Welcome to Place Parts, Episode 1, a short video feature in anticipation of the release of my third book, Sustaining a City’s Culture and Character: Principles and Best Practices, available very shortly in the United States, and eventually, around the world. 

Place Parts goes beyond two-dimensional blogging and will appear at least once per week going forward, anchored here, at sustainingplace.com.

Today, we’re here on the River Lambourn in Shaw Village, Newbury. Berkshire, England, with a very simple message.  

Places change, and I argue more than ever as the pandemic unwinds that we must understand them contextually as we apply solutions that will restore our public health, offset climate change, and achieve just, resident-informed environments.

Historical records suggest a mill on this spot for almost 1000 years. In 1386, the buildings were reported as being in a poor and ruinous state. There is a reference to the mill being rebuilt in 1537. In 1766, buildings that look much the same were damaged in the Newbury Bread Riot. Now, those buildings comprise a mixed variety of residential units, including the “missing middle” housing that is a sought-after commodity in the United States.

In the book, I go to great lengths to make the case for local context over mere buzzwords, with my color photographs, and select illustrations by others.

The book addresses how to enact blended and contextualized urban change, using the past and the status quo as catalysts rather than castaways. It provides resources and examples for the context-vetting process and for understanding how one era, object, or generation informs the next.

Shaw Mill is an easy example, across the road from where I now live. It shows how places can evolve to meet modern needs with reference to their embedded past.  

Stay tuned for more examples.  Soon we’ll have others joining the conversation, to help figure out where we go from here.

Review the special “landing page” Sustaining a City’s Culture and Character here.

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