Arup’s Peter Head, project director of Dongtan — the proposed low-carbon city near Shanghai three-quarters of the size of Manhattan — told BD the firm had devised a more scientific system to create a “sense of place”, incorporating historical and cultural elements into designs.
Head predicted that Arup’s new approach, which has led to the development of 24 cultural places or “scenes” within Dongtan, would be a valuable tool in helping create an identity for the troubled Thames Gateway.
Head said the system will help create identity and context for new public space through disciplines including psychology, anthropology, music and art.
In Dongtan, this focuses on the historical relationship between people and the natural world at the mouth of the Yangtse and has resulted in scenes named “Cloud Sea and Dreamy Pool” and “Narcissus Fairy Island”.
“This is a genuine attempt to change the paradigm of urban development,” he added.
“We want people to go [to these 24 locations] and feel ownership of the place — that it is for them. We are very concerned that this cultural aspect needs to be deeply rooted and sophisticated.
He's right - places do need identity and to engender a sense of ownership. But some kind of cod historiography combined with a 'scientific system' ain't the answer. Identity depends precisely on being anti-formulaic: open-ended, surprising, open to multiple readings and levels of engagement. I'm surprised to think that someone within such an intelligent and sophisticated organisation like Arup can find himself drawn into this kind of utter twaddle.