Urban aesthetics and urban experience
Towns and cities are always changing, in what they are and how they look. In recent years, though, the visual appearance of towns and cities has become increasingly important to a range of powerful urban institutions and organisations. Many urban centres, from world cities to edge cities, from historical centres to new towns, have been given design makeovers. Streetscapes have been remodelled to look more visually coherent; new green spaces and public art have been installed; benches and rubbish bins have become designer items; landmark buildings have been renovated or built from new. The aesthetics of urban spaces have become increasingly important.
What are we to make of these changes? Commentators and analysts explain them by pointing to the need for towns and cities to attract new investment and new residents by offering attractive urban environments in which to live and work.
But how are we to make sense of these changes as daily users of city centres? How do we experience these newly-designed urban environments as shoppers, as shopworkers, as cleaners, as people who go to these places just to spend a bit of time there? Does all this interest in design really matter to the people who use these spaces?
On this site, you'll find a range of answers to those questions, based on the findings of a research done in two medium-sized towns in south-east England, Milton Keynes and Bedford.
The research was funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, grant number RES-062-23-0223, and was undertaken between September 2007 and March 2009.