It's about people, stupid…

No compromise policy research to counter the theft of housing affordability by the non-productive rentier.

It's about people, stupid…

About itsaboutpeople292867057

Researcher into the Commodified Housing Market (by annoyance), Landscape Architect (by profession), Bricklayer (by trade) and Dyslexic (by accident of birth).

What’s it all about?



A sense of human scale

What makes a place?

Why is it important?

What are the social and economic benefits of place?

Hopefully from previous research and future investigation I will be able to start to answer these questions and more. Not always following the obvious routes, I will be looking at cognitive bias, memory, self interest, fear as well as spacial effects of mass and void, the senses, time, evolution of a space.


“How do we make a place where people want to be?”


New towns, regeneration of old cities and retro fitting in new cites, all are pointing to the realisation that green space, malls and public transport are only part of the answer, albeit in the right direction. How do we make a place where people want to be?

Post race meeting in a car park

A corner of a car park for a brief time becomes a place. Scale, shade, food, people watching people,  seating (150mm high kerb), a common reason. The comments when asked were;

  • its feels right
  • comfortable
  • cosy

All the elements were there no sense of flight (fear), enough routes to escape, but enough enclosure to feel secure. A corner, so we can look out and our backs are protected, like being on the back seat of a coach.

“all add up to a sense of ease”


Food, always a key element


Absolute must reads for park and urban design!

The Social life of small Urban Places

The Movie

The film quality of the movie at the start is rather poor, but stick with it, as it’s about the content.

Made in 1980 so some amusement can be gained from the conservative fashion, but the main point is the simplicity of how humans react in public space and what makes a space successful or not.
Note; at the end of the film recommendations are made to the New York City planning control. The effects can been seen today, think of how many areas have movable chairs and how the atmosphere of the city has changed from many complete no go areas, to a city that now feels much safer, at ease and sittable!

“The present issue (as with all popular cities) is ‘gentrification’ when regeneration arrives”

The present issue (as with all popular cities) is gentrification, the meat-packing district has been changed by the High Line Park which is great, but the lower paid workers who service the area are being pushed out by unregulated high rents, all cause and effect. So what ever we do as designers/planners we have to always look to the bigger picture, build a frame-work for flexibility so area can evolve without expensive re-builds and social cleansing.

High Line: A Quick Overview from Grant Beerling on Vimeo.

“I so love this little film, Holly Whyte’s voice reminds me of my wise grandparents, thoughtful, never rushing a sentence, understanding the power of a pause and the simple profound observations of the world around them.”

Some Books,Absolutely must be on your shelf

The Social life of small Urban Places

Author William H Whyte


A good review blog of the book. An essential for anyone who wants to understand Why some one would possibly want to visit and stay in your local park….Ignore this book at your peril. Based most of my final degree design on his proven observations

“A park without people is a field”

The Wit and Wisdom of Holly Whyte 

Gathered by Albert LaFarge 

Continue reading

Lessons from a Dystopian landscape

A future landscape?

A fantastic video of a future reality set within the confines of a virtual world within a dystopian landscape. A good lesson in cause and effect


A thought process

Learning from our past

A thought that keeps coming to mind is that the study of a dystopian landscape is possibly more important than a proposed utopian dream scape, as virtually all the designs where originally designed with utopian ideals, (political, social, economic etc), but now often regarded as dystopian, often mis-judged (by present day judgement) and ugly. Some mistakes where made through focussing on one area i.e. large scale plan, and forgetting human scale/perspective, modernism to a tee. So who is to say we are not mis-judged? Looking at perceived failures with a narrow ascetic value of fashion for example, thus a lot of perspectives need to be taken into consideration with the avoidance of presumption of present day wisdom over the dreams of the birth of the idea. Also not taking into account changes that created a conflict along the time line from conception to the present moment of judgement to what may seem’s a ruined space. So the question is what has changed? Often we are too quick to write a off a space without fully understanding its long term aim. Thats not saying mistakes have not been made, but not to make the same mistake again due to a poorly thought out process only taking in present day fashions into consideration.

It will always come back to adoption of space by the people who live in the area. Why should anybody want to live here? At its base level what will me and my family gain? What is the core of any community? On questioning some residents on The Isle Dogs, London (now re-developed, but issues of the local working class having no relevant jobs to their skill set or if there is any work then the jobs are often with no prospects of promotion or further training ( or self employed under the tax radar thus trapped). It became clear that gentrification had pushed out the old community of seeing the place as home leaving them with no identity and thus no sense of place leading to non engagement, which eventually leads to the ‘I have nothing to loose attitude’ were the rot of crime and vandalism eats into the core of the community. So all might look rosy, but get below the skin. 
North Woolwich has the same problems though yet to be developed. The loss of the Docks caused a complete loss of identity to the community. Any sense of ‘pride of place’ is gone. If you have no job, hope of employment or low skilled with no future training, then the most beautiful park is not going to lift the spirits of a down beaten soul. If you want to understand more listen to ‘The Message’ by ‘Grand Masterflash and the Furious 5;

