Monday, 9 September 2013


In 1993 The Prince laid the founding stones for the 400-acre Poundbury development at Dorchester. This new “urban village” eschews modernist planning principles and auto-dependent suburban housing in favor of a diverse, walkable mixed-use traditional model. Now half complete, it is possible to evaluate how well the original goals are being achieved.

Poundbury was conceived as a compact, mixed use neighborhood that would prevent sprawl and maintain a clear boundary between the built, and the natural environment. Like a traditional village or small town, Poundbury succeeds admirably in this goal.

Fundamental to the development was to ensure that it fitted appropriately into its geographic and cultural context. Poundbury was intended to genuinely reflect the character of traditional Dorset towns, particularly Dorchester, the small County town to which it is connected. Traditional materials, construction methods, window, door and roof detailing were all modeled after existing patterns.

Unique buildings, often by renowned architects, are placed at focal points and turns in the street to enhance the vista and strengthen a sense of place.

As Phase Two is completed, a new aesthetic is emerging. A more civic style of architecture is appearing, with terraced, mixed-use buildings, particularly around Butter Market, the square at the heart of Phase Two, and at Queen Mother Square that will form the heart of Poundbury.
Architecturally, Phase One excels in creating an aesthetic, human scale environment at a village scale. Phase Two creates a more urban environment that reflects some of the best British architectural traditions from a broader region. While some cavil at the apparent abandonment of the original, more modest aesthetic, Poundbury was proposed as an “urban village”, a concept that integrates these two scales.

The layout of streets and succession of open spaces are pleasing to move through, with unique architectural focal points at the culmination of each street view. They are not laid out on a grid, but relate to the lay of the land, and to the natural gathering points at the lowest, and highest points.
Streets and squares are designed for the pedestrian scale, and subtle traffic calming devices are in place – paving stones to mark transitions, raised platforms, short jogged streets, and roundabouts at major intersections.

It is the proximity of business, residential, commercial and service facilities to each other, and to hospitable public places that generates social life in the public realm, facilitating the development of community. The plan paid attention to creating places, but apart from Pummery Square, the building uses around these places are not yet in place.
Currently, there are only 2,000 residents (complete, it will house 5,000). Statistics show that Poundbury has almost exactly the same demographics in age ranges as Dorchester, though Poundbury has a slightly higher percentage of children (18.2% aged 0-15, compared to 15.8%). This has been achieved in part by the fact that 30% of the housing is social housing – houses and flats indistinguishable from market rate homes.

Poundbury is already home to 140 businesses that provide employment for some 1,600 people, making it possible for a substantial percentage of the population to live within walking distance of their place of work, if they wish. Businesses include Dorset Cereals factory; 27 services including medical, dental, therapy, hair and beauty, financial advisors; 19 shops, including a supermarket, a garden center, bike sales, clothing, furnishings; 10 eating places; 6 offices; 6 real estate agents; and a bed and breakfast.
Like many cities around the world, Dorchester and Poundbury suffer from the proximity of large shopping malls and big box retail. Dorchester’s main street shops failed to maintain upper floor residences over shops. They are vacant, or used for storage, so in the evening the main street is dead, making the main street even less attractive. Weekly shopping is conducted by car at the mall. Large supermarkets containing pharmacy, bakery, meat and fish counters also destroy the opportunity for specialized independent shops to survive on main street.
When Poundbury was first conceived, the conventional wisdom was that planning a new compact mixed use ‘urban village’ that would help prevent sprawl was radical and impossible to achieve.
Poundbury has already proved extremely successful in the visual aspects of architecture and urban design, in it human scale, use of traditional materials and architectural forms, and ecologically sustainable features.

No comments:

Post a Comment