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3. Streets & Patterns

By Stephen Marshall.

Spon Press, 2005. 318pp. £40

The concept of this book might warm the cockles of most architects, challenging as it does, the primacy of highway engineers. Wouldn't it be nice to wipe the smirk off the local authority apparatchik's face when he tells you to redesign your scheme to take into account bin-lorry turning circles, motorists' sight lines and pedestrians' drop kerbs?

Marshall's thesis is to see how transport might better serve urban design, premised on the notion that urban placemaking has sometimes suffered at the expense of the car. In this phrase, 'the car' is as much symbol as reality. Actually, what lies behind this seemingly uncontroversial statement is a sweeping condemnation of 'the cataclysm of Modernism' (adapted from Llewelyn-Davies' 1968 report on transport). Modernism - or modernity - is berated in Marshall's work for the crime of turning 'cities inside out and back to front'.

Thus, Marshall's criticism of all things '60s - and in particular the 1963 Buchanan Report's thesis that 'the needs of movement (be) prioritised' - stems from a social policy bias that he has imposed, rather than from a truly objective analysis of the issue.

While suggesting that traffic flows should be maintained, Marshall wants to shift the priority in favour of the 'community' and pedestrian. He seems to yearn for a 'city of human-powered locomotion', of 'rollerblade arcades' and 'bicycle boulevards'.

Whatever you think of the politics, this book will have a strong influence on the debate.

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