Thursday, 6 October 2011

Fleet, Hampshire and Charleston, South Carolina, USA

What have these two places got in common, you may ask?
One is a good example  of a street which acts as a people orientated space; in the other such spaces are all too rare. However, moves are being made to create that sort of space.

The centre of Fleet is dominated by its vast “High Street,” Fleet Road, which  stretches approximately 1 km from Fleet Railway Station towards Church Crookham. Along that entire distance, buildings are brought up to back of pavement. No one has to walk from the pavement, across a vast  car park to get to a building. 

 When car-based urban design began to take hold, many developers began to demand enormous car-parking spaces at the front of their buildings. These might have attracted passing motorists but essentially destroyed the street as an urban space. The plan below  showing  the centre of Fleet is instructive. The space of Fleet Road is defined by shopping. Car parks are provided but they are set back from the shopping street. Passageways connect the shopping to the car parks, ensuring the latter are visually repressed.

In recent decades, urban design has seemed focused on creating spaces entirely for cars not people. This is as true of Britain as it is in the USA. My last two images are from the City of Charleston, South Carolina where car based urbanism has produced what can only be described as wastelands, spaces devoid of any human or aesthetic quality.


This is what is  proposed as a replacement. Streets, framed by the architecture which surrounds them. As the plan in this example seems to indicate, the car parks, an inevitable accompaniment to any retail development , are tucked away to avoid visual  disruption. There also seems to be some housing, in walking distance of the shops. It  is implied that the site of the second series of photos is show in the first set  i.e. they are remodelling the spaces.

If the British Public demanded from their retailers high quality urban design instead of simply convenient car parking, then the quality of British urban design might improve.

Ask yourself what British spaces resemble the first  set of example from  Charleston, South Carolina. Then ask yourself why more spaces cannot be remodelled to resemble the second.

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