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Interaction with the Urban Form – Plymouth City Centre

Plymouth city centre is a very specific area. It has a very distinct character arising from the strong postwar design by Patrick Abercrombie. It has a truly mono functional use, it is a shopping centre in the most literal sense of the word possible. There are no offices, no restaurants, no pubs or bars, no housing, just shops and on the first or second floors storage space for the shops.
The shops open at 10h00 am and close at 18h00. These hours then basically determine the “opening” of the city centre. Outside of those the centre is dead, again literally. There is a very special phenomenon attached to this. Although the opening hours are as described above, shoppers vanish around 17h00. So approximately one hour before closing the shops are already empty and so is the center. Being in HMV at half five is like a scene out of “I am Legend” – hello is there someone? (I have written a longer article about this topic on JLF urban research.)
To my surprise this pattern shows up dramatically in my records. Although I was aware of this pattern and could have behaved differently, but I didn’t. There is no reason to walk through this area, as there is nothing happening and on top of this it becomes rather scary to be on your own in this vast outdoor shopping centre at night.
This short clip shows the activities within 24h. It is zoomed right into Plymouth center. The activities start around 10h00 and end exactly at 17h00. There is the odd crossing outside of these hours, but the characteristic shows clearly.

plymouth365_plyCentre from urbanTick on Vimeo.

To illustrate this in a bit more context, the following images include the city centre of Plymouth but cover also bits of outside area. What this shows is, that even after 17h00 the track record shows still a high number of activities, but they all exclude magically the centre.



Images by urbanTick – Time sequence 07h00, 09h00, 11h00, 16h00, 17h00, 19h00 and 22h00 activity in the Plymouth city center. Click for larger view.