Olga’s post has brought into discussion one of the issues of contemporary urbanism that has had more relevance in recent years. In her post, she highlighted some of the most important features about the Urban Villages, which have been popular developments in the UK since the second part of the last century. This movement have sought to introduce some of the characteristics of the ancient small towns, using design strategies such as the preservation of compactness, creation of well-defined boundaries and production of active centres with symbolic and meaningful buildings and art elements (Mare, 2008).
However, this idea of making neighbourhoods as villages has been criticized by several professionals, who put in doubt its appropriateness to create true urban life and public realm (Landman, 2008). Mike Biddulph, professor at Cardiff University, points out that the notion of “Urban Village” is ambiguous and confuse by itself, being a marketing strategy rather than a concrete planning concept. Likewise, he also criticizes the fact that is impossible to pretend that people will only use the facilities of urban villages, if they have also the possibility of go to the city centre or shopping malls (Biddulph, 2000).
Biddulph also concludes that urban villages are “naive and anti-urban settlements”, which encourages a fragmented construction of the city, in the sense that each neighbourhood tries to function in isolation like “urban islands”, instead of working all of them as a complete framework.
“The city should be understood as a far more complex phenomenon which enjoys significant overlapping of functional, social, economic or environmental systems.”
Based on the above, it is necessary to continue the studies about the fitness of these types of developments in the whole vision of the city and regional scale. Urban villages have several good intentions of making districts more walkable, stronger in identity and more diverse in uses and services. Nevertheless, these aims of distinctiveness and self-sufficiency must be analysed carefully, with the propose of keeping the unity and complementarity of the multiple neighbourhoods in the urban area.
Cities are spaces intricate and multifaceted, where people can satisfy their requirements in specialized buildings and infrastructure, which are impossible to fit in all neighbourhoods. It is then a subject of scale, where some of the basic needs can be supplied by local facilities, while the more complex can be located in other areas, complemented by an efficient transport system that reduce the car dependence to the minimum required.
Biddulph, Mike. (2000). Villages don’t make a city. Journal of Urban Design. (http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/135748000112981?needAccess=true)
Biddulph, Mike., Tait, M. and Franklin, B. (2002). The Urban Village: A Real or Imagined Contribution to
Sustainable Development?. Department of City and Regional Planning, Cardiff University. (http://orca.cf.ac.uk/10523/1/Final%20Report.pdf)
Landman, Karina. (2008). Gated neighbourhoods in South Africa: an appropriate urban design approach? Urban Design International.
Mare, Christhopher. (2008). The urban village, sinergy of ecology and urbanism. Village Design Institute. (http://www.villagedesign.org/vdi_writings/Urban_Village_Synergy.pdf)