When a couple of life long residents were asked if they could have anything as part of a redevelopment what would it be, as quick as a flash, work, not just any work, but skilled work with training to bring back a pride in the individual and provide prospects and thus investment of the individual back into the area. So Work has to be at the core, as a means not only earn a living from the landscape, but create an identity of place to the resident, wanting to stay and raise a family and invest emotionally to the place. Then a park that is beautiful to the designer/visitor will have so much more meaning and beauty to the residents, whatever the income. Hope and prospects are an empty politicians promise unless there is a long term plan to deliver. So the Joseph Rowntree  commission report sums up various European dockside redevelopments which we can learn from;
Without a doubt a must read document for all who want to bring prosperity and ‘the of spirit of place’ to a space, so all who reside have a future of substance and prospect.
Framework rather than strict rules so adaption can occur as employment styles change, technology, community that adopts the as the space changes, global warming, political change, transport change (battery boosted bicycles), source energy (i.e. Fusion, when this comes on line it will be a World changer, squeezing two forms of Hydrogen atoms (heavy and heavy heavy) together to produce Helium plus a proton and energy (1 gallon of water= 300 gallons of petrol), even though some web sites say there is no waste product this is not entirely true as a radioactive product is produced, but through reprocessing it can be used to re-fuel and have a short half life (30 years instead of 24,000 years this is what happens in present re-processing plants for Fission waste) and less obvious types of employment moving into areo-space, heavy industry (which may comeback to theses shores as other countries become less competitive) Art, etc. 
Garden Design and Landscape Architecture
So what has the above got to do with our industry, well we no longer live a bubble as an industry. Design crosses platforms and inspiration can come from anywhere. So as the term ‘Garden Cities’ have come back into vogue (though I suspect those who use don’t understand the history of the movement) this is not just the property of Architects and town planners or even Landscape Architects/Garden Designers, but of designers who have a passion for people and the built landscape that they live in. 
Anyway you get my train of thought, we can’t entirely future proof our spaces, but we can leave room for future development that will always occur, ‘as this is our nature’. The beauty of humanity is its messiness as well as its order, both have a place and should be celebrated, so decay as well as pristine should be built in/admired…… At what point does decay turn from an eyesore to nostalgic ruins? Or any style come to think of it. Two Generations? I like modernists buildings from the 1930-50’s ( I was born in 1964) especially underground stations/Tunbridge wells main Civic Centre, I really dislike the Pastiche post modern buildings of the 80-90’s, not one thing or another, both were designed with the best of intentions, so a generational view can have an effect and which generation is in the driving seat. 

 ‘The Sprit of 45’  

Worth seeing the whole film to understand why Labour got in with such a land slide and 180 degree opposite plan to the previous generations and why Margret Thatcher turned it back again.
What next? We are still suffering from the big bang and all the consequences of short termism, the breaking up of unions (divide and rule), selling off of Natural Monopolies under the guise of competition. Capitalism has a hold, know one actually believes there is an alternative, but all the time the Press Barons hold the keys to our politicians it will be hard to unite, lets hope we don’t need war to unite us or extreme poverty, what ever happens it will be bottom up as it was in 1945.  


Walkable Neighbourhoods, interesting article by Fernando Pages Ruiz.

Worth a look…..very encouraging as the world moves from medium to higher density living, maybe the dream is no longer the semi with a 30m long garden, as our life styles change from the 20th century dream of copying the large country home within suburbia with a smaller version of the country estate in our rear garden to the 21 century city dweller whose ambition is no longer copying the landed gentry, but the highly mobile city dweller, not sure whether this is an entirely good thing, yes getting rid of urban sprawl, reliance on the car for everyday chores and generally thinking about the environment with all the consequences of consumerism. So what about personal green space? Or do we really concentrate on the value of public green space ( like the Victorians, though that was more about piety and guilt of the awful conditions that most of the poor had to deal with due to the totally free capitalist market with little regulation, thank god for the Roundtree commission, though 3 loaves a day as a minimum wage is still a disgrace….we seem to headed for the same cliff at present).


