Urban Conservation, Design and Form

We see the three topic areas of urban conservation, urban design and urban form (also known as urban morphology) as being inextricably interlinked. These fields have clear 'boundaries' in terms of academic disciplines and existing (or emerging) professions. Yet there is much more to the overall picture than the sum of these individually bounded parts. A sustained interest and activity across all three areas by several staff over more than 15 years has produced a substantial body of work. The following themes have been of interest:

In conservation

  • the conservation system, principally but not solely in the UK, including assessments of its success
  • the workings of the development control (and now spatial planning) system in designated conserved areas, including the issues of "fitting in" new development
  • area character and appraisal
  • more recently we are thinking about conservation more widely - extending the concerns to non-urban contexts

In urban design

  • mechanisms of design control
  • area character, quality and sense of place

In urban form

  • the study of urban form
  • the relationship between historic and new forms
  • agents and agency in urban form
  • control mechanisms shaping urban form
  • green space and urban structure

There are also strong links between our work on post-war reconstruction and the themes of conservation, design and form.

Work on various aspects of urban character, quality and form has been undertaken for the Royal Town Planning Institute, the Seoul Development Institute, Birmingham City Council and Stratford upon Avon District Council. The Stratford work was formally adopted as Supplementary Planning Guidance.

The International Urban Form Study was commissioned by the Seoul Development Institute and coordinated through ISUF (the International Seminar on Urban Form). It identified a series of 'world cities', within which broadly comparable 500m x 500m grid squares were studied in detail. The cities were Seoul, Tokyo, London, Paris, New York and Los Angeles. Peter Larkham undertook the London study.

Work on urban form has benefitted from strong links with ISUF. Peter Larkham is Associate Editor of its refereed journal Urban Morphology. There are also strong links with the Urban Morphology Research Group at the University of Birmingham, where both Peter Larkham and Nick Morton obtained their PhDs. Both have published jointly with Professor J.W.R. Whitehand, the most prominent figure in UK urban morphology, who is also a Visiting Professor attached to this Research Centre.

Peter Larkham co-authored the Glossary of Urban Form, still a useful resource, and by courtesy of the Royal Geographical Society/Institute of British Geographers it is now available electronically. Peter also wrote a substantial overview paper on 'The study of urban form in Great Britain' for Urban Morphology.

We are interested in developing further collaborative ventures and projects in this broad area.