Designing and experiencing sensory urban environments: An intensive case study of Grand Union Village in West London

Ashley Nye

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

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Investigating the role of the urban village within ‘neo-traditional’ urbanism, existing studies focus on flagship projects such as Poundbury. By contrast, this thesis explores the under-researched everyday and mainstream developments undertaken by volume house builders. These developments are not associated with a philanthropic disregard for profit, nor are they showcases for urban theories such as the urban village movement.

Through an intensive investigation of one urban village: Grand Union Village (GUV) in Ealing, West London this thesis tracks the development process from conception in 1999 to completion in 2011. It maps the compromises made along the journey resulting from conflicting relationships within the developer, volume house builder Taylor Woodrow. Utilising research drawn from unprecedented access to the development team and original Vision documents, the thesis examines the ‘macro-environmental’ elements of the Grand Union Vision, which were guided by urban village principles. The ‘micro-environment’ is examined through the design details, and textures of the built environment which informed the way a sense of place and experience were scripted into GUV. Furthermore, experiential qualities of GUV are explored through walking interviews considering the ‘after-life’ of the Village and the relationship between design and the lived reality of place.

To conclude, this thesis demonstrates how the conflict between the drive for profit and desire to implement urban village principles could not be reconciled at GUV resulting in a development that is more akin to a large housing estate than an urban village. Whilst the sensory and experiential design details of GUV set it apart from normal suburban housing, such details are superficial and will diminish over time. Furthermore, within a suburban setting, the ambiguities of theorising the urban and the village prove problematic, and residents transgress and resist key urban village elements. As such wider attitudes towards suburban urban village developments need to change to allow true urban villages to be delivered.
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Royal Holloway, University of London
  • Gilbert, David, Supervisor
Award date1 Apr 2012
Publication statusUnpublished - 2012

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