Thee New American Dream: Walkable Urban Neighbourhoods

By 2020 you’ll be living in a more sustainable community, even if you don’t know it. Market forces more powerful than eco-ethics or energy policies will drive the makeover of our towns and cities into pockets of walkable neighborhoods with varied retail and residential uses in close proximity, transforming both urban and suburban landscapes.
In short, suburban dormitory neighborhoods have become less desirable and downtown neighborhoods are the new American dream.
To compete with resurgent inner cities, the suburbs are developing their own versions of downtown where park-and-shop malls once stood. By 2020 this urban retrofit will be under construction throughout the U.S., even rural towns in regions as unlikely as the Bible Belt have started moving in this direction. By 2030, most of us will live in places that look a lot like Europe, with discernible local character and a defined center of commerce that serves as the nexus for community life.
Sure, the notion of walkable communities has become a political issue pitting rural conservatives against urban progressives. But by and large, the argument has been won through the economic success of walkable urban centers, which has motivated cash-strapped cities everywhere to support the creation of new, so-called lifestyle centers that recreate the urban experience.
The first towns to turn toward urban retrofit for tax revenue include neighborhoods in what Christopher Leinberger, Vision 2020 research chair for Sustainable Communities, would describe as the primary concentric ring of suburban development. Areas immediately adjacent to a competing metropolis, such as Wheat Ridge, just outside of Denver, which has recently undertaken the transformation of a major traffic artery lined with vacant storefronts and narrow sidewalks into a revived Main Street that draws commuters to–rather than through–the heart of town.
They began with a vision, “In the year 2030, people of all ages and abilities live, work, learn, shop, and play along 38th Avenue,” asserted the city’s planning document for the 38th Avenue Corridor Plan, adopted in October 2011. Then, using a low-cost approach, the City put the corridor on a “road diet” in the summer of 2012 by reducing the number of thru-traffic lanes from four to two. The diet created several benefits to the corridor, including a more attractive, pedestrian-friendly environment, reduced traffic speeds, increased safety, and the sought-for economic benefits, including the attraction of new businesses. The project has become the catalyst for a wider revitalization strategy strongly focused on creating multiple, community-focused hubs–or mini downtowns within what was once a sprawling Denver suburb.
Along the same lines, a recent USA Today article profiled several small cities that are becoming more cosmopolitan through similar redevelopment efforts. The article’s flagship was Carmel, a Midwestern suburb 20 miles north of Indianapolis. The town’s self-described European-style redevelopment effort has paid off handsomely: This year Money magazine ranked Carmel the No. 1 best place to live, with low unemployment, excellent schools, arts and culture, nature trails, and a huge community recreation complex. Other urban redevelopment efforts highlighted in the front-page feature included towns in Texas, Utah, and Colorado.
I have personally seen the transformation in the most unlikely place, rural Nebraska, where I lived and worked for nearly 20 years. The town of Ashland, between Lincoln and Omaha, revived its main street with cobblestone crosswalks and lured New York artists with promises of cheap studio space to create an attractive art district that now lures tourists off Interstate 80, and attracts a growing population of retired farmers wanting an urban, but not-so-big city experience. Meanwhile, following the lead of Omaha, which has become a national example of successful redevelopment, Lincoln recently doubled its efforts with a 2020 Vision of its own, in short order creating a vital downtown with ample residential, restaurant, retail, and office development. The result is palpable in the new vitality of downtown Lincoln, and the fact more college graduates now remain as permanent residents after graduation, in fact, Lincoln made the list at the Daily Beast among Richard Florida’s 25 best towns for college graduates, ranked above places like San Diego and Seattle.
The potency of this national shift toward walkable, non- automobile-centered life is both dramatic and historic. Car and single-family home sales have plummeted among people in the 21-to-34 year age group, a demographic that predicts trends likely to survive the next two decades. Auto makers have had to adjust sales to accommodate fleets of car-sharing services, instead of new car dealerships, and single-family home builders are becoming multifamily developers because this cohort of would-be first-time home buyers seems to prefer a small apartment in the high-rent district to a discounted mortgage in the suburbs, according to a recent Federal Reserve study.
I confess to a quiet skepticism about the power of the sustainable community movement at the outset of EcoHome’s Vision 2020 venture. But witnessing the quick conversion of places as far from urban fads as rural Nebraska in the light of all we have discussed during this first year of Vision 2020 has convinced me that Leinberger’s theory of demand-side transformation is indeed the most powerful force working to reduce our nation’s dependence on carbon-based energy. It is perhaps the only force potent enough to make a difference because it is based on human preferences, on what we want to do, vs. what we ought to do. The market, or demand-side strategy works despite political swings and has the self-determining economic muscle that makes things happen. There’s no need to set milestones and struggle to achieve them when social trends take over, as proven dramatically in the state of Florida, where Republican Governor Rick Scott turned down $2.4 billion in federal stimulus funding for a high-speed-rail line, only for private investors to step up and build the line themselves. Why? Because the market demands it.
I would not be surprised to see a similar result in Nebraska, with high-speed rail connecting Lincoln to Ashland and Omaha by 2030. Communities throughout the U.S. will become sustainable precisely because the elements that make them so coincide with the key ingredients of desirable living: a close-knit community, ready access to social engagement, and public amenities that provide recreational opportunities for all. The reduction in carbon will be a by-product of Americans pursuing their American dream.
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Dystopian Dream

I had a Dream

Alas it was more of a nightmare, it was just the large German Green buildings.

A quick doodle, inspired by ‘The Fountainhead’
Another by the ending of ‘Whisky Galore’ with a lot of Artistic licence 

Just doodling, a large victorian guard house, maybe….. 

The Brandon Estate at Camberwell maybe some peoples idea of a Modernist Dystopia, for me it’s a case of poor social engineering (you know who you are) and construction techniques. Celebrated with a Henry Moore.

Its nice to get lost in a bit of scribbling, don’t you think…