Walking the Streets: No More Motorways for Belfast

This article explores how the spatial qualities and diversity of one of Belfast’s main arteries, North Street/Peter’s Hill, was transformed by urban planning decisions throughout the twentieth century. It looks specifically at how a car-dominated planning system contributed to the deterioration of the street fabric. Predicated on ideas of plot-based urbanism, the analysis of historic maps and plans points to the ways in which the function and dimensions of the buildings have contributed to the vibrancy of North Street/Peter’s Hill and how the more recent transformation of those functions and dimensions damaged these streets. The article acknowledges that streets are made of the social and cultural context in which they exist, while their form and function is instrumental to their embedded public life.

Reducing Sprawl, Riding the Bus, and Losing Weight in America

There is a well-established relationship between exercise and weight in individuals. Recently, relationships between certain urban characteristics usually associated with less sprawl and more exercise, especially walking, have been found. This paper examines one probable less sprawl–more exercise–lower weight sequence by hypothesizing that counties in metropolitan areas with higher population density will have more people complete their journey to work by walking, biking, or taking public transportation, and therefore have fewer people who are overweight. Data on journey to work, population density and other urban characteristics from the U. S. Census, and on obesity rates and other health factors from the U. S. Center for Disease Control’s Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System were collected for 176 counties in metropolitan areas of the United States. The data is analyzed using Instrumental Variables (2SLS) Regression. A statistically significant relationship from population density through journey to work mode to obesity rates is found. This finding implies that arranging urban and suburban space with greater density and less sprawl encourages walking, biking, and taking transit and should help in the battle against obesity.

The End of Architecture?: Networked Communities, Urban Transformation and Post-capitalist Landscapes

Through its commoditization and acquiescence to the demands of the market, architecture has increasingly become marginalized, if not circumvented, from its role as an aid to humanity and society. It is therefore proposed that if we are to consider the future transformation of our cities, then the communities within them must be given priority as stakeholders. The legibility of on-the-ground conditions and the communication of community needs and aspirations through collective intelligence will become ever-pressing concerns as the pressure for space and amenities in our cities increases in favour of late capitalist occupation and mobility rather than as shared resource for all. If, as both Fredric Jameson (1994) and, more recently, Mark Fisher (2009) have suggested, “it’s easier to imagine the end of the world than the end of capitalism”, then we need to fundamentally rethink the means through which we may achieve effective, adaptive and contingent political mobilization to positively alter the urban landscape. The potentially reformative power of data, ceded to the masses, may provide the necessary impetus toward a substantial restructuring of the city, but only if its systems are capable of negotiating the attendant issues of governance, antitrust policy and security measures. If we really are living in the end times of Žižek, we need to energetically and openly engage with the provision of a framework to evolve ‘intelligent terrain’ that is participatory and enabling. This paper therefore seeks to respond to the material and immaterial flows that constitute the contemporary urban condition in relation to its governance, communities and the (re)configuration of space.