«CSAAR (7: 2010: Amman) Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development \ Edited by Steffen Lehmann, Husam Al Waer, Jamal AI-Qawasmi. Amman: The Center ...»
This narrow approach leads to sodal conflicts and economic distortions in the Outer boroughs of London, where one-time envisaged Garden Cities like Ealing are located, but are today widely categorized as suburban. UItimately, restructuring spatial relationships and policy guidelines might result in better mechanisms for evaluating how density should be allocated, detennining the 'optimum' potential of a site in a suburban context, and rationally designating development on either green- or brown-field sites..
2 A Polycentric London?
2.1 Measuring polycentricity The Garden City model was proposed as aseries of walkable mixed-use communities that would create aseries of self-sufficient employment and residential centres to be Iinked by a quick public transport network. Today many argue that London's urban fonn today i8 indeed polycentric and therefore confonns to both Howard's vision and the 21 st century sustainable model. It can be argued that London's polycentrism, however, is not due to Howard or anyone else's 'planned' vision, but is more a market response to a congested CentraJ London, and the subsequent interventions ofthe public sector constantly seeking to optimise the physical expansion ofthe city.
Despite being unable to attract the type and quantity of light industrial employment, Howard envisioned, by the end of the 19th century, the popularity of predominately residential towns of Letchworth, Hampstead and Ealing, (each designed by Unwin and Parker following his Garden City ideal), created a large demand for single family houses with gardens. Yet the 'golden age' of suburbs has recently degenerated into a 'pseudosuburbia' (Hall, 2006): the market has found mechanisms to dilute the Sodal Cities as originally envisaged by Howard.
This way, the growth of suburbs "was partly made possible by the construction of estates, groups ofhouses built as a single scheme by speculative builders" and Jeff Risom & Maria Sistemas "was undertaken systematically, with row housing of a defined and codified typology, which facilitated the urbanization of large areas" (Panerai, et al. 2007).
This raises questions of not only how truly polycentric London is today, but also how suburban are London's suburbs.
Measuring polycentricy is relative; what might be polycentric at one scale, can be perceived as monocentric at another scale (Hall and Pain, 2006).
Cartographies of everyday lives of Londoners reveal different degrees of polycentricity according to each of the variables. Outer boroughs now only host a third of the jobs they used to offer. Consequently, local authorities have reconverted former industrial sites into back offices, superstores, shopping centres or multiplex cinemas (Buck, et al., 2002). Thus, the proliferation of tall office buildings in the City and Canary Wharf is the physical expression of how monocentrically London operates for working people.
Central London employs 1.3 million, with over 50% of those employed with Level 4/5 qualifications, while smaller centres have only "around 30 per cent of employees in Metropolitan Town Centres have a first degree or higher" (GLA Economics, 2009, p. 8). lt has been showed thai "employees with higher qualification levels are likely to travel further to work than those with low qualifications" and since "Central London is shown to be the major source of employment for the highly qualified workforce in the region" the geography of London for the highly skilled is decidedly more polycentric than for the low skilled (GLA Economics, 2009, p. 4). Polycentricism is connected to notions of social justice because as soon as a centre is defined, it means for another area to become peripheral; it implies a hierarchy of spaces. Only the wealthier can afford to pay for the surplus any central position has to offer.
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This leads us to propose that a more polycentric city -as Howard suggested - can be a more socially just one: the setting of a network of small economically viable centres can potentially allow more people to benefit from the diversity and opportunity for innovation inherent an urban economy. For the suburbs to overcome a long process of decay, they need to become central again.
Centrality, in the context of suburbs, should relate to their transport accessibility, but also to the role of their open spaces, weekend activities and, more importantly, to their capacity to generate employment. Because suburbs need to develop their own identity as centres, inevitably, the kind of jobs located in the suburbs cannot be the same as those that compete to be located in Central London. This notion of complementary, rather than competing job creation again coincides with Howard's original vision.
2.2 Metropoütan Centres
The expansion of London's poltical and physical boundaries resulted in areas such as Ealing, once conceived as Garden Cities far removed from the centre of London's dirt and crime, being engulfed by the city and re-categorized as Metropolitan Centres. In July, 2009 Mayor Johnson re-emphasized the public sectors commitment to invest in such Centres, as a way to "beat the recession" by "target[ing] resources at town centres aeross London, helping them to thrive and attract new business" (GLA, Mayor of London, 2009). A consistent physical definition of Town Centre is elusive, in urban economic terms, a centre may be defined by the quantum of employment or area of retail space. In this paper we are focusing on Metropolitan Centre, which has no universal definition but in the London plan is defined as: "mainly in the suburbs, serve wide catchment area~ covering several boroughs and offer a high level and range 0/ comparison shopping. They also have signlficant employment, service and leis ure fimctions" (GLA, 2008, p. 413).
