Emerging Work Patterns and their Effect on Suburban Town Centres

January 8, 2007

In Future Forms and Design for Sustainable Cities (Jenks and Dempsey, 2005), it is proposed that the assertion that the rise in telecommunications will lessen the need for a physical focal point for activities is wrong (p. 19) and in a section by Nicola Gillen on Emerging Work Patterns it is proposed that future work patterns will include organisations that operate across a virtual network, but will still be reliant on face-to-face communication. Moreover, “mobility means that virtual workers have to be close to, or often pass through, major transport hubs in cities. Cities provide the greatest opportunities and physical places to connect… mobile people.” (p. 343). The author goes on to suggest that one of the modes of provision are public places, such as cafes where people can “pause, gather and have time to connect. These are places such as train stations, airports, hairdressers and coffee shops”. (p. 350).

It is interesting to note, following our discussion this morning, that many of these assertions may apply equally well to suburban town centres, but in contrast to the high status occupations described in the city model, what we may find in the suburbs are going to be high tech workers, consultants (that is people working on an ad-hoc basis for companies) and the self-employed, who may very well work part of the time at home, but need (as we’ve already discussed) a more formal setting for external meetings. The suburban coffee shop may very well be the ideal location for this and if we follow the model proposed by Gillen, the two factors that make for a coffee shop that can function in this way are high-speed internet connection and a transport hub. (There may be other public places that function in this way in suburban town centres – any suggestions? the local town hall perhaps?) I suggest therefore that part of our data-gathering should specifically consider this as a possible additional factor in the success of suburban town centres.

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