The recipe for diversity in a new northern supercity
The dispersed city centre has, by careful thought, common practice and rhetoric, been largely ignored as a credible possibility.
Think of a possible programme for a town like Bradford: seven beautiful women; six smoking whirls; five sitting positions; one erotic thought; three dance positions; two jokes; seven frocks; eight cocktail concoctions; nine flower arrangements;
10 extraordinary noises; one pair of reading spectacles in a long shed.
In Bradford the imperative is to differentiate itself from Leeds.
Leeds has been subjected to a series of conventional urban manoeuvres as it veers towards a mixed and denser heart, making use of brownfield sites. Bradford has many points of interest from its heritage: the town hall, Manningham Mills and others, all of which are dispersed over a wide area. Bradford is not condensed. In fact, Bradford covers a larger area than Leeds. My plan for the city is to give its totality a sense of inclusion by dividing it into 64 kilometre squares, which I call 8 x 8.
Each square will have something of significance in it, which might range from a building to an artwork to a public open space, or a combination of all three.
This is a genuine response to the place and opposed to the common view of good practice. Bradford is the opposite of Barnsley, in that the latter has a relatively condensed existing centre, which has been consistently undermined by a rambling creep of secondclass development in the past 100 years.
Barnsley's centre needs to be celebrated and given a stronger identity. Every new building within the wall should be of high quality.That is the ambition - we will have to judge the reality when it happens.
Bradford's plan is more radical. It accepts that it is a part of the Northern Supercity Coast-to-Coast (Liverpool to Hull), and that this 30km-deep strip along the length of the M62 is heavily used by all its 15 million inhabitants. The supercity is a fact of life and the individual's sense of identity within it is of prime importance. Every existing town and new settlement must be unique. People belong to their own hotspot as well as to the coast-to-coast. Bradford as a dispersed centre will give it individuality as well as becoming synonymous with the whole new city.
Bradford is a mini version of the whole. It is composed of a series of mini hotspots, which will act as a focus for each square kilometre.
The resultant amendments to the road patterns and vistas need not be determined, as they will come over the next 50 years.My only hope is that this vital indeterminate part of the plan does not degenerate into the usual urban vocabulary of avenues, boulevards, squares and piazzas, streets and vistas. I have an ambition to see a town with no conventional addresses - ie no 2 Acacia Avenue, Bradford. I prefer Alsop Family - Buena Vista - Coast-to-Coast.
In my work to date with people from many different parts of the country I have found that a desire to make their town unique is very high on their list of priorities. They are not afraid of the new, if they feel a part of the new.
These people are very open, and very often only held back by the assumptions of planners and politicians.
Bradford has the topography to allow every citizen to wake up to a view - both physical and mental. Their collective ambition can create a place of extraordinary difference, that includes some of the 1980s and 1990s out-of-town housing developments, which at present the Urban Task Force has disenfranchised. I wish Bradford well.