For some while now I have been interested in New Urbanism. Not so much the neo classical position taken by but the process of master planning undertaken by studios such as Urban Design Associates and Duanny Platter Zyberk. I like the plot driven approach, run in parallel with say something like a pattern book. With this approach we don’t have to rely too much on any place making attributes of the domestic architecture but more the landscape, streets, and open spaces. Of course views, enclosure and vocabulary still play a vital role but doesn’t necessarily needs to be controlled and defined. A subtle effect can be achieved.
The plot driven process is ideally suited for lower density projects particularly semi-detached, detached and short terraces. It also ties in neatly with the way our UK house builders procure and sell their product.
Essentially this way of thinking continues what is the UK’s most important and place making innovative: the garden suburb. My own particular favourite is Chortlonville. Not stones throw from where I am writing this. Here is the original 1911 master plan, which merits a closer examination. First of all its clear where the centre of this community is: The Mead, a wonderful circular green space enclosed by villas. There is a primary street, which navigates around the whole place linking two other smaller green spaces. There are six main development parcels each divided into house plots. Two of the parcels have small south facing lanes, which serve little enclaves of houses also facing a tiny green.
The point is that the plan is its apparent legible and positive structure. Just a glance across the plan reveals it structure, hierarchy and purpose. There is a sense of purpose and intent, which we rarely see these days.
I spent a happy afternoon drawing some of the houses. Again they convey a sense of home, a sense of habitation related the locality. There are probably only about 5 or 6 house types but they way they are all composed together brings variety and delight. We can learn a lot from these places. Have a look on Google Earth. It’s a joy.