What makes good urban design?
Time and time again I have wandered around various cities and mused to myself how this would be the last place on earth I would want to live. Conversely I have been to cities where I have been instantly captivated by them and consequently tempted to pack up from my London flat and move there.
These kinds of experiences have caused me to wonder what it is about the places that either draw me in or repulse me. There often seems to be something instinctive about the places we like to live in; the one’s we find preferable over others. The repetitive, monotonous housing estates of the interwar period feel dull and lifeless, the imposing brutalist estates of the 60’s and 70’s feel deadening and intimidating.
Christopher Alexander talks about this instinctive feeling as being the ‘quality without a name’. But despite it’s namelessness, can it be defined in any way? Alexander’s Pattern Language attempts to do just that. However in my own endeavours to define this nameless quality I decided to go and visit some of the new housing developments that have been recently built. In this review and the following two I will share my thoughts on the places I have been to and try pinpoint what good urban design could possibly be. In Part One I go to a well-talked about project Newhall in Harlow, Part Two I end up at Wayne Hemmingway’s design at the Bridge in Dartford, and finally in part three the multi-award winning Accordia by Feilden Clegg Bradley in Cambridge.