Project explores the shaping of suburbs

21 July 2010

Church Street, Rickmansworth

Researchers from three departments at UCL are collaborating to study how small-scale centres of social and economic activity are shaped by the way in which physical and social networks change their form through time.

The project, which has just won funding from the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, involves the UCL Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, UCL Anthropology, and UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering.

It aims to fill the gap in knowledge about how smaller centres form part of the large-scale spatial/social network and address the question of how local self-organisation, design interventions and functional changes have an impact on this process. 

The team behind the project includes Dr Laura Vaughan and Dr Sam Griffiths from the Space research group at the UCL Bartlett School of Graduate Studies, Dr Victor Buchli, from the Material and Visual Culture research group at UCL Anthropology, and Dr Mordechai Haklay from UCL Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering.

Dr Vaughan said: “The need for a specific policy on suburbs to realise their 'untapped potential' is essential to improve the quality of cities today. Previous research at UCL has demonstrated that it is essential to take preventative action to halt suburban decline and to avoid the need for major expenditure in these locations the future. It is clear that the city as a whole is inextricably linked and no centre can succeed in isolation from the rest. 

”At a time of great social and economic flux, characterised by new communications technologies and radically changing patterns of work, living and consumption – such as flexible working and the current economic downturn – suburban centres are an essential part of the urgently needed re-evaluation of how to plan for the future growth of our older cities.

”The research will provide evidence for policy-decision making and for planning and design to improve the future sustainability of the ageing built environment. It will also develop innovative methods for the integration of socio-economic data with information about the layout of urban areas. This research will also benefit the public by improving the quality of life in local neighbourhoods.“

The project partners are CABE GLA Economics Savills Shared Intelligence. The team will be recruiting a research assistant and three PhD students in September.

For more information about the project contact Dr Vaughan.

Image: Church Street, Rickmansworth, a typical small-scale suburban centre.


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