Fixing What We Have

Exploring how we can reform our existing towns and cities

Here is an experiment that you might try. Go to the most successful city, town, neighbourhood, street or place nominated by the Academy, close your eyes, turn around three times and walk in that direction for 15 minutes (remembering to open your eyes). It is almost certain that the place you will end up will be terrible! You may find yourself trying to cross a ring road, or in an area of industrial dereliction, perhaps a run-down housing estate or a maze of cul-de-sacs, or a new but soulless office scheme. The urban streets where you started, lined with shops and full of life will have been replaced with formless space around object buildings with surface car parking and the occasional tree. Walk for a further 15 minutes and the neighbourhoods will become more affluent and well-tended, but unless you are lucky enough to come across a good local centre, the quality of the urban environment will be ordinary at best.

The task of reforming these huge tracts of our towns and cities may seem huge, however, as the saying goes, the longest journey starts with a single step, so the priority just needs to be working out what those first steps should be. We can also be encouraged by the progress made in many of the continental cities that we have nominated such as Copenhagen, Marseille and San Sebastián, all of which have dealt with similar problems. From these we can maybe suggest the following itinerary for our journey:

Urban Structure
We need to reinstate the hierarchy of city, town and district centres

Diversity of Uses and People
Healthy towns and cities contain a rich mix of uses and types of housing

Street Based Urbanism
The street is the element that unites all successful urban areas

Sustainable Transport
Successful cities have efficient public transport systems and at least a quarter of journeys are made by bicycle

Blue Green Networks
Successful cities integrate green space and water into their urban structure, promoting quality of life

Cities have a responsibility for resource consumption,

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