Thursday, May 25, 2017

Poundbury at 30

Poundbury, Prince Charles’ experimental new town in southwest England, has turned 30 years old (story here) and deserves a fresh look.
The town is an urban extension of Dorchester (population 20,000) and currently has 3,000 residents and 2,000 jobs.  Its design concept was developed by Prince Charles himself as a way to implement the neo-traditional architecture and planning ideas he set out in his book A Vision of Britain in 1989.  (The book attracted a lot of snark, as does virtually everything Prince Charles does.  See my review of his recent climate change book here.)  Still not built out (not sure why it’s so slow), Poundbury is notable for its walkability, mixed uses, and use of traditional building designs and materials.  Its “retro” look has drawn scorn from modernist architectural critics, although a few are now beginning to appreciate the livability of the town (see Witold Rybczynski’s account from a few years ago here). 
From a transportation standpoint, Poundbury underscores the point that the best transportation is “already being there.”  Residents have access to a wide variety of shops (a local grocery store, pub, florist, photographer, post office, farmers’ market, gift shops, etc.), amenities, and green spaces, all within easy walking distance.  An electric bus carries people into the center of Dorchester, including the train station, although with unsatisfactory (to me) 30-minute off-peak headways.  Cars are permitted, though kept relatively tame (see Rybczynski’s review for details).

All in all, I think Poundbury is a wonderful experiment, and I look forward to seeing its continued growth and success.

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