UCL News


Streets and Patterns

4 March 2005

Dr Stephen Marshall, Senior Research Fellow at UCL's Bartlett School of Planning, has just published his new book, Streets and Patterns: The Structure of Urban Geometry (Spon Press) which challenges the assumption that 'sustainable communities' can be created without tackling the problems of main roads in urban areas.

Streets and Patterns If the government's vision for more traditional-style urban development is to come to fruition, current plans and policies must be changed to allow for a new kind of main street, or even the return of the boulevard, claims Dr Marshall.

Interest is growing in the American 'New Urbanist' model for innovative urban design, with high profile advocates including the Prince of Wales and John Prescott. The government now favours a return to grid-like structures of mixed-use streets where communities can flourish, as opposed to separate zones for housing, shopping and industry clustered around car parks and linked to anti-pedestrian high-speed roads.

Dr Marshall said: "This vision cannot be properly realised until the stumbling block of road layout rules is removed. These rules were developed in the 1960s and are still geared towards segregation of motor traffic and land uses, and have effectively discarded the multi-functional main street that has traditionally formed the backbone of cities and pre-war suburbs. Instead, post-war suburbs have usually been built without a central high street and have often lacked the feel, focus and facilities of the more traditional suburbs."

The book draws on ten years of Dr Marshall's research since he started at UCL in 1994 as a PhD student. It is influenced by a variety of interconnecting strands of research that are being conducted around UCL at the Bartlett School of Planning, Bartlett School of Graduate Studies and the Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA).

Dr Marshall explained: "The main street is a missing link that could unite the best of traditional and modern urban forms. Changing the guidelines would promote those traditional-style main streets and boulevards that create effective public transport networks and provide a focus for local facilities. This could help create the new kind of suburb that the Sustainable Communities programme would like to roll out across the land. Urban design for residential streets needs to be integrated with main road layouts and public transport links if effective, joined-up planning is to be achieved."

For more information on the book or UCL's Bartlett School of Planning use the links below.

Streets and Patterns
UCL's Bartlett School of Planning