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Towards a spatial understanding of how suburbs adapt to change

Haklay, M.; Vaughan, L.; Jones, K.E.; Griffiths, S.; (2008) Towards a spatial understanding of how suburbs adapt to change. Presented at: RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2008, RGS-IBG, London, UK.

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Abstract

Although cities are routinely acknowledged as complex built environments, suburbs tend to be overlooked as places with definable characteristics. This paper critically reviews the theoretical assumptions that underpin suburban literature and suggests some new perspectives on suburbs as distinctive social-spatial forms. Two schools of thought are identified as having formed approaches to suburban studies: the 'idealist' and 'realist'. The review shows that the character of suburban built form is part of a historical process of urban growth and change, which enables it to generate movement at a variety of scales. The review suggests that a greater understanding of the relation between suburban society and suburban built form would lead to a fuller appreciation of suburbs as distinctive and multi-faceted environments for living and working. Based on the EPSRC funded 'Towards Successful Suburban Town Centres' project, the paper adopts the approach that suburban adaptability over time holds within it the best potential for diversity of use and thus, social and economic sustainability and even, success. An important theoretical tension that is created between planned and laissez-faire approaches need to be navigated in a way that will allow suburbs to be successful, while not opening the urban environment to strong destructive forces that can be unleashed by market forces. This is a major challenge that new policies for successful suburbs need to deal with.

Type:Conference item (Presentation)
Title:Towards a spatial understanding of how suburbs adapt to change
Event:RGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2008
Location:RGS-IBG, London, UK
Dates:27-29 August, 2008
Language:English
UCL classification:UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School > Bartlett School of Graduate Studies
UCL > School of BEAMS > Faculty of Engineering Science > Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering

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