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Urban Regeneration 3.0: Realising the potential of an urban psychology
In the West, in the post-war and post-industrial period, urban regeneration has undergone a critical shift, from focusing primarily on the built environment (1.0) to focusing also on activity within it (2.0). Predicated upon a more holistic ‘place-based’ approach, building culture, health, human capital, learning and other capabilities has informed or led regeneration programmes, often improving outcomes. Yet even with this shift, regeneration and renewal interventions have not always succeeded fully in their aims; they have missed opportunities, and in some cases have been detrimental to communities. The reasons for this are complex, but it is our contention that included in their ranks is a fundamental lack of understanding of the emotional and psychological impacts of city living as a whole, and the deeper existential impacts of regeneration programmes which literally reshape the urban landscape, displacing or blending communities at great speed. It is astonishing that psychology, the discipline most concerned with human behaviour and emotional well-being, has been almost absent from urban regeneration thinking, policy and practice. In response to this, a second potential shift is emerging, birthing ‘regeneration 3.0’, which is seeking to understand the intimate links and symbiotic effects which exist between place and person, taking a psychologically informed approach. Informed by their pioneering book Psychology and the City and their innovative ‘Urban Psyche’ test, since 2016 the authors have sought to make a case for the development of a new generation of urban psychology scholarship and praxis. This paper introduces readers to their thinking on why place matters to mental health and why mental health matters to place; the evolution of regeneration policy and why ways of reading the city open and foreclose opportunities to engage psychological concerns; the potential of psychology for regeneration policy and practice; and examples of tools from psychology that might be adopted. The paper focuses mainly on UK-based regeneration, although the conclusions are potentially applicable internationally.
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Chris Murray is Director of the Core Cities UK Group and co-author of the book Psychology and the City: The Hidden Dimension.
Charles Landry is an international authority on the use of imagination and creativity in urban change. He is currently a fellow at the Robert Bosch Academy in Berlin. He invented the concept of the Creative City in the late 1980s. Its focus is how cities can create the enabling conditions for people and organisations to think, plan and act with imagination to solve problems and develop opportunities. This insight has catalysed a global movement and changed the way cities think about their capabilities and resources. He has created the ‘Urban Psyche’ test (with Chris Murray) and the ‘Creative City Index’ in collaboration with Bilbao and developed with Jonathan Hyams. He is co-author with Chris Murray of the book Psychology and the City.