Type: Proposal Essays
Sample donated: Marsha Bridges
Last updated: December 26, 2019
The designers adopted a most unpractical and extreme way to reconcile ‘density’ and ‘mobility’ – by completely separating pedestrians and vehicles.
The decision to set the town centre on top of the ridge toughened the already challenging transportation planning. Vehicle-pedestrian separation was to be designed into the core of the new town, in a way that both urbanity and mobility would be satisfied. The primary idea of creating a unified mega-structure with facilities and services concentrated in the town centre has defined its large and dominant structure, simultaneously the unprecedented demand for vehicles has also made horizontal separation impossible. Vertical stratification was introduced. This infantile transportation planning created a ‘forced circulation’ system with no crosswalks and only numerous overpasses and underpasses for pedestrians. In fact, The proposal of the traffic-separated system was not new, as seen in Antonio Sant-Elia’s Manifesto of Futurist Architecture, and more recently, Le Corbusier’s Unite Habitation and ideal city. Marseilles at Park Hill in Sheffield and the Golden Lane project in London both provide practical attempts of the traffic-separated system and deck-accessing housing. Despite this example, Cumbernauld fails to succeed any of them.
The megastructure of concrete skeletons with flat roof already proved unsuited to the Scottish climate, the town centre which deteriorated over time had also made the labyrinth of pathways obsolete. Together, this ‘self-supported’ system of megastructure created a vicious circle of an inhospitable condition, which further leads to an unmitigated failure. Admittedly, the failure of the Cumbernauld was not only due to its constructional and functional complications. The entire planning of the project was lead by different groups that show inconsistency about both design intentions and methodology. Much effort was made to correct design faults in order to improve the living conditions of user groups in the latter stage but yet proved to be ineffective. It is without a doubt that Cumbernauld was the first-ever bold attempt to reconcile modernism and town planning in the brutalism ideology. It reminds us about the responsibility of recognising the underlying complexity between modernism and city planning, and megastructure is not a means to resolve the conflict when other formulae for attractive town design should be produced base on different environmental and cultural concerns.
Nevertheless, the Cumbernauld New Town shows respects for Corbusian ideals, though failed, it was a ambitious dream and a failure worth remembering.