The Building of Sustainable Urban Neighbourhoods
Within the history of UK and US urban planning there has been a consistent thread and narrative attached to the importance of planning neighbourhoods. This narrative has been an attempt to create independently functioning and thriving areas of urban landscapes, towns and larger cities that connect to one another for the greater good of the wider network. This made sense for a long time, as many people were born, raised, worked, lived and died in the same neighbourhood, with very little mobility on the whole.
Of course, this lack of mobility has drastically changed within the last century, and last half century in particular. At first the rural population moved in to the cities as agricultural practices declined and the industrial revolution and innovation necessitated larger populations to live and work in city centre environments. Since the turn of the millennium however, there has been a change of pace and a retreat to the suburbs through urban sprawl that began a few decades prior.
As personal mobility has increased, as has the expansion of daily movement for work and leisure, there has been lower numbers of traditional families and a focus on more personal specific characteristics to living, rather than the traditional shared communities of the generations that came before us. As governmental resistance to urban sprawl has increased there has become a greater call for neighbourhood planning, but with a view to implementing it within a modern urban environment that is very different from the past. In the modern day there is a larger population to contend with, an in-built reservation and resistance to anything forced from above, and different types of people, from a generational concept, as well as occupational, interests and languages in the major cities.
Planning neighbourhoods in modern urban environments is about creating something distinct in an environment that has spent years becoming part of the indiscriminate suburbs. How do you create community in an urban sprawl where everything looks and feels the same as the next area of town? It is a challenge of course, but clever urban design and planning can deliver neighbourhoods that are fulfilling and exciting to live in, and distinct from neighbouring areas.
This begins with the urban layout. The planning of new dwellings and the repurposing and regeneration of existing areas can take nods from the past of that particular area. Transport links must be created that are fully connected with all areas of the city, but with an emphasis on a transport hub that is accessible for all within the immediate neighbourhood, and not just as a vehicle to get out to the next part of town without a view as to a distinct and vibrant neighbourhood to drive through.
Incorporating green public space, community centres, arts and leisure activities, and local-specific culture can go a long way to helping neighbourhood planners to create a beating heart that can reverberate throughout the community, to get locals talking to each other and to create something that works as an identifiable neighbourhood, and not jut another part of the city, indistinct from the next.