‘Adaptable Suburbs’ project explores the shaping of suburbs

July 22, 2010

A new research project following on from the ‘Towards Successful Suburban Town Centres’ project has just been announced by the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council. The project involves three UCL departments: Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, Anthropology, and Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering.

A recent development working ‘with the grain’ in Orpington

Due to their frequently being below the policy radar, there is a clear gap in knowledge about how smaller centres form part of the large-scale spatial/social network. The project will test a novel proposition about how centres of socio-economic activity emerge through time, for which existing theoretical models of centre-periphery or fringe-belt do not seem adequate. It will address the question of how local self-organisation, design interventions and functional changes have an impact on large-scale networks of connections.

The need for a specific policy on suburbs to realise their “untapped potential” is essential to improve the quality of cities today. Previous research at UCL has demonstrated that it is essential to take preventative action to halt suburban decline and to avoid the need for major expenditure in these locations the future. It is clear that the city as a whole is inextricably linked and no centre can succeed in isolation from the rest. At a time of great social and economic flux, characterised by new communications technologies and radically changing patterns of work, living and consumption – such as flexible working and the current economic downturn – suburban centres arean essential part of the urgently needed re-evaluation of how to plan for the future growth of our older cities.

The research will provide evidence for policy decision making and for planning and design to improve the future sustainability of the aging built environment. It will also develop innovative methods for the integration of socio-economic data with information about the layout of urban areas. This research will also benefit the public by improving the quality of life in local neighbourhoods. The project partners are CABE, GLA Economics, Savills and Shared Intelligence.

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