Flashpoints in the Urban Realm

The project seeks to evaluate the social and local dynamics of contested spaces though a variety of outcomes. We aim to chart the wider trends that have the potential to lead to conflict in the future -both conflicts of interest and of physical and violent conflict.


In June 2008, Building Futures kicked off the project with This House Believes We Should Fortify Our Cities a lively debate aimed at raising awareness around key issues of anti-terrorist defices, but also perceptions of fear and risk in the public realm.


Since this event the project has developed to encompass a broad range of thought. The same conditions which typify areas of conflict in places such as Jerusalem or Belfast already exist in the UK, whether in isolation or as set of compounded characteristics. These conditions include gated communities, fortified locations, areas of poverty and poor health, high birth rates coupled with unemployment, immigration, poor access to services and education, inadequate housing and so on.

Building Futures is looking to team up with partners to chart a new Conflict Map for the UK. Using techniques developed in Afghanistan for the British government to chart locations of potential conflict and key players, we will be taking a fresh look at the UK and its flashpoints in the future: A ‘Booth map’ of Conflict.

We hope the findings will inform what role the built environment plays in contributing to and averting these potential conflicts. For example should British housing take in to account the diversity of sensitivities to private and public spaces that exit across different cultures? Should we encourage distinct ethnic communities with close ties to each other, or continue to foster the multi-cultural approach to planning? Can the map be used as an aid to better target where and how regeneration money is spent?

We aim to take a step back from the many unquestioned trends in the built environment and in social politics to speculate whether what we are doing now will potentially lead to conflict in the future. In the analysis, we hope to remain positive and identify what contributes to fortifying people and communities rather than force people to resort to conflict.


Gerard van Bortel, Vincent Gruis, David Mullins and Nico Nieber
Close Neighbours Not Distant Friends 2007

Jon Coaffee
Terrorism, Risk and the City: The Making of a Contemporary Urban Landscape 2003

J. Coaffee et el
Resilient Design for Community Safety and Terror-resistant Cities Munivipal Engineer 2000

What are we scared of? The value of risk in designing public space and Living with Risk: Promoting better public space design

Lorraine Gamman, and Adam Thorpe
Liberty versus Safety: A Design Review

Tim Gill
No Fear: Growing Up in a Risk Averse Society 2007

Stephen Graham
Cities, War and Terrorism: Towards an Urban Geopolitics 2004

John Harrigan and Philippe Martin
Terrorism and the Resilience of Cities a Federal Reserve Bank of New York Economic Policy Review, Nov 2002

Mary Hickman, Helen Crowley and Nick Mai
Immigration and Social Cohesion in the UK Joseph Rowntree Foundation 2008

Paul Hirst
Space and Power: Politics, War and Architecture 2005

Jane Jacobs
The Death and Life of Great American Cities 1972

Martin Jones, Rhys Jones, and Michael Woods
An Introduction to Political Geography: Space, Place and Politics 2004

H.E. Savitch
Cities in a Time of Terror: Space, Territory, and Local Resilience 2007

Rupert Smith
The Utility of Force: The Art of War in the Modern World 2006


For more information on this project contact us at