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Learning from Urban Buzz - Alicia Pivaro

A quick update on my scholarship – I have been to a conference on London’s outer towns where I came across the really interesting Urban Buzz programme of 28 projects (

What I have learnt so far -

Despite the recent glamorisation of ‘urban change’, making cities is a long, hard, mostly dreary slog – involving endless negotiation between competing, if not, conflicting factions and the outcome will always be compromise. So making great or really interesting things happen is still a nightmare and for an organisation like DfL it seems protocols, politics and softly-softly tactics are still the order of the day.

A crowd of shoppers - from pram-riders to pensioners - loving the unexpected sights and sounds of a great band on the street near Liverpool One. It made another shopping day memorable.

The good news is that, according to the “If I could design London” project you (being architects and urbanists) all think London is “rich, complex, particular, messy, unplanned, diverse and amazing” and that you all want “mixed, sustainable communities, better public space, improved transport, eco-stuff including more trees and the river to be better used” and use jargon like “densification, shared surface and place-making” to make it all understandable to yourselves – if no-one else. That said, there are some wonderful ideas out there – I want to know how we could make them (even just one) happen.

So what am I doing?

1 Thinking about how it might be possible to make great ideas happen – even naughty thinking and messiness - within the dull, prosaic process of change that much prefers simple or simplistic answers.

2 Thinking of how events and temporary installations can play a powerful role in making people rethink, re-use, re-love their spaces and places to enhance the power of regeneration both before, during and after the act.

Another idea: A really tough Urban Task Force – possibly with uniforms – that have the power to make things happen and could act quickly to seize opportunities. One such opportunity has appeared at the west end of Oxford Street, near Primark, where a huge city block is being demolished. Like a missing tooth, this new ‘space’ opens up views and allows sunlight into the unrelenting canyon-like experience of the street. It would make a wonderful public space for weary shoppers and miserable husbands.

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