Research in London and Guangzhou
Over a period of three years, Howard Davis and Matt Brown led teams with a total of about 30 students, from the University of Oregon, the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts, and the London Metropolitan University, in fieldwork in two neighborhoods of Guangzhou (Geshan Village and Yide Road) and three neighborhoods of London (Dalston, Uptom Park and Spitalfields/Whitechapel). The purpose of the work was to investigate relationships between urban morphology, building typology and small-scale economic development, and involved both detailed building-by-building mapping as well as interviews with shopkeepers and residents. In the mapping, which included several hundred contiguous buildings in each neighborhood, we looked at variables such as building type, building age, number and type of uses, building height, position of entrance and storefront windows, and presence of very small businesses. In the interviews, we discussed the history of the business, the benefits and liabilities of the present location and building, location of customers and suppliers, and other issues that bear on the relationships between location, building and economic function. Our conclusions pointed to the need to maintain small-scale and flexible buildings within a street layout that provides for a variety of "depths", and a variety of rents.
Over the three years, the mapping itself became easier and more sophisticated—in the final year, we used smartphones with an app developed for community mapping which allowed data to be translated directly into a GIS database, and results seen almost immediately.
The work has been presented at several conferences, including the International Seminar on Urban Form, and universities including the University of Queensland and University College London.