2.3 Town Centre Analysis
The geography of the city and the perception of centres of economic, retail, and leisure activity vary depending on factors such as level of qualification ethnic background and also urban morphology, socio-eeonomic composition and transport habits. Additionally, difterences in terms of history, political affiliation, and proximity to other centres further differentiate Town Centres and strengthen claims for a more place based approach. lndeed, Mayor Johnson has recognized deficiencies in the current treatment of Town Centres by caJling for a more differentiated approach that is not a 'one size fits all' but rather builds on existing characteristics. (Greater London Authority, 2009 p. 36).
These proposed changes in policy, however, will only achieve so much unless real differenees and similarities between places in general and Town Centres in particular are analyzed and used to inform regional and loeal poliey. The eomparative matrix to the bottom suggests typical perceptions of 'inner' London as better suited to pedestrians might no longer hold true, as Croydon residents leff Risom & Mafia Sistemas commute to work by foot in similar high numbers to people living in Inner London Camden. Thus a similar pedestrian strategy for Croydon and EaJing (where far fewer people commute by foot) would be unambitious for Croydon but misguided in Ealing.
Figure 3: Comparative analysis of town centres and boroughs according to density, ethnic diversity, lack ofhousing affordability, commute to work by foot, percent in "Good Health" Conversely, identifying centres that share similar socio-demographic characteristics regardless of their proximity to Central London, can be implemented to achieve a more contextual approach. For example a shared regional policy for density of development might be more appropriate for Ilford and Camden Town, that are already more dense but not for Croydon and Kingston. Moreover, identifying similarities between centres that are not located in the same sub-regions might lead to additional knowledge sharing and exchange of information between centres not competing for the same local patrons. A centre like Ilford for example with a low amount of pedestrian activity, might benefit from leaming about the factors in Kingston that contribute to a much higher percentage ofpeople commuting to work by foot.
An analysis based on statistics and mapping is not comprehensive, nor can meaningful regional strategies for centres be produced from extrapolating the similarities and differences illustrated here alone. What the matrix above does illustrate, however, is that real categorizations such as Metropolitan Town Centre or Inner London do not adequately capture meaningful and important differences vital to the successful implementation of both regional and local policy. The differences here suggest that regional policy that tends to prescribe similar Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development 399 guidelines for centres based on by proximity to central London and quantum of retail spaee, are misguided if eonsidered in isolation. This analysis demonstrates the need for an additional layer of regional strategies that ean inform Ioeal strategies. Establishing eonstitueney maps on behalf of unique loealities would enable these plaees to establish produetive relationships with eentral or other peripheralloeations. Eventually, these strategie synergies, rooted in the Ioeal, eould inform regional efforts and poliey.
3 Assessing the 'Leaf' proposaJ for the Arcadia site in EaJing
Howard's ideal was never aehieved beeause it was finaneially unviable, and politieally impossible. Yet the social and environmental aspeets of the vision, if aehieved today, would be widely eonsidered an innovative and robust model for sustainable 21st eentury urbanism. In that way, the vision of Howard remains worthy of aspiration today, but equally elusive due to similar eeonomie and politieal eontingencies. In order to understand the effeets of eompaet eity poliey in a suburban area of London, and evaluate broader sustainability eriteria replieable throughout Outer London we examined the Call-in site of Areadia in which the Leaf projeet, eontaining 567 residential units housed in a 26-storey tower together, a projeet signed by Foster and Partners. Although the final deeision of the Seeretary of State to was to rejeet the proposal in Deeember 2009, it is our eontention that the policies for eompaetion as eontained in the London Plan aetually set out the conditions for high-rise building that the lrish Developer Glenkerrin were proposing. The development was rejected due to "the harmful effeet on the character and appearance of the eonservation areas, whieh are the eentral features of Ealing Town Centre, overweight the benefits of the scheme" (Report to the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, 2009). However, it i5 our eontention that the proposal perfeetly responded to 'eompaet city' regional planning laws, as it was: to be built on derelict brownfield land, and to be loeated near an underground station. These regional policies fail to reeognize that at 350 dw/ha the planned density of the projeet far exeeeded the surrounding Garden City planned eontext of 25-30 dwlha and would overburden existing services.
The projeet perfeetly illustrates that it is not by eoneentrating all physieal growth in empty sites that eities will be able to make their suburbs more sustainable. Rather, policy makers will have to eome up with more plaee specific solutions in order to meet the Sustainable Garden Cities ideal. In the following paragraphs we propose two boundles of policy that may contribute to the ereation of more sustainable suburbs.
3.1 Achieving compactness (physically I economically)