Chris Alexander set to establish Prince’s Foundation-backed research unit at University of Greenwich

The University of Greenwich and the Prince’s Foundation are to team up with a world authority on Urban Design to work on the next generation of design codes.

Chris Alexander, who leads the Centre for Environmental Structure at the University of California, Berkeley, is in talks to set up a research department affiliated to Greenwich University.

Richard Hayward, head of the architecture and construction department at Greenwich, said the university was in discussions with Alexander but had not as yet clinched the agreement.

He said: “The emphasis is on a place for Chris to do his research. Like us, he has a history of building as well as architecture, and he is also interested in the very good IT facilities we have at Greenwich.”

The unit, which will be in association with Prince Charles’ Prince’s Foundation, will allow Alexander to work on a report on improving design codes for the government’s sustainable communities plan.

Design codes are an integral part of the government’s aim of building 200,000 houses in the South-east by 2016. To this end, the ODPM has set up nine design code pilot schemes around the country. However, many architects have attacked the codes for being too prescriptive, leading to overtly “traditional” developments such as Poundbury in Dorset, which has been derided in some circles as historical pastiche.

I know the ODPM is very interested in Chris’ work

Michael Mehaffy

Alexander’s work reflects his status as a key voice in US new urbanism. He has written seminal books on architectural theory such as Notes on the Synthesis of Form and A Pattern Language, both of which explore how to expand urban areas without diminishing the existing city or creating sprawl.

An insider said Alexander’s report, provisionally entitled Next Generation Coding, could form an integral part of the coding debate. Alexander has already discussed the issues with ODPM officials such as director of urban policy David Lunts.

The insider said: “Alexander’s approach is a new direction because it makes codes more dynamic and more responsive to local identities. It’s about looking at what has come before and responding to that rather than being prescriptive.”

Michael Mehaffy, director of education at the foundation, said any new approach to the coding debate was welcome.

He said: “A lot of people are very worried about all the housebuilding that needs to be completed by 2016 and the effect it will have on their local heritage. I know the ODPM is very interested in Chris’ work.”