The Regeneration of Harlow

The Regeneration of HarlowWith Jon Fitch guest Studio CriticGenerously Funded by CABE: Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment, UKCOURSE DESCRIPTIONINTRODUCTIONThe Schwartz Spring 2005 Option Studio will focus on the regeneration of Harlow, a New Town, built in the late1940\’s in the UK. Presently there are issues around such New Towns in terms of how they have aged over the last 70 years, as they have changed and adapted to new circumstances, pressures and social evolution.New Towns, such as Harlow, Letchworth Garden City and Milton Keynes, had significant impact upon city building in the United States, demonstrated in projects such as Reston, Virginia and Columbia, Maryland. Many of the PUD\’s built in the 60\’s in the US were based upon the philosophy and structures of these early New Towns first conceived of and built in the UK.Presently, new realities and pressures have impacted these aging New Towns negatively, causing the government of the UK to re-visit such New Towns to try to improve their conditions. These conditions include the fact that the populations who live there are stagnant – the people who live and grow up there rarely move on or climb up the socio-economic ladder. Consequently, the populations have aged and have tended to be monolithic. The increasing age of the population has created a lack of incentive, money and action to keep the community vital. People are on limited pensions with little economic resources. These factors, in turn, negatively impact the quality of the public facilities, such as the vast amounts of green open space, which characterize so profoundly these New Towns.This studio will examine the affects of aging upon Harlow, a New Town whose initial image and offer rested so heavily upon the inclusion of a bold and expansive open space. Our assignment will be to assess the function and value of this open space that is so cherished by the residents of Harlow, and how to solve the need for growth so that it remains in balance with the value of the open space. While doubling the size of the New Town, we must still try to retain the original spirit and sense of place created for Harlow by the original designer, Sir Frederick Gibberd.HISTORYHarlow was planned as a first generation New Town in the late 1940\’s. It was designed by Sir Frederick Gibberd to accommodate 80,000 residents and significant industry as an overspill center outside Greater London. The original masterplan was formed around a series of local neighborhood centers interconnected by a generous provision of green space. Harlow now has an aging urban fabric as has suffered from significant underinvestment in recent years. As part of the national Sustainable Communities Plan, Harlow has been identified by the government as a key centre for growth and could potentially double in size within the next two decades. Improving the quality of green space is seen as a key component of this emerging agenda. While the network of green spaces was originally conceived as an integral part of the original masterplan, their quality and value has been reduced in recent years. What was once a key asset to the town has increasingly become a liability through loss of purpose, changing culture, poor design quality, impact of traffic and ever rising maintenance costs. FUTUREHarlow is presently in a growth area located between London and Cambridge. It has been identified by the government as a key center for growth and could double in size in the next two decades.In order to both upgrade and re-establish itself as a desirable place to live, visit and invest, it must reappraise the value and purpose of its green fabric to ensure that it can accommodate the needs and aspirations of a growing and changing population. Transforming the quality in design of its green spaces should be seen