At the root of our masterplanning thinking is the desire to understand the character of a place to ensure that, at the very least, we make an informed contribution to each each setting. We are however at a serious disadvantage as the proposals we describe in our masterplans can only be a general layout and distribution of built form, not the detailed anticipated design of the buildings. Our understanding of existing character is however hugely shaped by the built form. How do we then capture this without knowing what the buildings will be like or often what the buildings will contain in function?
We have to hint at it.
A little mind experiment explores this issue. The first, Edinburgh New Town with its symmetrical configuration and composed vistas, represents a generous formality echoed in its architectural gracefulness. On the other hand the intricacy of Poundbury suits its more intimate and fragmented scale of built form. Swap the architectures round and the Poundbury massing would scarcely register on the Edinburgh scale whilst the Edinburgh scale would overwhelm Poundbury’s setting.
Implicit in any good plan therefore should be clues as to the scale and articulation of its urban form.
Our urban project for Collegelands explores such a formal idea. Embedded in its plan were two key existing features, a fragment of retained wall along the line of Duke Street and the canted bay format of the site junction at the High Street in Glasgow. The plan has elaborated these urban ‘hints’ to become the overriding characteristics of the urban envelope, building sitting on or adjacent to that wall and canted bay elaborations to the High Street.
The result is a plan form embedded into the surrounding urban fabric and by implication adopting an echo of its urban scale and detail articulation. By assuming and reinterpreting these clues a plan has emerged with an ingrained order relating to its setting.