
vibrant and central nor cosmopolitan. The
because of the picture painted by series
Evening Mail. In the 1990s there were
huge increase in urban living and the revival
discussions between Manchester City
of Britain’s cities in the last ten years is
Council and the city’s Evening News about
testament to the power of these words. The
the prominence given to crime in the paper.
challenge of urbanists is to reduce the gulf
There was apparently an agreement not to
between the words and reality. us
splash every shooting over the front page because of a recognition that this was fuelling the violence. The result was that the city seemed less dangerous and stories of gangland shootings no longer appeared quite so regularly in the national media – unlike Liverpool and Birmingham. It is not clear whether actual violent crime in Manchester fell as a result of this, but it may well have been another example of words creating their own reality.
Setting the pace Sarah Jarvis meets a developer with a refreshing approach to the places he is making Chris Brown, Chief Executive of Igloo
including Atwood Green in Birmingham
He concedes that this may sound
Regeneration Fund, does triathlons. He
which has had its name changed to Park
patronising, but thinks that the mass
says that running is the best way to see
Central, and the ‘extension’ of Castlefield
market must be buying into what we might
a city (“walking is OK but you see more
in Manchester across the Mancunian Way.
see as crass brands – otherwise why do it?
when you run”) and a few weeks ago it was
Brown struggles to understand why this
the new developments around Bristol’s
strategy is so popular, particularly with
“There will inevitably be a difference
Floating Harbour that were getting this
volume house builders.
between placemakers without
expert runner’s once-over. It would be
preconceptions aiming to create vibrant,
fair to say that he wasn’t encouraged by
“Why do they do it? I don’t know. We
authentic places and manufacturers of
everything he saw:
don’t do it. Almost every other developer
a standard, volume product that doesn’t
wants to come up with new names. I think
respond to the place - and so the
“Single use, no through routes, blank
the difference is that the Igloo market
marketing of it doesn’t respond to the
frontages, dead at weekends – we don’t
is generally sophisticated, creative,
seem to have learned anything about
interested in things being authentic
and real. How many places called ‘The Quadrant’’ do we need?”
Another area that caused concern was Harbourside, formerly known as Canon’s Marsh. “The masterplanned scheme is a lot better than it was”, Brown suggests
adding “but then it was let down by some truly rubbish architecture”.
While poor commercial architecture is certainly not unique to Bristol, neither is this desire to change a name in order to change the perception of a scheme or neighbourhood. There are examples all over the country and Brown cites several,
26 //ISSUE 1
diplomatically, but then thinks better of it,
Leeds Round Foundry
We are meeting in Bermondsey Street
“The site was already known as
left empty for other artists. A 70-seat
London SE1 at The Garrison, an elegantly
Bermondsey Square in the AtoZ. It is the
community cinema and bar will be let
pale gastropub of the artfully mismatched
site of one of the most famous antiques
initially at 60% of the going commercial
chairs and optimistic prices variety.
markets in London. Why on earth would
market rate to a local filmmaker who has
Opposite stands the Cockfighter of
we want to change it?” Brown asks.
been teaching film-making skills to young people on local estates for years. Three
Bermondsey boutique and on the next corner is the striking orange and pink
Instead Igloo has spent 12 months
films have already been commissioned on
ftm – the Fashion and Textile Museum
promoting not only Bermondsey Square
the neighbourhood – about the street, the
founded by Zandra Rhodes, though this is
but also its surrounding neighbourhood.
market traders and community reactions
currently closed. With his laptop open on a
This includes sponsorship of a local
to the development – and were shown at
table in the window Brown has a ringside
football team and an investment of £1500
the festival. Brown insists that there was no
seat to keep an eye on the main artery of
to support a festival. Graffiti artists have
the London neighbourhood where Igloo
been employed to illustrate hoardings
is currently developing the 14,000 sq m
around the site, but they have also been
mixed use Bermondsey Square.
commissioned with curating the spaces
The mixed-use design has been guided
One crucial difference between Igloo and
There is an incentive therefore that once
by the Socially Responsible Investment
other developers is that rather than sell off
completed the place should work well.
principles, the Igloo Footprint, developed
the scheme as the investor they have a
Igloo has employed Creative Space
for all of Igloo’s investments (see box
long-term interest in the development.
