A view of the future?
The Expo I have more to write about; for today, a slight diversion, and it's linked. I point in the direction of two thought-provoking articles in Scottish Review on Andres Duany, DPZ, and his work for the Scottish Government.
The articles focus particularly on the Design Charette at Lochgelly, which was attended by the writer, Andrew Gray. Here's a video on the STV website and a report from last March
'Lochgelly? perhaps a kind of Scottish Truman Show' quote from Duany
'Truman show' town planner turns sights on Lochgelly
VIDEO: Andres Duany, who designed the idyllic Florida film set, is aiming to transform a former Fife mining town.
As it states in Scottish Review: In March this year the Scottish Government supported an American urban design firm Duany Plater-Zyberk to promote its brand of ‘New Urbanism’ in Scotland – as part of the government’s aspiration for the re-invention in Scotland of ‘traditional qualities of place’ and ‘traditional architecture’. Following Duany Plater-Zyberk to one of its three destinations in Scotland, the Fife town of Lochgelly, Andrew Guest asks what was learnt from this expensive exercise, why it was necessary for Americans to teach us how we should be developing our towns, and what are the implications of government support for ‘traditional architecture’ in 21st century Scotland.
Welcome to the past
Most places already own a wealth of cultural, social and creative skills which could contribute to this process – especially if supported by local and national authority. We don't need a team of outside experts to do this for us. We already have our own immense knowledge of historical and traditional architectural traditions if we want to draw on these to inform new design solutions for new communities – we don't need to rely on an outsider's sentimental view of what Scottish architecture was or could be. Past experience and tradition is important but so is interpreting this with new ideas and new experience today, and Scotland has a substantial reservoir of its own design talents and plenty recent design experience with which to do this. If it is invidious for the Scottish Government to back this expertise to lead a programme to promote better design, then perhaps that was not the right programme, or the government should not be taking this particular lead.
But above all a superficial nostalgia for a past ideal of community should not prevent us from facing up to the multi-sided challenges of urbanisation and sustainability in Scotland in the 21st century and from engaging creatively and openly in a process that asks 'What kind of places do we want?' and 'Who will they be for?' One of the accusations against modernism is that it relied on aesthetic solutions to deal with the social problems it encountered – one result of which was that everywhere ending up looking the same, and mostly pretty dull. Scotland is in danger of planning the next 50 years pursuing another false aesthetic ideal – an un-debated ideal of the traditional – the result of which will be another form of destructive monotony.
Andrew Guest lives in Edinburgh and writes on culture and the environment.
Urban Realm comments are interesting here:
and another video.
Link to the official charette site:
I gather Urban Realm has invited Duany to speak at a debate in October in Glasgow. I expect that there will several architects with passionate views on 'Prince Charles urbanism' or 'shortbread tin Scotland' willing to tackle him on the subject of 'traditional Scottish architecture' and its place in a 21st century Scotland.
My view is that Duany's views on urban planning may be the greatest thing to hit Scotland since Irn Bru; I cannot comment on that. His views on architecture, however, may not. My view is that possibly they are not.
Lochgelly, a proposal, from the Duany charette.
It's not only Scotland of course. For example, Duany and his brand of 'New Urbanism' is being imported to Norfolk:
Thorpe residents slammed for lack of vision
An American planner has set out his vision for a new village on the outskirts of Norwich - and it incorporates ideas from north Norfolk, Norwich city centre and even colonial America.
Architect and urban planner Andres Duany, of urban planning firm DPZ, is best-known for creating the feted Sea-side town in Florida, which featured as the backdrop to the film The Truman Show.
His plans to build 631 new homes at a woodland site off Plumstead Road, Pound Lane and near Salhouse Road in Thorpe St Andrew are equally revolutionary.
His vision is to keep many of the trees on the site with more than 50pc open spaces, but also to add urban living based on Burnham Market's Green, The Crescent, off Chapel Field Road, and housing developments in South Carolina.
Last night's public meeting in central Norwich was part of the innovative design process called a 'charrette' or sometimes enquiry by design, which is aimed at involving the community in the planning process from the start.
It was the final presentation after an intensive eight days of consultation in the area, which included a stormy meeting at Thorpe Village Hall where residents gave a resounding 'NO' to the plans...
and I note a group of residents is fighting back:
The website also features Lochgelly. Interesting read. I also note Duany spoke for one and half hours, but didn't take questions.
Throughout the Charrette, Duany and his team said they were interested in the views of the people who live in Thorpe, and those who neighbour the woods. However earlier this year, in front of an audience of journalists at the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy in Cambridge Massachusetts, Duany put forward the case that the planning process needed to be reformed as it has been usurped by the public, and especially by those people who neighbour the site of the proposed development. He argued consultation should not be with the public in general and especially the locals, instead it should consist of a controlled consultation with a selected group of local citizens, he stated that if this isn’t done the process is taken over by "a bunch of little mobs, invited in by idiot public planners."
Duany has been criticised by members of his own profession.
The April edition of the Architects Journal published an article entitled “Scottish architects fry new urbanist Duany” it stated that “American new urbanist Andres Duany has sparked protests from Scottish architects after alleging the country had not built any housing to be proud of since 1945”.
In the article Duany’s position is criticised by fellow architects as being “ill informed”, Peter Wilson, director of Edinburgh Napier University’s Wood Studio, said Duany’s ‘twee way of viewing Scotland’ was to blame. ‘He does all these charrettes at a great expense and then expects everything to look like small Scottish town Dunkeld’ In Thorpe’s case for Dunkeld read Burnham Market.
The above shows that the Charrette process is being cynically used by developers as a means to convince local people that opposing a development would be futile, that the proposal is a ‘done deal’ and that if the local people don’t work with the developer they may end up with something far worse...
Our local councillors have opposed these plans and our local MP Chloe Smith has written to Broadland District Council’s planning department to draw their attention to the strong local opposition to these proposals.
...The destruction of these woods is not a done deal, the local people of Thorpe, who Andres Duany may view as a ‘little mob’, can stop this development and save the woods and its rich wildlife for today and for future generations...
And here is part of my worry; that Duany and his 'design team' is now being hired by developers to give the gloss (and perhaps glitz) of respectability and 'consultation' to schemes which otherwise could prove contentious.
Is this the 'urban planning' version of hiring an 'internationally known architect' (or his/her practice) to build an 'iconic building', a sure way to override all manner of planning policies and objections?
Is he the Messiah, or simply someone hired to do a job, and making a tidy sum out of it?
Linked past post:
Glancey in the Guardian, Dec 2008
Thou shalt not follow Duany's architectural gospel
British postwar architects have nothing to repent - it is Andres Duany's bland new urbanism that we must be saved from...