The highwaymen seem to have won so that modern (or should it be Modernist?) urban design begins with the layout of roads. The gaps are then filled with blocks and the SLOAP is slurped with slabs and shrubs (SLOAP = Space Left Over After Planning). This is how Concrete Jungles are made. ‘Ugh’. So let’s demote the highwaymen and then think about how to design cities which will be more than assembles of Big Boxes and Little Boxes beside roads (see video below).
Should we launch our urban designs with music, architecture, landscape, planning or infrastructure? Music can set the mood for a design. We can remember the example of the Greenwich landscape architecture urban design project 2011. And we can look back to the example of St Clement Danes (see video above). The original church, built by Danish imigrants, stood between the cities of London and Westminster – possibly near trees, as today. James Gibbs designed the tower – and the music it was to produce was surely the starting point for his design, reminding us that form can follow function without being its slave.
Yet what is the function of a city? Is it to help its citizens lead good lives: healthy, comfortable, safe, sustainable and beautifully inspiring. If so, we cannot expect good cities to result from starting with the design of roads. But where should the urban design process begin: planning, architecture, landscape architecture, green infrastructure, grey infrastructure? You might say ‘start with urban design’ but it has proved too broad a discipline for the training of professionals at first degree level – and also problematic at masters level.