New settlements & urban extensions

The physical and spatial form of a settlement structures the potentials for two key outcomes: social interaction and economic trade. These outcomes are cornerstones of sustainability.

Movement, on foot and in vehicles, is the fundamental process that underpins these outcomes. Patterns of movement are shaped by the geometry of the street network. Patterns of land use are shaped by patterns of movement. Patterns of crime and of land value are similarly affected. These processes are not mysterious but, instead, are well researched and understood.

Movement occurs at multiple scales. Social interaction and economic trade depend upon the interfacing of movement at multiple scales, supported by the geometry of the layout and the harmonious disposition of land uses throughout the street network.

This is the “movement economy”. In putting masterplans together, architects, town planners, urban designers and transport planners make decisions on layout and land use that, in and of themselves, whether they are understood to be fundamental or not, will have profound effects on the social and economic performance of places.

Current masterplan proposals for new settlements and urban extensions are too often too small, fragmented, car-dependent and inwards-looking to create the conditions for multi-scale interfacing of movement and, with that, the creation of social interaction and economic trade. We talk about building homes and creating jobs but this isn’t enough – we have to up our expectations towards the creation of places that support social and economic transaction. In other words we have to get away from talking about numbers and get into talking about values.

Contribution to a workshop at CABE, London, UK, 26th March 2009

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