Sarah Halford

Architecture and Ceramics

a mars a day

I’ve always lived within walking distance of where I work. It means that when I was a student I could roll out of bed, grab an Irn Bru and get to work in ten minutes. When I was doing ‘proper’ work experience during my degree I could go home and watch Neighbours at lunchtime. Last year it meant that I could pop home at lunch, play with our new kitten and prepare some of the dinner for later. Neighbours isn’t on during my lunch hour anymore.

I’ve been very lucky to work close to where I live, and I don’t underestimate the benefits it has had for my lifestyle. Delivery men bringing a new sofa? No problem. Ill boyfriend stuck in bed? Bowl of soup at lunchtime. Four inches of snow brought everything in the city to a grinding halt? Absolutely nae bother hen. There is no bigger favour you can do yourself than working close to where you live.

Of course intelligent people before me [ho ho] have had exactly the same thoughts. Robert Owen coined the idea of working for 8 hours, having 8 hours of leisure, and 8 hours to sleep. Owen was one of the do-gooders in Ian Hislop’s programme last week, which was very interesting. There’s obvious Foucaudian issues of knowledge and power there, but that’s not really what I was interested in here. If you have the time Hislop’s programme is really very good.

The next logical thing to think is ‘well, I’ll live in the city then’ which is a good idea. There are good amenities and education facilities for your children nearby. Your friends might also live close. However, living densely in the city has historically lead to congestion, unhygenic living conditions and ill-health.

E Howard wrote in 1902 of his radical idea for a Garden City, where the ills of the town were neutralised in some ways by the fresh air and space of the country. In contrast to the sprawl – an idea Howard abhorred – the Garden City would link people together and improve their lives with wide streets and well planned and zoned areas for agriculture, park and housing.

There’s a link in my mind to Le Corbusier’s Plan Voisin of 1925, which takes this idea to the logical conclusion. Corb takes all that is natural and user-orientated and turns it into a … well lets see the visualisation Corb gives us;

I don’t really think this is what Howard had in mind, and it’s certainly not what I have in mind. I’m talking about mixed use developments if which there are a few in Edinburgh, including the odd Quartermile development at the site of the old Royal Infirmary. It successfully creates a useful link between the street it serves [Lauriston Place] and the large public park The Meadows behind. Well, I say useful, there’s a Starbucks there. You can see another Starbucks while you’re buying your coffee from it. I don’t make the rules!

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This entry was posted on December 7, 2010 by in Uncategorized.
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