Mixed-use
development is a type of urban development that comprises of various land uses
in a geographical area and can take the form of a single building, a city block
or a whole neighbourhood. One of the main aims of mixing residential,
commercial, cultural, institutional or entertainment uses is to increase
accessibility for people (Thrall 2002, 216). Combining these functions enables users
to lead more ‘sustainable’ lifestyles and drives the population towards
walkability rather than car-dependency (Coupland 1997, 1). Coupland, author of
‘Reclaiming the City: Mixed use development’, describes this physical and
function integration as a methodology for increasing city attractiveness,
efficiency and safety for those who live and work in them (Coupland 1997, 1).

   This essay will investigate how mixed-use is
achieved while discussing the ideas of some urban theorists such as Leon Krier
and Jane Jacobs. As well as considering the advantages and disadvantages of a
case study of Brindleyplace in Birmingham and evaluating the feasibility of
this mixed-use development in respect of functional, political and economical
support.

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Traditionally in
the pre-industrial era, settlements comprised of structures located in close
proximity to one another and were contained within protective walls for security
and efficiency (Ferrandi, 2013). This compactness was due to the limited
transport systems and lead to high density, mixed-use urban centres being
created (Ferrandi, 2013). As cities evolved and expanded from these medieval
villages and the industrial revolution progressed, local governments veered
towards increasingly mono-functional and planned areas (Coupland 1997, 13). Due
to the rising population and negative effects of industrial developments, the
health and welfare of citizens became an increasing concern for local
governments. This led to a detachment of functions and zoning of housing from
commercial activities (Ferrandi, 2013). In addition, segregating the land uses aided
the development of industrial technologies and the specialisation of expanding industries
(Coupland 1997, 13). Leon Krier, an architectural theorist, criticised this
fragmentation of integrated poly-functional districts into mono-functional
suburban zones as anachronistic and anti-ecological (Krier 2011, 103). In his
book, ‘The Architecture of Community’, he writes that zoning imposes mechanical
segregation rather than encouraging the integration of urban functions
organically.

 

 

 

 

      

   Since the late nineteenth century, mixed-use
developments have been re-established as part of on-going efforts to bring back
organic order and the blending of functions to cities. This re-establishment
has been driven by technological development and continuing economic growth;
leading to greater accessibility to variety (Coupland 1997, 12). Unlike for
many people in the pre-industrial era, people can now choose where they shop,
eat, work and live. However, the main thrust of Krier’s argument against
mono-functional zones is that these structures only allow citizens to
accomplish one function in one place at a time (Krier 2011, 103). In addition,
in order to take advantage of variety of choice, zoning requires people to be
highly mobile (Coupland 1997, 12). Whereas, a mix of uses in close proximity
aids those not highly mobile, for example; the old, disabled and sick (Fei
Chen, 2017.) Krier believes that functional zoning generates a more time,
energy and land consuming society for the execution of daily tasks, whilst
transforming a civilisation of active, independent individuals into mobilised,
passive masses (Krier 2011, 103-104).

   Similarly, Jane Jacobs, a key influential
figure of urban studies, describes a need for diversity to “sprout strange and
unpredictable uses and peculiar scenes”; she believes this is not a drawback of
diversity, but more the point of it (Jacobs 2000, 238). Diversity helps to
build a fuller society with interacting and interchanging components. To
generate this diversity in a city, Jacobs has identified four preconditions in
her book ‘The Death and Life of Great American Cities’. The main requirement is
that a mixed-use development must “ensure the presence of people who go
outdoors on different schedules are in the place for different purposes, but
who are able to use many facilities in common” (Jacobs 2000, 164). She writes
that connections are vital; small-scale pedestrian sized blocks will result in
different people using the same streets. In addition, to promote diversity,
cities must incorporate a mix of old buildings with the new to generate
interest through variety and also have a high-density population and activity
(Jacobs 2000, 164).

