Urban Insights



“Almost nobody travels willingly from sameness to sameness and repetition to repetition, even if the physical effort required is trivial.”

– Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities


In the second half of the 20th century, urbanists like Jane Jacobs, contrasted city living with life in the newly created suburbs. She observed and accentuated the value of diversity in cities compared to the mono-cultural repetitiveness of the suburbs.


The insights of Jacobs is current for our 21st century urban developments. Today, we praise ‘mixed use development’ and acknowledge the creativity and innovation that can be spurred by people living in close proximity. We understand that the built environment is not only the product of ‘good architecture’, but is also dependent on the use and improvement of the spaces between buildings. And especially, we appreciate the value of streets as the arteries and connectors for urban life.

Read More

Resurgence of public space – the influence of the New Urban Agenda


In an excellent article published in the Journal of Public Space (Vol 3, 2018), Michael Mehaffy and Setha Low describe how the UN’s New Urban Agenda adopted in 2016 widens perspectives on the value of public space compared to the limited ‘functional roles’ that Modernists assigned to the use of public space in the 1933 Charter of Athens.


They compare the principles in the Charter of Athens articulated by Le Corbusier with the contrasting objectives agreed by the United Nations in the New Urban Agenda. Below follows an extract from the article:


1. Zoning


Athens Charter principle: Function-based zoning. The Charter stated that work, home, recreation and transport were to be segregated into zones carefully planned according to a rational scheme of spatial allocation. Further separations were to be made between office, industrial and other commercial uses.  Zoning thus becomes the principal mechanism to bring a measure of order into the urban territory.


New Urban Agenda objective: Mixed use zoning. Work, home, recreation and transport are to be integrated within mixed-use neighbourhoods. Subscribers to the Agenda commit themselves to promoting the development of urban spatial frameworks, including urban planning and design instruments that support appropriate compactness and density, poly-centrism and mixed uses resulting in integrated urban and territorial planning.

Read More

The principles that underpin successful Innovation Districts


Julie Wagner, Scott Andes, Steve Davies, Nate Storring, and Jennifer S. Vey studied as part of a brief from the Brookings Institution’s Anne T. and Robert M. Bass Initiative on Innovation and Placemakingthe establishment of innovation districts and specifically, the ‘chemistry’ that makes such districts new nodes of local economic development in cities.


They identified 12 principles which will guide cities to use an integrated approach to grow and nurture innovation districts, namely:


1. Clustering. The concentration of innovative sectors and research strengths in one place is what drives innovation districts from the start. These districts thrive by leveraging their city or region’s economic strengths, rather than cities getting entangled in a ‘real estate play’ to lure ‘industry winners’ to their city.

Read More

IPM’s 25 Priorities to fix the High Street / Town Centres


Research conducted by the Institute of Place Management  at Manchester Metropolitan University (IPM) in 2014 identified close to 200 factors that influence the success of the High Street in the UK. These factors were further analysed as to their impact and the ability of role players to affect change. The IPM ranked these factors accordingly and propose 25 priorities which could be addressed by local role players in towns and on high streets.

Read More