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Urban Experiment
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Located in the county of Dorset [England], Poundbury “is Prince Charles’ dream made real, his answer to the ‘unadulterated ugliness and mediocrity’ of typical housing estates and the ‘heartlessness of so much urban planning.’

“With more than 650 houses now completed and another 1,600 to be built over the next 15 years, Poundbury’s architecture borrows from the quaint cottages found in Dorset and doffs its hat to grander 18th-century houses in Dorchester. All the buildings are faced with time-tested local materials, such as honey-colored hamstone, with the aim of helping the community take root in a familiar atmosphere.”

Featured in the May 2006 National Geographic magazine, the story explores how Prince Charles has used the Duchy of Cornwall—his inheritance—to demonstrate how to build more people- and environmentally-friendly communities—“a place to test solutions to the problems of modernity. . . .My whole aim was to repair the damage, to heal the wounds, as it were, of the countryside. . . . What I was trying to do was remind people about the pointlessness of throwing away all the knowledge and experience and wisdom—wisdom—of what has gone before.”

Clare Jenkins, a former chairperson of the Poundbury residents’ association, shared her perspective about this experiment in community-building, “I can walk to work. The kids can walk or cycle across the fields to school. However they have done the urban planning, it appears to have worked. . . . It makes a very different sense of community.”

Avoid Mass-Produced Materials

Elements of the plan include pedestrian-friendly walkways, inconspicuous factories (there are several) and office buildings, and avoiding “the mass-produced materials that give a dreary, uniform look” such as using granite curbs instead of those made of concrete. “As many as one in three [residences] is earmarked for people who cannot afford open-market rents or purchase prices—reflecting Prince Charles’ conviction that strong neighborhoods can best be fostered by mimicking the social and economic mix of a traditional village. . . .we have shown that for a ten percent extra cost, roughly, you are actually achieving a far higher value in the longer term than the shorter term, which is the way the modern world looks at everything.”

The result of this experiment in urban planning:  “. . .a bigger version is set to rise next to the Cornish town of Newquay” where “Poundbury principles of design, advanced strategies for environmental sustainability, such as rainwater harvesting and geothermal technology” [will be implemented]. . . .The prince’s hope that his vision will shape urban living beyond the duchy seems to be coming true. The British government has embraced the Poundbury principles, and last year curious city planners and high officials from numerous countries, including the United States, walked Poundbury’s streets. ‘Saudi Arabia is now going to come and have a look. . . .”

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