by Fiona Ferbrache
Travel by train through Reading or Northampton and you will be able to observe the construction works of the station redevelopment programmes currently being carried out in those urban areas. According to last week’s Economist these are two of Network Rail’s 11 stations being redeveloped.
This development is not just about improving stations as transportation nodes, it is also about enhancing the city and making stations desirable destinations in their own right as ‘exchange spaces’ or ‘meeting places’ for city residents, workers and visitors.
“Without a bigger and better station, Northampton’s vital economic growth will be constrained” announces the Northampton Station website. “Cities now measure their appeal by their stations” claims the Economist, and if we consider St Pancras International, Rotterdam station in the Netherlands, or Schiphol Airportcity in Amsterdam, we can begin to understand how this might work, for in these locations one is encouraged to invest time and money, and to stay a while.
Developments of this type can complement sustainable urbanism, a theme taken up by Rapoport in Area. Her 2014 paper explores the actors who guide sustainable urban projects – the masterplanners – of large-scale programmes that create sustainable urban areas or ‘eco-cities’ from scratch. Rapoport identifies an elite group of international architecture, engineering and planning firms known as the global intelligence corps (GIC), and analyses their role in shaping an international model of sustainable urbanism. She unearths a rather standardised set of ideas for enhancing urban development that, she argues, creates a discourse defining what is unsustainable about current urbanisation patterns, and what solutions can and should be used in response (e.g. bus rapid transit, bicycle lanes, sustainable urban drainage systems, and renewable energy).
While sustainable urban projects such as Vauban in Freiburg, or the Bogotá and Curitibas bus rapid transit systems provide examples that GIC rate as ‘good practice’, Reading and Northampton might soon provide a template for visionary urban regeneration where the station is developed as a more sustainable and intricate part of contemporary urban living in Britain.
Rapoport, E. 2014 Globalising sustainable urbanism: the role of international masterplanners. Area. DOI: 10.1111/area.12079
Urban Planning: Rail ambition. The Economist (March 1st)
Northampton Station redevelopment