Historically, towns were shaped by their location, their principal economic purpose and their natural topography. Their hinterlands were small and different towns took on different identities quite naturally. In the case of Dundee the pattern of growth from medieval burgh to major whaling port and then to industrial city with associated docks and railyards remained spatially coherent until well into this century. Public buildings were obvious as such due to their prominence of site and architectural style.
Dundee’s transformation over the last century has been phenomenal. A variety of factors were at play, such as the drive to clear the Victorian slums, the need to quickly build new housing and the desire to accommodate much higher volumes of traffic on new and improved roads.
After World War II, the ethos of the free standing building surrounded by parkland allowing unimpeded traffic flows was promoted as the ideal. In city centres the old tenements and workshops were systematically demolished. The comprehensive redevelopments of the 1960s liberated many people from crowded and unhealthy living conditions, destroyed much of the pre-Victorian Dundee and in doing so left many awkward sites, particularly in the city centre where earlier development and ownership patterns were more complicated.
Until recently many roads were designed primarily to accommodate ever increasing car numbers, with pedestrians given a lower status. On the busiest roads this has led to a complete segregation of pedestrians and vehicles. Modern roads have become much more divisive than the streets of the past, with wide roads creating difficulties for pedestrians and vehicles to safely coexist.
The 20th Century has brought great changes to the appearance of our city and to the lifestyle of city dwellers, but the wisdom of land use patterns which generate more and more traffic is now being questioned. Since the 1960s the practice of zoning or segregating different uses of land from each other and the rates of personal car ownership have both greatly increased and are interdependent to a large extent.
Today, the aim is to promote qualities such as catering for the private car without encouraging its use and being safe for walking and cycling.
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