An assessment of the Streets Ahead ESAs

In June and July last year I looked into the legal and regulatory grey area in which the Streets Ahead programme operates.  The next logical step after looking into the regulatory context is to review the early stages of the programme, starting with the assessments. This might seem late in the day or an oblique line of reasoning, but the environmental assessment process is fundamental to the later stages of a project: it sets the tone for the project, identifying the type and extent of works required and frames the standards of work that are expected. Whilst it is tragic that so many healthy, beautiful and useful street trees can be felled legally, the process within which Streets Ahead is being carried out is so obscure that careful analysis of the original documents and practices is essential to finding out how it was decided to fell so many trees.

Continue reading

Open source landscapes

There’s an exciting movement that appears to be gaining critical mass: open source is changing architecture. Using parametric design, a CNC and an open mind, it’s so exciting to see what what groups like Architecture 00 are doing. Whilst open source has been a powerful movement for years, with organisations like Opendesk publishing designs for practical furniture that anyone can take to a workshop and build, projects like the Wikihouse are the next logical step. Lots of designers, builders and users coming together to share ideas and skills and approach challenges we come across every day from new perspectives.

Continue reading

The language of landscape

A discussion with James Hitchmough today reminded me of an interesting article in the New Statesman a while ago which asked if we need a better term for ‘tree’. The author writes that our collective use of language to describe the natural world is so impoverished that this prevents us from connecting with it and thus appreciating its richness and our relation to it. The limits of our knowledge define our reality: if we only know one word for tree, the argument goes, we are only likely to see one type of tree, and so a cycle of environmental degradation is entrenched.

Continue reading