Mark Thurstain-Goodwin lecture

November 16, 2006

Mark Thurstain Goodwin gave a presentation with a retrospective flavour, looking back over ten years of work at CASA. His subject was ‘After 10 years of Town Centres research, are we any closer to the Promised Land?’ His answer was ‘not much’, giving as the main reasons the ‘farce’ of gaining easy access to government statistics from the point of view of affordability and an absence of co-operation. The Ordnance Survey also came in for some heavy criticism owing to the high costs they charge.

Despite these concerns however, MTG believed that the possibilities for GIS going forward were improving owing firstly to the ‘revolutionary effect’ of Google maps – in getting people (i.e. businesses) thinking spatially and secondly, to the arrival of new sources of data owing to New Labour’s liking for indicators. He sees GIS as an increasingly web-based technology.

The bulk of his talk was a review of material concerning CASA’s contribution to the The Department for Communities and Local Government’s Town Centres Statistics project already available in the CASA paper ‘Data surfaces for a new policy geography’.

MTG made several proposals particularly relevant to the SSTC project:

1. That town centre economic diversity is a good indicator of success

2. That economic diversity is a town centre attribute that is insufficiently understood and needs further research

3. That integration of a diversity of data, especially regarding pollution etc., are increasingly possible and an important to assessing the sustainability of town centres over time

From a space syntax point of view – the absence of any detailed discussion of the morphology of town-centres, particularly how ‘centeredness’ is predicated (to a degree) on the generation of natural movement owing to local grid condition, was an obvious omission.

This emphasises how nice it would be if we could integrate syntactical data into a study of Suburban Town Centres that is concerned not only with BOUNDARIES but also with CONFIGURATION.


2 Responses to “Mark Thurstain-Goodwin lecture”

  1. mukih Says:

    I agree with the last point – for me, it is one of the main conceptual issues in this project. Finding a way to take into account spatial configuration will be very helpful to urban designers and planners.

    There is a conceptual gap between the analysis of socio-economic activity which doesn’t take the configuration into account, and urban design that doesn’t take into account socio economic data.

    I think that there is a real issue of different world views and conceptual frameworks that are in play here, but maybe we can come up with some way to ‘bridge’ these views.

  2. liora4 Says:

    Thanks Sam for the excellent review. In response to your and Muki’s comments, I refer you to my recent blogs on the town centres methodology. It’s good to see that our work is filling a genuine gap, but also important to note the conceptual barrier we need to overcome: not everyone (to say the least) appreciates why morphology is important.

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