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Jigsaw cities

Jigsaw cities: Big places, small spaces

Anne Power
John Houghton
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  • Book Info
    Jigsaw cities
    Book Description:

    Through a close look at major British cities, using Birmingham as a case study, the book explores the origins of Britain's acute urban decline and sprawling exodus; the reasons why 'one size doesn't fit all' in cities of the future and the potential for smart growth, mixed communities and sustainable cities. Based on live examples and hands-on experience, this extremely accessible book offers a unique 'insider' perspective on policy making and practical impacts. It will attract policymakers in cities and government as well as students, regeneration bodies, community organisations and environmental specialists.

    eISBN: 978-1-84742-233-0
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. List of tables, figures and photographs
    (pp. vii-x)
  2. ONE Introducing Jigsaw cities
    (pp. 1-10)

    This book is grounded in the reality of life of Britain’s major cities, particularly Birmingham, the city that inspired this book. The pessimistic view holds that cities are too polluted, too scarred by decades of demolition and ugly concrete building and too fundamentally untamed to work. Our cities are a costly burden, and although urbanism has enjoyed a revival in recent years it has not inspired the millions who have left Britain’s cities over the past century to give them another chance, particularly not working families with children. In cities across the world, environmental degradation, dirt and congestion, stark inequalities...

  3. Part 1: How did we get here?

    • TWO Jigsaws and Lego sets
      (pp. 13-36)

      Chapter One set out the idea of a jigsaw city, the challenge of piecing together many distinct and moving parts defying planned, orderly transitions. Our urban history, detailed in this chapter, illustrates this rough and ready pattern of development. Between 1801 and 1901 Britain experienced an amazing population shift that would be impossible to orchestrate. The total population quadrupled, going from 9 million to 36 million, and the balance between the urban and rural populations was dramatically reversed. At the start of the century, only 20% of people lived in urban areas; by the end of the century, that figure...

    • THREE Breaking up the jigsaw
      (pp. 37-54)

      Joseph Rowntree’s high-minded son, the meticulous social researcher Seebohm Rowntree, was shocked to discover in his native city of York that, as the new century dawned, a large minority still lived in deep hardship, even starvation. The reality of poverty, squalor and disease drove new forms of town planning that were supposed to overcome the endemic problems of urban poverty. One Utopian model of urban and housing planning was developed in the early 20th century with real enthusiasm and exported all over the world. The Garden City movement managed to combine enterprise and cooperation, houses and gardens with public and...

    • FOUR Building the New Jerusalem – vision and reality
      (pp. 55-78)

      Governments of all political persuasions have used their housing policies to encapsulate a much broader philosophical approach to the state of cities. In 1918 and 1945, new housing was the reward for victory in war, a collective national effort. The politics of mass housing became so dominant after the wars because we relied on councils to build for the masses and councils are political bodies. It made housing a stop-go, government spending spree, a quick vote-catcher and a steering wheel rather than the undercarriage of urban development. Planning new settlements swept through communities as the dream answer to what after...

    • FIVE Cities bounce back – piecing communities together again
      (pp. 79-102)

      Housing, important as it is, does not alone determine the nature of communities or the shape of cities. Cities are organic structures and their many small parts do fit together once we understand how they work. Looking back on the 1960s it is hard to believe that the country could be blinded to the excesses of mass housing and the blighting of cities. People were so mesmerised by the newness, the drama and power of the giant cranes, gleaming white concrete and futuristic designs that they literally looked down on their heritage of close-packed, small, soot-blackened streets. At least the...

  4. Part 2: Where are we now?

    • SIX Britain’s cities today: a progress report
      (pp. 105-134)

      Where do Britain’s many urban communities stand today? They do not always fit together; they are not always interconnected; and they have lost many jobs, skills and working residents. Heavy industries have gone, and traditional streets are struggling against suburban attractions. People’s expectations of the homes and neighbourhoods where they live and raise their families have changed and many dislike cities. Cities generally face an uncertain future as environmental problems gather momentum, threatening our river-hugging cities with floods but also exposing chronic water shortages, energy insecurity and traffic gridlock. This would have been unimaginable only a few generations ago. We...

    • SEVEN Britain’s cities of yesterday and tomorrow
      (pp. 135-160)

      If the Sustainable Communities Plan reinforced by the Barker Review of Housing reads like a house builders’ bonanza, it has made many existing communities shudder. People not only worry about growth pressures and the threat of swamping every outlying village with new estates; they worry if they live in older areas about general decay and the renewed threat of the bulldozer. In the year after the plan came out, the government suggested that over the period of the plan up to 400,000 demolitions might eventually be required to ‘modernise’ and ‘ revitalise’ our declining cities – the very opposite of community...

  5. Part 3: Where do we go from here?

    • EIGHT Smart cities work
      (pp. 163-186)

      In the final two chapters of this book we set out five ways in which jigsaw cities can evolve. In this chapter we look first at the notion of recycling cities through smart growth, and second at the need for neighbourhood management as part of renewing them. In the last chapter we look at what would make cities more sustainable, how to turn existing communities into more mixed communities and how to involve communities more directly in the process.

      By thinking of cities as jigsaws that fit tightly together, we see ways of creating sustainable communities within the existing built-up...

    • NINE Future cities: piecing the jigsaw together
      (pp. 187-214)

      In the last chapter we looked at two conditions for successful cities: smart growth and neighbourhood renewal. In this final chapter we explore three final conditions: environmental sustainability; mixing existing communities; and changing ways of running cities. These five conditions redirect our energies away from grand, sweeping plans to something more finely tuned, more careful, more respectful of what is already there and what the wider environment can support.

      Human greed has put us on nature’s warning system and sheer stupidity threatens our survival. London’s flood risks are greatly increased by allowing millions of suburban homeowners to concrete over their...

  6. Afterword: the urban jungle or urban jigsaw?
    (pp. 215-216)

    When Gaudi, the great Catalan architect and urban artist, designed a new basilica for his beloved Barcelona late in the 19th century, he had trees rather than stone in mind. The great building is not yet finished but his grand design shows clearly through. The huge supporting stone columns and arches are carved as vast trunks and branches of an enveloping forest. For he believed that buildings were akin to immense, protective trees. Standing inside the columns and arches of the half-built basilica, the connection between human-built structures and natural ones comes alive. Gaudi’s greatest work was to capture this...