   Whilst Krier and Jacobs differ in their
approaches to achieve mixed-use, they are incontrovertibly similar in terms of
the opinions they have on the re-emerging of a mixed-development from a zoned
society. Jacobs believes mixed-use promotes vitality while Krier criticises
mono-functional zones for lacking in this.

  

   In recent times, mixed-use projects are
becoming a technique for progressive development of a city. They offer a way to
utilise land efficiently while providing a more cohesive, diverse environment
for those who live or work in them.

   Brindleyplace in Birmingham is an example of
large, mixed-use canal side redevelopment. The expansion of the commercial
centre of the city was stifled by an inner ring road constructed in the 1960s
and 1970s (Coulson 2012, 3). The area occupied by Brindleyplace was home to
factories and consequently became a thriving commercial hub (Coulson 2012, 3).

However, after the decline of the manufacturing industry in Britain during the
1970s, the factories closed down and the buildings lay derelict for many years
(Coulson 2012, 4). The regeneration of this site was hindered by its
edge-of-centre location as it was in competition with the city core, which had
better public transport access (CABE 2001, 48). Therefore, the scheme created
public spaces to link the mixed-use development to the existing city and canal
side waterfront and create an easily accessible space with pedestrianised streets
(Ratcliffe 2009, 549).

   The project was economically feasible due to
the property market collapsing in the 1980s. Therefore, developers were able to
purchase the site at a relatively low price, which subsequently allowed them to
cover marketing, decontamination, infrastructure and design costs (Macmillan
2003, 123). Development started in 1993, after a number of false starts, and
proceeded in a number of phases. To retain stakes in the project, the developers
funded most of the project themselves (Macmillan 2003, 123). The mixed-use
regeneration primarily comprises of offices with shops and restaurants on the
ground floors but is also home to canal side bars, a seawater aquarium, a
theatre and housing (Coulson 2012, 1). This mix of uses generates a range of
architectural styles, building forms and details, creating visual interest and
supporting Jane Jacobs’ encouragement of provoking interest through diversification
(Fei Chen, 2017). Meanwhile, the development relates to its historic context as
it incorporates a number of existing high quality buildings (CABE 2001, 47).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Blending together
a mix of different functions and combining the old and the new can bring life
to an environment of high density. In the case of Brindleyplace, several
advantages of this mixed-use scheme are evident. The design consists of three
coherent public squares that define a new urban quarter with a distinct
character and sense of place (Macmillan 2003, 123). Jacobs writes, “cities have
the capability of providing something for everybody, only because, and only
when, they are created for everybody” (Jacobs 2000, 238). These well-defined
public spaces create greater opportunities for social interaction and support
Jacobs’ vision of a development that does not underestimate the importance of
its users.The scheme achieved the highest overall
research team rating of 29, reflecting the quality of the design (Macmillan
2003, 123). The contractors responsible for seven of the eleven main buildings
in the development, BAM, estimate that Brindleyplace attracts around 4 million
visitors a year and employs 8,500 people (BAM, n.d.). In terms of the wider
economic impact, Brindleyplace has been a catalyst for further development in
the city, while creating synergy with other nearby schemes (CABE 2001, 48).

   However, a disadvantage of the mixed-use
scheme is that environment feels ‘manufactured’ due to the concentration of
similar uses next to one another, meaning it lacks the diversity of a tradition
urban environment (CABE 2001, 47). This feeling is reinforced by the strong
security guard presence, creating a slightly exclusive, highly commercial
experience (CABE, 2001, 47). Although this may be due to the private ownership
of the development, the economic pressure on the scheme may have affected the
success of the design.

 

   The mixed-use development of Brindleyplace
demonstrates an innovative inner-city planning regime, which exemplifies the
benefits of combining various land uses in one space. The regeneration has
contributed both economically and socially to the city in a positive way
through its re-use of listed buildings, revitalisation of public spaces and
creation of jobs. Brindleyplace could be enhanced further if it considered an
allowance for small-scale economic development. This would enable
diversification within the scheme, contribute directly to Birmingham’s economy
and minimise the risk of the development being viewed as exclusive.

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