Reflections on Technion presentation 27/12/2007

December 28, 2006

The first presentation and discussion of the project with external audience was held in the colloquium of the Faculty of Architecture and Town Planning in the Technion.

The presentation was well received, and it led to a discussion which continued for over 30 minutes. Naturally, although the presentation mainly focused on methodological aspects of the projects and our first thoughts on the conceptual integration of morphology and socio-economic information, the discussion went into broader discussion on the project’s aims and possible outputs.

Several points from the discussion are noteworthy, even if we already raised some of them in internal discussions:

  • Beyond the local scale of analysis in which we will try to understand morphology and socio-economic activity within a common framework, there are other elements that can have an influence on the success of the town centre. Transport nodes, and more importantly the frequency, travel time to central locations and the mode of transport can have an influence. In our recent discussion, this came up with the issue of the influence of transport and the scale of analysis. Clearly we need to consider how we bring these issues into our framework.
  • As Sam raised already, we need to consider how telecommunication technologies are changing the characteristics of the suburbs and how we bring them into our analysis.
  • While we are relatively data rich, we need to be careful in terms of our focus, not to end up with a descriptive study of successful suburban town centres, which is not what we are after.
  • I’ve raised a provocative question about the point in looking at historical data, which might lead to a set of singular explanations of each centre or should we just look at the current state of town centres and the current forces that are in operation. The discussion that followed was unanimous in recommending a more temporal perspective, and with a special attention to identify which forces are the most significant in ensuring the success of town centre.
  • A valid point that was raised is the issue of economic analysis. At the moment, our analysis is mainly based on architectural analysis and urban geography perspective. We have not considered issues such as land value and the interaction between economic processes at the micro scale and the success of the centre. This might be a point that we can consider later on in the process.
  • Over all, the aim of the project seemed quite ambitious – we have a major challenge in merging two different methodological framework, and we want to end with urban design recommendation. We should be aware that it is a possibility that we will not be able at the end of the process to give clear guidelines and conclusions. However, this is part of the risk factor on this project.
  • Another interesting aspect of the discussion is that we can link our research quite easily to the current discourse about policentric processes in cities. Especially as we explore suburbs, which are part of the ‘neglected’ centres in a polycentric structures. That is something that is worth keeping in mind as an idea for a paper.
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