A British study reveals what people really want in their cities to look like. The authors themselves state that the result is remarkably clear. People want to see classic streets and neighborhoods with buildings in a traditional style.
The British research institute Create Streets, in collaboration with the Prince’s Foundation For Building Community, has released a report titled Housing Communities: What People Want. The foundation stands out in having consulted more than 100 communities and 8,000 people over more than 20 years and so has a detailed insight into what people actually think about new development.
Green Spaces and Walkable Neighborhoods
According to the authors, the results from the interviews, spontaneous responses, and questionnaires are remarkably consistent and clear. Despite the vast amount of data from various sources and collected in different ways, there was significant similarity in the responses of those surveyed.
While a desire for green spaces was expected, the support for urban planning that prioritizes pedestrian-friendly streets and walkable neighborhoods proved to be equally high. People want the ability to move on foot, which necessitates a blend of functions. Housing, commerce, offices, entertainment, and more should be located in the same buildings or, at the very least, within the same neighborhoods. The study also reveals a strong desire to reduce traffic and the impact of automobiles on the city, alongside a preference for high-quality public transportation.
84% Prefer Buildings in Traditional Style
Almost equally significant is the wish for places to feel special and the desire for greater respect for historical forms, styles, and materials. The visual language of modernism is, therefore, as unpopular as an aesthetic expression as it is as an urban planning ideal. A staggering 84% prefer buildings in a traditional style, with traditional forms and materials.
The Support for High-rise buildings is Low
At the same time, support for tall buildings is low, with 83% opposing them. The resistance to tall buildings might appear problematic as mixed-use development, where many functions and activities are concentrated in a small area, requires a certain level of density. However, the report emphasizes that similar density can be achieved through a classical neighborhood structure as with high-rises. Skyscrapers, for example, require a significant amount of open space around the building to allow for natural light, unlike lower buildings that can be placed more closely together.
To further illustrate the clarity of the pattern, the authors compare contrasting questions, revealing both the support and opposition certain factors encounter. Thus, tall buildings face not only strong opposition but also weak support, at just 12%. It is worth noting that it’s not just tall buildings that meet resistance but also large or large-scale structures in general.
Public Overwhelmingly Opposes Demolishing Historical Buildings
Support for demolishing historical buildings is very low, at only 9%. Generally, people prefer to preserve what exists and build upon these foundations rather than demolish existing buildings, which often hold significant meaning for the character of the area. Therefore, greater consideration should be given to planned demolitions than has been the case during the second half of the 20th century.
Report Calls for Alignment of Visions
In summary, the Create Streets and Prince’s Foundation For Building Community report provides a compelling account of the elements that resonate most deeply with communities in the realm of urban development. These findings serve as a clarion call for architects, urban planners, and policymakers to align their visions with the genuine desires of the people they serve, ushering in an era of community-centric urban development.