Impacts of large scale development: does space make a difference?


Large scale development, a process to rapidly transform urban built environment since the industrial modernism, has been often criticized for creating fragmented environments that impair urban vitality. Many opponents of large scale development, especially the Jacobists, further addressed its destructive impacts upon those most directly affected, such as the communities and the marginal businesses in the vicinity. How far does an insertion of a large scale development impact on its surroundings? And how far do the surroundings impact on a development? Does space, or space configuration as defined by Hillier, matter in the two-way processes of interaction between a development and its surroundings at the urban design level? This paper gives a comparative study, through the appliance of space syntax methodology, of Canary Wharf in London and Brindleyplace in Birmingham from 1991 to 2001. During this period, Canary Wharf had slowly shifted evolving from development with deregulation in the first phase to a process of cooperation with local authorities, whilst benefiting from good links to the rest of London via a tube line and an express way, but it has been still criticized for failing to achieve social regeneration; Brindleyplace, however, at first applied a traditional urban design approach to integration with urban setting and has been appraised as a model of urban renaissance. This paper analyses whether the different spatial strategies result in the different spatial configurations, and then whether pedestrian movement dynamics and social aggregations respond to and shape the different spatial configurations before and after the developments. Evidence from these aspects direct the paper to suggest that spatial configurations at street level could play a fundamental role, prior to and beyond development size, in two-way impacts between a large scale development and its surroundings, whether positive or negative. Furthermore, it argues that whether a large scale development becomes a positive or negative attractor to its surroundings at a variety of interconnected levels could be primarily determined by the relationship between spatial patterns at different radii. The process of two-way influences between a development and its surroundings might shed the light on interaction between pattern and process in complex urban system and related social issue of urban fragmentation during the period of rapid but planned urban transformation after the Industry Revolution

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