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Exploring the urban village: Contributions to the evolving urban perspective

Laumann, SK; (2005) Exploring the urban village: Contributions to the evolving urban perspective. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access


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Many of Britain's towns and cities are experiencing an era of economic, physical and social renewal. Much of this renewal is a response to the legacy of de-industrialisation, increased movement patterns, and the separation of land uses that characterized urban land development of the last century. Well-intentioned development innovations from the last 50 years have unfortunately resulted in large pockets of derelict land, an increase in traffic congestion and environmental pollution. Cities have experienced the ghettoisation of urban neighbourhoods and the isolation of middle class families in suburbs. The effect of this evolution in many northern cities has been an urban housing surplus and ghostly city centres, while London has experienced an affordable housing shortage and a crisis of substandard social housing. Interest in urban living is surging, becoming not only fashionable but also an economic and environmental necessity. New approaches to development and planning are offering new solutions to these problems both in Britain and across the globe. The 'urban village as outlined by the Urban Villages Forum, is one such solution that draws on old patterns for inspiration. Several design movements throughout city planning history have preceded the urban village: the Parks Movement, Garden City, City Picturesque, City Beautiful and Modernism. History shows that none of these could be a universal remedy for the urban maladies of their day. The urban village model does not aspire to replicate any of these models specifically. In fact, village proponents blatantly reject the ideology of Modernism, decrying zone-style land use as a 'single use disease' (Aldous, 1997, p.23). What the model does advocate is the revival of an efficient local neighbourhood1, the re-use of traditional building forms and human-scale public space, citing the enduring success of the village structure and resultant value of past lessons. The urban village model of town planning is an urban design-based platform that endeavours to enhance the functioning of places by tackling several social and economic conditions with a physical solution. The objective is to order neighbourhoods so that they create intimacy, diversity and functionality, and enhance livability through human-scale design. Intrinsic to the concept is the rationale that traditional English (and other) village forms have consistently provided well used, safe, functional, sustainable and well-loved urban environments, and that these patterns can be replicated or adapted to produce similar results in the modern context. This paper aims to achieve three goals. The first is to provide a thorough understanding of the background of the urban village movement and its value in the current development climate. It has been thirteen years since the original publication of the Urban Villages Forum manifesto2. An overview of the movement's evolution and associations will provide a frame through which to view the model's ideological context and built manifestations. The second goal is to examine some key ideological elements of the urban village platform. This discussion focuses on the concepts of community building, sustainability and the application of urban village characteristics. Support and criticism for the model and these precepts will be demonstrated through a review of academic literature. These three themes will provide a theoretical background for later case study research questions. Thirdly, this paper seeks to measure the success of the urban village model by examining the products and outcomes of some of its early built examples. Case studies are made of three urban renewal projects subscribing to the urban village model: Crown Street in Glasgow, Britannia Village in London, and Little Germany in Bradford. Two research questions will be applied in the examination of these three case studies. 1. To what extent has each case applied and delivered urban village characteristics according to the model 2. To what extent has each case achieved a lively mixed-use community Project and academic literature will provide background information for each case. Expert interviews and author observations will provide qualitative data on current project environments. Conclusions will be drawn from these cases about the success of the model to date in fulfilling its own remit to develop lively, functional and diverse mixed-use spaces through an urban design-based platform. Further, this paper seeks to examine the value of the urban village movement in the development continuum by understanding its progression and potential contribution in urban development thinking.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: Exploring the urban village: Contributions to the evolving urban perspective
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest. Third party copyright material has been removed from the ethesis. Images identifying individuals have been redacted or partially redacted to protect their identity.
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > The Bartlett School of Planning
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1568426
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