After the experiments of the ‘60s and ‘70s there is much better understanding of what does and doesn’t work when it comes to building and planning, as well as organisations keen to help everyone understand the issues.
English Heritage has done a lot of work on this with good information at www.english-heritage.org.uk/caring/save-our-streets/. (For a bit of fun take a look at the interactive street video which was produced by a Better Archway member and spot the various problem cases from round here that he’s managed to include.)
That’s what traffic causes, eroding the quality of the buildings alongside the road - the wider the road, the worse the effect. The problem has been tackled successfully in the Walworth Road by widening the pavements, so making the space more comfortable for pedestrians, and reducing traffic to a single lane in both directions – see www.projectcentre.co.uk/project_desc.php?id=22.
They describe where people want to walk – and do walk if they possibly can. The main desire line you used to see in Archway was from the island straight to the tube station – where people crossed doggedly, despite the traffic and lack of pedestrian protection. There’s another one between the tube and the leisure centre, though that’s less obvious because the people who want to go that way have to do a dog leg in front of the library. There’s more on the subject at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desire_path.
Proportion Not Detail
The Islington Urban Design Guide https://www.islington.gov.uk/~/media/sharepoint-lists/public-records/environmentalprotection/qualityandperformance/reporting/20112012/20120303islingtonurbandesignguide2006 helps focus on what does and does not work in terms of design and can be referred to in responses to planning applications. It demonstrates that modern design can make a positive contribution, but not when a new building doesn’t acknowledge the proportions and scale of existing buildings around it.
Designing Out Crime
Crime Levels on the Girdlestone are much higher than on neighbouring street properties which are also Homes for Islington housing. Much research indicates that the root cause is the lack of front doors, so those on the street know they can get away before anyone can get to them. Designing out crime has become official policy – more detail at www.designcouncil.org.uk/our-work/challenges/security/design-out-crime/.
Positive and Negative Edges
This is about whether there are openings in the building which are inviting in some way – a shop is a positive edge, most of the bottom of Archway Tower is negative edge. For an example see CABE’s comments on a proposed building for Old Street roundabout at http://webarchive.nationalarchives.gov.uk/20110118095356/http:/www.cabe.org.uk/design-review/100-city-road.