Monday, 6 July 2009

An Old New Town

Milton Keynes/Wikipedia

I spent sometime in Milton Keynes last week, this was the first time I had had the privilege of visiting this much talked about town.

My first challenge was getting there, as a regular train traveller cutting across country was going to be problematic. The answer was to head into London and back out to Milton Keynes. I was on a secret mission and the first thing that struck me on that particular day was the incredible heat with temperatures reaching 32 degrees.

At _space we talk much about sustainable communities and I am always looking for the collective elements that can make this happen. Clearly, at some point, Milton Keynes was thought to be state of the art. Many years later the masterplan has been developed and the new community created.

What I am not sure about is, if this is an integrated or sustainable community. It has all of the pieces but many of the elements operate in isolation. It has to be economically sustainable in that it is operated for several years and continues to grow. However the roundabouts and road system gave little priority for pedestrians with huge industrial zones being surrounded by forests of trees.

The housing seemed to be remote lacking the usual mix of a buildings and styles developed over many years.

Much of the architecture was of a similar 60ies and 70ies style again with little response to human scale.

It would seem from the outside that commercially Milton Keynes has been successful, possibly due to its good links to London by both road and rail. I would challenge however, whether this is the best place to live if there is the rich mix of uses, ages and architecture which can create a place.

I came away from Milton Keynes believing that it was difficult to force a community to happen on a rigid plan such as this. Communities need to evolve over time and respond to the times in which they develop.

Places also need to be particular to their geography and I did feel that whilst I thought I had not been to Milton Keynes before I had visited the same place in Telford and Washington.

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