Gender issues in planning theory and practice

The essay discusses the significance of gender issues in planning practice. Gender refers to the associations, stereotypes and social patterns that a culture constructs on the basis of actual or perceived differences between men and women (Nelson 1995, p132). The interests of women had historically been neglected by planners. The problems that arose for women due to this lack of consideration in the planning process have been discussed. Various concerns of women planners have been identified. RTPI’s “The Gender Mainstreaming Toolkit” has been discussed which was developed as a measure for promoting equality between men and women in the planning context. The current position of women planners has been discussed.

Planning has always been male dominant (Greed, 1994) in the developed countries (Sandercock and Forsyth, 1990). Moser and Levi (1986) and Moser (1989) observed that the situation was distinctly opposite in developing countries. The 1970s brought gender consideration into focus in planning practice. Sandercock and Forsyth in their paper “A New Gender Agenda – New Directions for Planning Theory” explained the contributions of feminist theories to planning theory in five areas; namely spatial, economic and social relationships; language and communication; epistemology and methodology; ethics; and the nature of public domain.


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History of the Evolution of Planning in England

Planning in theory and practice

The British planning system evolved as a result of various social, economic and political events that took place in the last two centuries. Initially, town planners had the sole responsibility for making decisions about the development and redevelopment of towns and cities. It was only after the post-war period that the importance and relevance of public participation was realized and taken into consideration. This apportion of decision-making power to the public brought about a change in the role of planners in society, from being sole controllers to advocates. Planning theories were developed with a view to provide a firm base for the planning practitioners. The relationship between planning theory and planning practice has always been under constant deliberation and is still evolving.

In earlier days, planners worked in a professional and politically controlled system. The discussions and plans were presented in a professional way which consisted of technical jargon that the public could not be expected to understand (Glass, 1959 cited in Cullingworth and Nadin, 2006). At the time, however, planners were perceived as acting in the general public interest, and hence the lack of public participation and political debate was not recognized as a problem.

During the post-war period, the need for urban and rural development became a necessity. Housing estates were being constructed with few amenities and urban centres rebuilt along with motorways to take in increasing traffic. Development in the villages was neglected and they suffered from a lack of proper infrastructure (Cullingworth and Nadin, 2006). This led to the destruction of social and physical fabric of the place and put planners in a difficult situation. Planners were seen as hostile figures and planning was conceived as bad (Allmendinger, 2009). Public participation was then introduced by Town and Country Planning Act in 1968 (Williams, 1984). Planning authorities created informal mechanisms which encouraged participation of local communities and interest groups to play a part in formulating and implementing planning policy.


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Waste House Construction, Brighton, UK

Case study of Waste House in Brighton | Grand Parade Campus

Waste House is being constructed in the Grand Parade Campus of University of Brighton. Brighton is town in the southeast of England, UK. Duncan Baker Brown and Cat Fletcher are leads in the project. It is a challenging project. This house is going to be used as a studio for postgraduate design students. It will be open to public for viewing. The aim of the project is to demonstrate how waste can be efficiently used for the construction purposes without having to compromise on the quality.

Waste house | Brighton

Waste house | Brighton.  Source: theargus.co.uk

Materials selected for the Waste House Project

Roof – solar roof (Solar PV tiles have been used on the roof.)

Sky harvester – Natural light source

Rainwater harvesting

Timber from local sustainer sources

Second hand timber

Since it is second hand timber and that its strength cannot be determined, the structural engineer assumes that the timber is of the weakest type and compensates in the design accordingly.

Walls

Lightweight prefabricated panels = lots of insulation

Reuse waste materials such as Hemp, glass, earth, tins, straw, carpet tiles

Heavy weight prefabricated panels = lots of heat storage

Chalk wall – 10 tonnes of chalk used + 10% clay

(Although only 100% chalk would mean better wall strength)


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National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG)

National Planning Practice Guidance (NPPG) published online

I came across an interesting piece of news online. A final version of National Planning Practice Guidance has been launched by DCLG (Department for Communities and Local Government) with an aim to make the planning system easier to use.

The Planning Minister Nick Boles in his written ministerial statement said, “Planning should not be the preserve of lawyers, developers or town hall officials” and that local communities should be able to shape the new development. They should possess the knowledge as to where the development should and should not go.

Boles highlighted a number of points of how the government was going to tackle the issues in planning which include,

Issuing robust flood risk guidance;

Green belt protection to be taken seriously;

Testing the soundness of the local plan where the authorities have failed to identify land for growth;

Counting of windfalls over the whole local plan period;

Considering student housing, housing for the aged and reusing vacant properties in order to assess the housing needs;


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Analysis of New Road Design in Brighton

I visited New Road in Brighton (it is a town on the south coast of Great Britain) close to the town centre with Paula Goncalves, a councillor at Brighton and Hove City Council. It is a newly redeveloped street by Gehl Architects.

After having seen the street, I analysed the changes that took place. I was sure that the street went through a radical transformation. I realised the important of using apprpriate paving materials on a pedestrian street. It is important to maintain consistency in terms of type of pavers, its shape, colour and quality of installation are all responsible for the effect that is produced. The use of paving material all over the street emphasises that it is a pedestrian friendly street. Although it has speed restrictions for the cars, it successfully articulates, divides and links different areas in urban fabric.

New Road in Brighton

New Road in Brighton. This street gives an illusion of wider street. Interesting colours have been used in the paving. People walk on the street relaxed and totally unworried regarding the moving traffic.

New Road map

New Road map. As you can see in the map, the new road connects Church Street and North Street, the major roads in Brighton.


