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The New Urban Aesthetic with Dr. Samuel Hughes
Episode 427th February 2022 • Charter Cities Podcast • Kurtis Lockhart
00:00:00 00:42:09

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In January 2020, the Building Better, Building Beautiful Commission published ‘Living with beauty’, a report that has led to a new national design guide and model design code with changes to the national policy. The policy changes replaced the word ‘good design’ with ‘beauty’, but is there more to beauty than just appearance? Joining us to discuss the beautification of urban spaces today is Dr. Samuel Hughes, a Senior Fellow at Policy Exchange, a Research Fellow in Philosophy, Theology, and Religion at Oxford University, and a frequent commentator on issues ranging from architecture and urbanism to aesthetics. He was also Sir Roger Scruton's researcher on the Building Beautiful Commission. His focus at Policy Exchange is on understanding why the quantity and quality of new homes and neighborhoods is so inadequate in the UK and developing policy instruments to improve them. In this episode, we discuss the consideration of aesthetics in the urban planning process, the concept of beauty as a benchmark that all new developments should meet, and how empowering residents to design their own streets can help solve the housing crisis that the UK is currently facing. We also touch on survivorship bias; data, technology, and aesthetics; and the cost of suburbia, as well as the positive and negative aspects of path dependency, and more! Make sure to join us today for a fascination conversation about the ‘new’ urban aesthetic with Dr. Samuel Hughes.

Key Points From This Episode:

•   How Samuel’s philosophy studies have influenced his views on urbanism and architecture.

•   His reflections on the role that aesthetics or ‘beauty’ plays in UK urban planning debates.

•   How the win-win model for ‘street votes’ impacts the future of UK cities.

•   Samuel describes what he calls a bobtailed version of street votes in Houston, Texas.

•   Why he believes we find older buildings more attractive than contemporary architecture.

•   Survivorship bias versus loss of skills necessary to replicate ‘more beautiful’ architecture.

•   The appetite that fueled the dramatic shift in architectural style post WWI, and gave birth to Brutalism, for example.

•   Samuel shares why he believes that architects tend to make bad urban planners.

•   How modern simulation and design technology have changed the built environment.

•   The role empirical data plays in influencing the aesthetics of the built environment.

•   While he doesn’t share the contempt for suburbia that many of his peers have, Samuel acknowledges that it imposes enormous costs.

•   What the west can learn about architecture and urban form from places like Japan.

•   German architecture as an example of path dependency as a positive and negative force.

•   Samuel’s advice for building a new city: design institutional structures in cities that will allow those cities to evolve over time.

•   Learn more about Samuel’s book on philosophical approaches to artistic modernism.


Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode:

Dr. Samuel Hughes

Dr. Samuel Hughes on LinkedIn

Dr. Samuel Hughes on Twitter

Policy Exchange

‘Living with beauty’

‘Against the survival of the prettiest’

Charter Cities Institute

Charter Cities Institute on Facebook

Charter Cities Institute on Twitter