Save our Suburbs

September 9, 2007

The recently published State of the Suburbs report (download here) is the background to a 2-page spread in Saturday’s Telegraph (see link here). In addition to providing an excellent survey of the historical and cultural history of English suburbs and their pattern of growth, the article serves as a counterpoint to the frequently too casual criticisms of suburbs.

What is most pertinent to our research are the author Michael Leapman’s comments on the way in which London’s suburbs – many of which started as villages – have been subsumed into what were the rural fringes of the city. What is so striking from our space syntax spatial model of Greater London within the M25 is how much of the outer suburbs’ surroundings are still a patchwork of built-up and open space rather than simply ‘sprawl’. Indeed, the work we have done most recently shows that the relative discontinuity of the road network caused by this morphology contributes to the suburban town centres’ morphology, with a more concentrated typology in the cases most remote from central London (Ashford, Coulsdon, Loughton, Rickmansworth, Chingford and Weybridge).

It was also interesting to read the pean to horticulture in the suburbs. Having returned last week from our local horticultural society’s annual show, I can attest to the fact that gardening in the suburbs is alive and well throughout the generations (well done Daniel, age 9, on the 1st prize for a miniature garden!).

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