Basically every nation has basic housing problems that need to be addressed.Â Chilean architectÂ Alejandro AravenaÂ won this year’sÂ Pritzker Architecture Prize because of his work on community housing. It wasn’t just the buildings that got him the prize, it’s the fact that he and his team worked with locals to bring change to the community in a new way. Instead of centralized planning, they went with talking to the the people who lived in the community housing and brought positive change to the structures incrementally.
Thailandâ€™s Baan Mankong Program also offers lessons in incremental housing through a decentralized, community-led process. Launched in 2003 by the Community Organizations Development Institute (CODI), the program directs small but flexible government subsidies and loans to community-level lending and savings groups, with a strong emphasis on an inclusive, collective process. Receiving input from all members of the community, these resident-led groups decide how theyâ€™d like to invest the moneyâ€”from reconstructing or upgrading individual homes to reblocking or relocating entire neighborhoods. Additionally, the Baan Mankong Program provides technical and financial support from government staff, community architects and planners where needed, enabling residents to address complex tenure security needs, land redistribution, housing improvements, service delivery and more.
Urban design is not an easy activity because of the multitude of variables that impact the overall urban experience. There are buildings, traffic (foot and vehicular), landmarks, natural occurrences like rivers, and abstracted economic forces. Space Syntax is a company has set out to make better urban design by using science to calculate the probability of positive spaces being built.
Stonor says his ultimate goal is for the science to catch on with other design firms and consultancies. In a way, he wants to put himself out of business. He says he wants architects and planners to learn to use space syntax themselves, and not rely so much on his consultancy.
Academically, space syntax has caught on in many other schools and countries. However, the Bartlett at University College of London â€“ where Hillier and Hanson developed the science â€“ is still its primary research center. The academic and business sides work closely, a relationship that Stonor says is vital. The academics feed him new ideas, and his company field-tests their research. In addition, every tool and most of the studies produced by both the business and academic sides of Space Syntax are open access and available online.
A recent article in The Independent highlights how car use in England is on the decline. A combination of factors (including high gas prices, poor congestion, and general disdain for internal combustion engines) has lead to fewer people getting their licenses, and fewer people using their cars.
[Steve] Goodwin [professor of transport policy at the University of the West of England] has been building his argument for peak car in a series of articles in Local Transport Today. His evidence includes that fewer young people are learning to drive. Between 1992 and 2007, the number of 17- to 20-year-olds who held licences fell from 48 per cent to 38 per cent, and for 21- to 29-year-olds, the number fell from 75 per cent to 66 per cent. Also, there has been a decline in private transport’s share of trips from 50 per cent in 1993 to 41 per cent in 2008. And, according to Lynn Sloman, director of Transport for Quality of Life, between 2004 and 2008, car trips per person went down by 9 per cent and car distance per person by 5 per cent.
Of course, this doesn’t amount to incontrovertible evidence of the beginning of the end for cars â€“ it could be a momentary blip, an aberration â€“ but it would be foolish not to have this debate now, given the paucity of Government funds, and given the long planning horizon of most public works.