May 17 2013

A Tough Decision Indeed: To Modernise, or Not to Modernise


We all have to make tough decisions. When it comes to city planning, there’s no tougher decision to make than the modernization or preservation of historic culture. European cities, like Berlin, have mustered up the courage to dismantle their historic gas-powered lamps in an attempt to reduce energy output for their modernization efforts. On the other hand, cities like Edinburgh have creatively held onto both a modern and historically protected world without having either clash. Partnered with UNESCO, Scotland’s capital city showcases its urban planning marvels Old Town and New Town. In contrast to both, Nottingham’s urban planning strategy has been a visual faux pas as high modernism comes to mind when exploring the town. Its current and past reluctance to fully modernise or preserve its rich culture may come to be a downfall for future urban planners.

Nottingham City Centre

Continuity and consistency is lacking in Nottingham’s city planning. The modernist architectural movement of the 1970’s marred and rid the town of its organic medieval features. Brutalist architecture sits adjacent to Nottingham’s main attraction, Nottingham Castle. The development and idea behind this movement screams high modernism and the attraction itself lacks complementary businesses that would help the city’s tourism and local business market. So what exactly can Nottingham do now? 

Nottingham Modenised Builldings


  1. Establish an identity for the city based around cultural accuracy and future needs. This will make the transition smoother and more attainable.
  2. Improve technological infrastructure. Modern cities attract higher human capital and thus will need to have support systems for future development.
  3. Redesign city layout with business parks, better flowing transit systems, and grouped markets (Chinatown, shopping centres, etc).
  4. Push for bold and radical, yet sustainable, designs.

Historic Conservation

  1. Renovate buildings with a more Victorian-style design, keeping all within the same mix of style.
  2. Support classic food markets of the past, noting its current relevance to sustainability and cultural significance.
  3. Resurrect past heroes and build monuments in their honour.
  4. Be in favour of local businesses as opposed to big commercial businesses (McDonald’s, Gregg’s, etc).

Nottingham must decide on an identity quickly or it will continue to struggle with mandatory town planning and sustainability issues. Is either modernisation or historic preservation important to a town’s sustainable future?

Credit: Images and data linked to sources.

Michael Jenkins

An Oakland, California native, Michael Jenkins is a recent post graduate from the University of Nottingham Business School with a Masters in Business Administration. Jenkins’ interest in urban regeneration and town planning sprouted during a visit to China. It was there that Michael met with firms that combined business consulting with innovative urban designs stimulating economic growth. He believes economic development can be generated through the connections between city council, local business, and education as he saw modeled in China. Currently residing in Nottingham, England, Michael spots similarities between Nottingham and Oakland, as well as opportunities for development and growth. He aims to bring transformational solutions for city improvement. Michael's areas of focus lay within town planning, urban regeneration, and human capital. During his off time, Michael enjoys backpacking, outdoor adventures, vinyasa yoga, and completing items off his bucket list. For more, follow him on twitter @ClaudeMJenkins

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This entry was posted on Friday, May 17th, 2013 at 9:32 am and is filed under Government/Politics, History/Preservation, Land Use, Urban Planning and Design. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.


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