RIAI Public Lecture

Buck Engraving of Canterbury
Buck Engraving of Canterbury
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  • Lecture
Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland
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On 3rd October 2010 David Rudlin gave a public lecture at Westport on the West Coast or Ireland. The lecture was both part of the RIAI’s annual conference and the Westport Arts Festival. The theme was new life for small towns and the paper drew on URBED’s experience of working in small towns, our work in the 1990s on a good practice guide from which the lecture took its title and David’s experience assessing the towns category for the first Academy of Urbanism Awards.

The message of the lecture was that the world has changed and while many towns strive to resist this change, the successful ones are those that embrace change and bend it to their advantage while retaining their character. Economic and demographic change means that there is an underlying tendency for towns to lose population as fewer people are employed in agriculture, young people move away to college etc… There are however plenty of people prepared to replaced this lost population, whether they be commuters to nearby cities, retirees or tourists. These are all groups that many towns view with some hostility. However the towns that thrive are the ones able to accommodate and absorb these groups, tapping their energy and spending power while not losing the essential character that drew them in the first place.

Of course in Westport this was very much a case of teaching grandmothers to suck eggs. Westport is a beautiful planned town of just 5,000 people yet was full of life and economic activity. It is indeed shortlisted for the Academy of Urbanism’s 2010 awards and is somewhere from which we can all learn.


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