Management, originally from the Round
below). A second core inserted into the
Foundry in Leeds and winners of the RICS
5000 sq ft floorplates allows workspace
“This might all sound great, but I also have
Property Facility Manager of the Year
units to be subdivided to a more affordable
to be able to justify not maximising short
Award, beating the established market
600 sq ft, thus attracting start-up
term commercial returns to my investors
leaders. Their strength, Brown believes,
businesses in the creative industries. An
– the people who have their pensions
lies in their background in customer
independent hotel operator has signed, but
invested in Morley’s funds. But I genuinely
service rather than property. They set
more difficult was letting the food outlet –
believe that in creating an awareness
up and manage locally and have their
of, and a value in these places, other
own budget. Whereas the service charge
“initially we wanted an independent
people will invest and want to be here too.
for a development usually only covers
organic food company. Food is in our
Bermondsey Square is the brand here and
maintenance, cleaning etc, in an Igloo
SRI policy, but either the unit wasn’t big
I don’t mind whether people associate that
scheme there is an additional pot of money
enough or smaller companies weren’t
with Igloo or not. We are always looking to
for the local community. This community
ready to expand yet”.
reinforce local identities, not change them”.
fund has a wider definition than the development itself and can make small
They have now let it to Sainsbury’s. Brown
grants to local groups, like the festival and
also stresses the need to identify and work
the local football team. And running is a
with established community groups already
good way to see a city.
doing good work in a neighbourhood – in this scheme the Bermondsey Street Area Partnership, run entirely by volunteers and with a proven commitment to the area.
28 //ISSUE 1
URBED’s work with Igloo Igloo Regeneration Partnership commissioned URBED to develop and audit its Footprint – a bespoke assessment tool by which the fund implements its Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) policy. This policy is designed to deliver benefits by generating social, economic, environmental and financial value in edge of city-centre locations and has led to the United Nations describing Igloo as the world’s frst sustainable property fund. Igloo is a partnership of pension and life funds managed by
Schemes are assessed at key stages in the development
Morley Fund Management, which invests in and develops urban
process, including site acquisition, outline and detailed planning,
regeneration sites across the UK. Igloo currently has 23 projects
construction and post-occupancy. SRI policy implementation is
with a completed development value of £2.5bn creating 8,500
steered by the Socially Responsible Investment Committee which
homes and 10,000 jobs on around 250 acres of brownfield
land. Igloo continues to market for further equity and is actively assessing new development opportunities on the fringes of the UK’s top twenty city centres.
• Sir Jonathan Porritt, Chair of the Sustainable Development Commission and Founder Director of Forum for the Future • Professor Anne Power, Professor of Social Policy, London
The aim of the SRI policy is to screen and assess urban
School of Economics
regeneration schemes for their SRI characteristics. URBED
• Paul King, Chief Executive of the Green Buildings Council
assesses the performance of each Igloo scheme against 17
• George Fergusson, Past President of the RIBA
policies under three SRI themes: Footprint is unique in a sector where there is no shortage of • Regeneration – Investing in the regeneration of the social,
sustainable development guidance, but a lack of clear strategic
physical and economic fabric of urban neighbourhoods;
framework. Footprint encourages developers and project teams
• Environmental Sustainability – Investing in urban
to think more strategically, while emphasising the need to respond
development and patterns of resource use that are more
to the opportunities of each specific site and its context, including
engagement with stakeholders.
• Urban Design – Investing in an urban renaissance through the design of buildings and public realm that are distinctive, vibrant and urban in character.
For more information on sustainability appraisals, contact Nick Dodd at URBED
These themes are based on the belief that Igloo’s investments will
perform better if they contribute to the regeneration of the area they are in (and therefore benefit from that regeneration) if they are environmentally sustainable (and therefore future-proofed against higher energy costs for example), and if they are well designed (and therefore more attractive to occupiers). urban scrawl
////////////////////////////////A letter from.......
Why we must make it more attractive for people to live in apartments The economic resurgence of the Irish Economy has had many positive effects. However the impact on Ireland’s built environment has not always been so positive, throwing into stark focus many of the issues of sprawl and urban renaissance experienced across Europe. In the first in a series of occasional letters from Dublin, Irish Times Environment Editor Frank McDonald argues that while we can’t undo the damage done in the past decade by the growth of far flung commuter suburbs, we can still create sustainable non car-dependent communities in viable mixed-use urban areas. Dublin Lord Mayor Paddy Burke told a recent conference on urban
So people voted with their wheels. They went to places like
sprawl, organised by the City Council and the Institute of Public
Wicklow, Arklow, Gorey, Carlow, Portarlington, Portlaoise,
Administration, that there was something in the Irish psyche that
Mullingar, Tullamore, Longford, Cavan, Virginia and
made it impossible to imagine raising a family in an apartment.
Carrickmacross, to name but a dozen of the towns in Dublin’s
What people want, the Lord Mayor told everyone, was a house
commuter belt that now stretches to 100km. Houses were more
of their own with a front and back garden where kids could play
affordable in these places, so Dublin leapfrogged all over Leinster
safely. Even tenants in inner city Corporation flat complexes, many
and even into Ulster. This was completely contrary to stated
of whom had raised children there, aspired to having a house in the
public policy, in the 1999 Greater Dublin Area Strategic Planning
suburbs, he said.
Guidelines, about the need to consolidate the metropolitan area.
