Drawing on specific examples, explore the ways in which ‘villages don’t make a city’ (Biddulph)
As Biddulph (2000) acknowledges in his paper “Villages Don’t Make a City”, the urban village is gaining popularity in the UK. The polycentric city structure is by many regarded as a model for the future. However, there is an ongoing discussion on whether sustainable cities should be ‘monocentric’; built around a main body, or ‘polycentric’; consisting of several smaller, oftentimes independent entities or villages. The pressure on UK neighbourhood planning has grown since 2008 (Cox et al., 2013: p. 2) and is also an evident factor in urban structure. According to the UN’s population division, over half of the the world’s population live in urban areas, and the number is growing; the urban population in UK in 1988-9 was 92% of the respective total population (Elkin and McLaren with Hillman, 1991 cited in Frey, 1999); and the ever-growing urban landscape is expanding so fast we might see ‘infinite cities’ in the future (Skeates, 2007). Thus, in order to keep them sustainable, it is more important than ever to focus on the planning and structuring of these areas. In this essay I shall explore some of issues identified with polycentrism, with a particular focus on on the ‘urban village’ (term coined by the UVG, date unknown, cited in Franklin et al., 2002: p. 6).
The term ‘urban village’ is in itself hard to define precisely. Gregory and Smith (1986) suggests that it is a residential district with a significant clustering of individuals with similar cultural and ethnic backgrounds. This definition, however, is somewhat vague and perhaps outdated. According to Biddulph (2000), urban villages ‘adopt the same principals’ a...
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...e urban village, which remains one of the most popular futuristic polycentric models for urban sustainability. It is not without reason that the urban village concept has gained its popularity, however criticisms include e.g. economic prospects, eco-friendliness and its possible ‘imagined contribution’ to society (Franklin et al., 2002). A monocentric approach to city planning provides a main body for governing and legal functions and arenas for both the neoliberal consumer market and necessary religious instalments, while neighbourhoods provide environmental awareness and a sense of locality. What is also important to take into consideration, as Haughton and Hunter (1994) and Schwanen et al. (2013) points out, is that sociodemographic, geographical and socio-spatial factors still play a major role in determining which urban model is best suited for different cities.
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