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Public Speaking Skills in the life of an Architect

Importance of Public Speaking in Architecture

The life of an Architect is centered around giving presentations…loads and loads of presentations. It starts as an architecture student presenting design concepts in the university to the real life design concepts to the individual clients to massive organisations. All of this takes effective communication. If you all the design skill in the world but are a poor communicator of your ideas, it will still not work. Having excellent ideas is great but not being able to communicate them to your audience effectively is bad. I have realized that ideas need not have to be great or super awesome but your delivery has to be. Even a simple idea maybe not even an original one if delivered effectively with confidence can seem like a great idea to the audience. Speech has power and magic in it!

When I was in architecture school, I had batch mates that were really excellent with design but terrible at presentations. They literally shivered when they went on to present to the class or to the jurors. Their designs were amazing but they lack proper delivery. Shivering on stage is the worst thing that could happen to you when you are presenting on stage. This is only because of lack of confidence and practice.

Look at Steve Jobs speak. This is the kind of confidence you need in order to succeed. He is an extraordinarily amazing speaker!

For all of you wanting to become an Architect, it should be borne in mind that Architects have to be essentially very good speakers. Being able to communicate to the audiences of different types and sizes is always a challenge. Everytime I have discussions with my clients, it feels like I am presenting. It is a one to one presentation. Presentations are an important and indispensable part of an Architect’s life.


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Relationship of planning theory and planning practice

Role of Planning Theorists from a Planning Practitioner’s viewpoint

Planning theory has always been criticised by a number of practitioners. They are of the opinion that planning theory does not make sense. It does not link planning practice. Sandercock and Forsysth, 1992 argue that there is a huge gap between planning theory and planning practice. However, there are some other planners who believe that planning theory plays a significant role in planning practice and cannot be ignored. Friedmann, 2003 argued that planning practice cannot exist without planning theory. Planning theory acts as a base for the planning practitioners to present solutions to the practical problems in planning.

The planning system would not work without theories. Theories act as a base for the planning practioners.

planning theory

A lot of confusion revolves around the relationship between planning theory and planning practice. I decided to interview one of the planning practitioner. I had an opportunity to interview one of the councillors named Paula Goncalves at Brighton & Hove City Council. Her point of view was in favour of planning theorists.

Here is what she explained:

Theorists try to make sense of what happens in planning (how policies are devised, how decisions are made, how particular interests influence policy making and implementation, the role planners, politicians, developers, communities and others involved in the planning process interact and so) .

There are various ways in which theorists do this.

Some seek to identify patterns and to describe/explain in a structured manner how planning works to produce in order to improve how things are done.

Others use seek theory to communicate a more radical vision of places should be like, their utopia, let’s say.

What is clear is that planning theory changes over time and even at any particular time it is likely that there will be a number of different, at times, competing visions of what planning should do.


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Coastal Town Problems

The article discusses some of the problems faced by coastal towns. The elements of tourism and resort activities have to be considered for the upheaval of local economies. This has been the development pattern since the 18th century forming a part of industrial revolution. Understanding the past is necessary to place the current situation in place. English seaside resorts have always heavily depended on the domestic markets. The coastal towns have tried to preserve their distinctiveness and authenticity with regards to Architectural and cultural heritage.

Brighton | Coastal Town

Brighton | Coastal Town

Lack of innovation and loss of media credibility took place in the last generations. What kinds of coastal or seaside town are at issue, how the resort element in their economies fits into past trajectories, present circumstances and failure options, to what extent the problems we identify in the early 21st century are new; what options are available; and what kinds of intervention might be helpful across a broad spectrum?

General issues in coastal towns

  • Poor communication between different sectors
  • Lack of knowledge regarding different organizational cultures
  • Technical standards need to be discussed
  • A shared realization among stakeholders to ensure impending problems do not occur


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Planning System in the UK

Planning System and its complexities

The UK planning system is constantly evolving. It lays a huge emphasis on flexibility which enables the planning system to meet diverse requirements and keep up with the pace of changing nature of problems. Regulating the development and use of land in the public interest has been a major objective of the British planning system. This is where land use planning comes into play. It is a process through which the land uses are determined. Politics, conflict and dispute are at the centre of land use planning. Planning is an important tool that can be used to solve these conflicts.

Cullingworth and Nadin, 2006 define planning as the process by which government resolves disputes about land uses. The increased importance of public participation in the planning processes is to effectively reduce the scope for future conflict.

My argument is that if it is possible to have a planning system which would predict future changes that may have an impact on the system.

Policy making is significant. The clearer it is, the lesser scope it gives for arguing and easier is its application and implementation. Policies keep evolving. Sometimes there are cases where there is no relevant policy to analyse the case against it. This is where policy makers come into picture.
The major difference of the plans in the UK and many other countries is that plans in the UK are not part of the law but made under the law whereas in other countries plans to be issued or enacted as law gives them considerable importance. This feature makes the UK system more complicated than the others. Hence, more room for disputes and the number of courts in the UK have risen.


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Google Acquiring Smart Home Energy Management company Nest Labs for $3.2 Billion

Internet giant Google is acquiring smart home and connected devices company Nest Labs for $3.2 billion. Nest Labs is best known for designing modern connected thermostats and smoke detector systems. Nest Learning Thermostat launched in 2011 is an automated HVAC controller which learns your habits and helps you save energy. Nest Protect is an internet-connected smoke and carbon monoxide detector which can me remotely monitored.

Google is ready to enter the young and fragmented active sustainable systemshome automation and green tech industry, and leverage its global platform reach to take it by the storm. Google had hinted about its plans for its own home  connected platform Android @Home.

Nest Thermostat | Google

Nest Thermostat | Google

The agreement is currently pending government regulatory approval, which wouldn’t really be a hurdle for Google at this point.


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