Given that the conference was focused on successful apartment
The explosion of Dublin was being facilitated by the Government’s
living as a way of combating sprawl, his remarks were off message
motorway programme, with new roads cutting journey times for
– certainly for the architects, planners and city officials who seek
long-distance commuting – even though many living in the outer
to promote higher density housing as an alternative to endless
commuter belt spend four hours a day driving to and from work.
expansion. But the Lord Mayor had a point. Unlike our continental
It goes without saying that this almost wholly car-dependent
European cousins, we have cultural attachment to being kings
pattern of development is environmentally unsustainable, with
in our own castles; how else can one explain the proliferation of
carbon dioxide emissions from transport up by 150% since 1990.
one-off houses in the countryside, removed from basic services in
The social costs of long-distance commuters losing valuable time
towns and villages?
This cultural issue was compounded from the mid-1990s onwards
We cannot undo the facts created on the ground since the mid-
by the lack of availability of affordable housing of any kind in Dublin
1990s. What we can do is to ensure that future population growth
to accommodate our rapidly expanding population. Prices went up
is used as an engine to drive sustainable development, putting the
year after year, driven by the crude laws of supply and demand.
emphasis on creating walkable communities in viable, mixed-use
30 //ISSUE 1
Temple Bar, Dublin
urban areas. We need to create the conditions that would make it
than in exceptional cases such as student accommodation. All
more attractive for people, including families, to live in apartment
apartments with two or more bedrooms should be designed with
buildings. And that doesn’t just mean making apartments more
the needs of children in mind, the new guidelines say, adding that
commodious than the huge number of shoebox flats that were
the recreational needs of children need to be planned for from the
built in the early 1990s.
outset as experience had shown that children will play everywhere.
As the city of Vancouver in Canada recognised as long ago
These guidelines have since been supplemented by new DoE
as 1992 in its pioneering guidelines, High Density Housing
planning guidelines on sustainable urban housing, which
for Families with Children, the external environment is equally
incorporate a revision of the 1999 residential density guidelines,
important if family living in the city is to be translated from planning
as well as what’s billed as a best practice handbook on urban
lip-service into an everyday reality.
design and housing layouts. Dublin City Council has gone a step further by adopting even higher standards for the spatial quality
The Vancouver guidelines specify that family housing, usually in
of apartments, insisting – against strong opposition from property
condominium towers, should be located within 800 metres walking
developers and estate agents – that they must be significantly
distance of an elementary school, daycare centre and grocery
larger than the shoebox flats of the past.
shopping, and within 400 metres of a playground and public transport stop. The guidelines also go into detail about the facilities
But we should not forget that apartment living and even the very
that family units should have, including bedrooms with sufficient
concept of mixed-use areas involves a degree of live and let live.
floor space for playing, generous hallways with room for toys and
As I know from living in Temple Bar for the past 12 years, one’s
equipment, secure indoor storage for bicycles, and private or
quality of life can quite easily deteriorate because of excessive
semi-private outdoor spaces. There should be a sufficient number
levels of noise. Last year, the Green Party tabled a Private
of family units in a project to give children peers to play with, to
Members’ Bill on neighbourhood noise, which would have given
encourage a sense of community and to support the provision
powers to local authorities to deal effectively with this form of
of adequate amenities for families with children – designed to
pollution. It was defeated at the time, but hopefully will now
maximise sunlight, especially in winter.
be revived in some form. It is also very important that owneroccupation of apartments in town is encouraged to the greatest
There are signs that this message is finally getting through. In
its review of the 1995 apartment design guidelines, published last January, the Department of the Environment laid down new
A community cannot be built on transient or short-let flats – it
minimum standards aimed at providing better living spaces for
needs the building blocks provided by people with a real stake in
flat-dwellers. To make apartment living more family-friendly, the
the future of an area. us
guidelines specify that no more than 10-15% of any scheme of 20 or more apartments should be of the one-bedroom type, other
© 2007 The Irish Times
do this, having lived and worked in the various incarnations of this “mundane and radical” place from the 1970s to the present day.
What’s next?////The second edition of Urban Scrawl will put the illuminating Manchester neighbourhood of Hulme under the microscope. Members of the URBED Coop are uniquely qualified to
A few quotes from the Dictionary of Urbanism
A derisive term for the sort of suburban landscape where
residents have plaster gnomes in their front gardens.
The word means towns in the language of the fictional Vril-ya
Country, as described by Lord Lytton in The Coming Race (1871). Vril-ya Country, which seems to lie beneath Newcastle-upon-Tyne, is inhabited by large winged creatures that live according to the maxim: “No happiness without order, no order without authority, no authority without unity”.
A surface that has been wiped almost clear and is ready
to be used again. The term, traditionally describing manuscripts that are to be reused, also describes the way in which continuous rebuilding in cities rarely quite obliterates the evidence of previous generations (despite some strenuous recent efforts). The word is from the Greek palimpsestos, meaning ‘rubbed smooth again’.
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