Spotlight on Yvonne Rydin

15 May 2013

Yvonne Rydin

This week the spotlight is on Yvonne Rydin, Professor of Planning, Environment and Public Policy, UCL Bartlett School of Planning.

What is your role and what does it involve?

I am a Professor in the Bartlett School of Planning (BSP) and, until this summer, Director of the UCL Environment Institute. In the BSP, I teach mainly on our MSc in Sustainable Urbanism as I am a specialist in governance for urban sustainability.

For example, my most recent project (CLUES) has been looking at urban energy initiatives.

However, I have a special interest in the interface between planning and urban development processes, and will be working next on low carbon commercial property and how planning policies and regulation affect investment, development and valuation of such property.

With the BRE, I have a forthcoming EngD project on the implementation of the BREEAM Communities standard. As Director of the UCL Environment Institute, I have been particularly keen to develop interdisciplinary research perspectives on a range of environmental issues.

We will be showcasing UCL research on the environment at a conference in July this year; see the UCL Environment Institute website for more details.

How long have you been at UCL and what was your previous role?

This is my seventh year at UCL; I came here from the LSE where I was 16 years in the Department of Geography and Environment. Before that I spent time in Departments of Estate Management and Applied Economics. I have been quite peripatetic across disciplines!

What working achievement or initiative are you most proud of?

I am very proud that the group of six academics who worked together on the government Foresight project, ‘Sustainable Energy Management and the Built Environment’, were able to continue working together for another two years on an EPSRC project (see CLUES above) that I directed.

I think that we did some really good analysis and have produced (indeed are still producing) a considerable number of papers.

We developed a strong argument for the Foresight Office to reconsider their approach on scenarios, encouraging them to combine qualitative and quantitative work and we were able to present this to them in an internal seminar.

We also produced a nice little booklet and online tool for local authorities developing energy strategies. And we are all still talking to each other!

Tell us about a project you are working on now which is top of you to-do list?

Right now, I am involved in launching the results of the West End Commission, set up by Westminster City Council to consider this very special area of London; full details are available on the West End Commission website.

I was one of only two academics on the commission, which was chaired by Sir Howard Bernstein, Chief Executive of Manchester City Council. The other Commissioners were a fascinating mix of people with a stake in the West End, from the owner of the Hippodrome to the director of one of the major taxi firms to residents of Soho and Covent Garden.

We all recognised the unique nature of this area, based in the fine grain of its morphology and the mix of land uses and size of businesses.

The final report made a range of recommendations but also emphasised the need for a new governance body to overcome the fragmentation in developing strategies, enforcing regulations and managing key public services.

This is particularly the case given that the West End straddles the boundary of two boroughs, Westminster and Camden. It will be interesting to see what the response to the commission’s recommendations is.

What is your favourite album, film and novel?

I listen to music – mainly classical and jazz – all the time but am hopeless at remembering composers! I loved the film The Artist and have been practising the routines in my tap class.

For novels, it is a toss-up between Anna Karenina (and I thought the latest, rather controversial film of this novel was terrific) and Middlemarch (which is probably unfilmable).

What is your favourite joke (pre-watershed)?

Pass!

Who would be your dream dinner guests?

In reality, it would always be family every time but in this fantasy world, how about all the script-writers for Doctor Who, perhaps with a couple of the actors thrown in for good measure?

Or possibly both the Obamas, together with Yvonne Connelly (the first black headmistress in London), Anthony Seldon (who introduced Happiness classes to Wellington College) and a selection of Edwardian progressive educationalists; then we could discuss education without once mentioning SATS, REF, etc.

What advice would you give your younger self?

Work out what is really important to you and use that as your yardstick; don’t get bounced into doing things by other people’s agendas.

What would it surprise people to know about you?

Well, I have already let on that I tap. I am also learning to do Tai Chi.

What is your favourite place?

Anywhere by water, but it is difficult to match the west coastline of Sweden on a sunny day for sheer beauty.