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The Undeniable Urbanism of the 'Plot'

According to researchers and practitioners in the United Kingdom, there's still room for another urbanism. Chuck Wolfe digests the recent Summit on Plot-Based Urbanism from Glasgow.
November 14, 2014, 7am PST | Charles R. Wolfe | @crwolfelaw
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Claudio Divizia

The move towards urban sustainability is old news, writes Chuck Wolfe from Glasgow. But, he notes, exploration of paths forward continues at many levels and under many urbanism monikers—including, “plot-based urbanism”, based on historic traditions of placemaking and diverse, solution-based perspectives in the United Kingdom (UK):

Plot-based urbanism is best known in the UK, based on work by Sergio Porta, Ombretta Romice et al. at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow and notable contributions by several UK practitioners. Plot-based urbanism returns to first principles of city-building, and underscores the fundamental importance of the plot in sustainable urban development over time. 

At the University of Strathclyde on October 27 and 28, the University’s Urban Design Studies Unit (UDSU) assembled leading voices in the plot-based urbanism dialogue, to move towards practical implementation and greater collaboration in research, practice and policy.Buchanan_ChuckWolfe1

Wolfe, who keynoted the Summit, provides a summary of the diverse speaker presentations in the full article, compiled with the assistance of J. Alexander Maxwell, Fulbright-University of Strathclyde Postgraduate Research Scholar.  The remaining participants (who focused on a range of issues across a continuum from master plans to subdivision and party walls) included:

Jonathan Tarbatt, John Thompson & Partners, London, UK

Kelvin Campbell, Urban Initiatives, London, UK

Gordon Barbour, Glasgow Housing Association, Glasgow, UK

Kevin Thwaites, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, UK

Salvatore Fundaró, UN-Habitat, Nairobi, Kenya

Diarmaid Lawlor, Architecture and Design Scotland, Edinburgh, UK

David Rudlin, Urbanism Environment and Design (URBED), Manchester, UK

In advance of a summary report to make way for a follow-up Summit next year, Wolfe and Maxwell digest the lessons from the inaugural Summit as follows:

  • Contemporary placemaking often fails to deliver longer-term sustainable, liveable urban environments.
  • The design of plots, blocks, and master plans must allow for urban change over time by establishing  context-specific, fundamental frameworks for urban development.
  • Unlike other parts of the world (e.g., Austria, Belgium, Italy, Sweden, Norway and the United States), housing development in the UK is provided by only a handful of developers. This raises questions about power of large-scale developers and the role of land use regulation and local municipalities in incentivizing more diversity.
  • The ideas inherent in plot-based urbanism have potential in both regeneration and new-built projects, in both more developed and less developed countries.
  • There is a need for more collaboration between research and practice and between practice and policy in order to implement plot-based urbanism on a meaningful scale in order to affect change.
Full Story:
Published on Wednesday, November 12, 2014 in myurbanist
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