About Michael Batty

I chair CASA at UCL which I set up in 1995. I am Bartlett Professor In UCL.

The Transformation of Tel Aviv


Tel Aviv is fast becoming an ever more powerful symbol of high tech. In the 1920s before the establishment of the Israeli state, it was famed for its rapid development in the Bauhaus style, and our predecessor at UCL Sir Patrick Geddes was commissioned in the 1925 to prepare a plan for its rapid expansion. Geddes’ plan is still writ-large in its wide boulevards and in its self-contained neighbourhood blocks which we illustrate in the left of the picture shown above. To the right of the picture is a photo (taken by my wife on her i-Phone an hour or so ago) of Dizengoff Square or rather Circle which lies at the heart of town at the southern extent of the Geddes’ plan. There is a nice reference to the Geddes’ plan in the article by Michael Mehaffy and his colleagues entitled “Urban nuclei and the geometry of streets: The ‘emergent neighborhoods’ model” published online in Urban Design International (2010) that you can download (gratis) here.

Of course, I would have liked to entitle this blog post after Tome Wolfe’s (1981) essay “From Our House to Bauhaus, or from CASA to Tel Aviv” but I don’t share his denunciation of modern architecture which he identified with the Bauhaus style. In fact although much of Tel Aviv is composed of wonderful Bauhaus buildings, they continue to rot in the salty air of the eastern Mediterranean yet there is a massive revival underway. The high tech and financial ethos of the city is making itself felt in dramatic new construction but this is interweaved a clear and distinctive revival of the Bauhaus and I reckon that within 20 years Tel Aviv will be one of the world’s coolest and probably richest cities, a testament to its past and the future.

The Israel Pollak Lectures at Technion


This past week I have been giving the Israel Pollack distinguished lecture series at Technion in Haifa, the School of Architecture and Town Planning, talking about smart cities and big data (PDF here), and rank clocks and scaling (PDF here). Technion is the power house of Israeli science inaugurated in 1923 by Albert Einstein and it has become the MIT of the nation. Visits like this are great in terms of meeting new people and learning about new ideas but by the strangest quirk, I never imagined that the world would be so small. Going to downtown Haifa with Dafna Fisher-Gewirtzman a couple of days ago, she mentioned that we would be eating dinner in the Holliday building. I think she must have mentioned that Holliday was an English architect who had designed a small block of streets in downtown Haifa in the 1930s and I suddenly wondered if it was the same Holliday who was the first Professor of Town and Country Planning at the University of Manchester where I was a student and where I received the Holliday prize in 1966. Unusual spelling of his name but it might be coincidence and as I never knew anything about him – he died in post in 1960 two years before I entered the School – I had never tried to trace his origins. His son John, I believe, was Head of the Planning School at Lanchester Polytechnic in the 1960s too, and I knew John but had never discussed his father.

It turned out that indeed this was Clifford Holliday, the same, and that he was in Palestine from 1922 to 1935 working as a town planner. In fact he had worked on the plan for Haifa with Sir Patrick Abercrombie who was my predecessor as Bartlett Professor of Planning some 6 professors ago and that the Bartlett Professor 5 ago – Lord William Holford  – had also worked on the plan. The world was indeed small in those days and of course Sir Patrick Geddes (who as avid readers of his life will know designed the early plans for Jerusalem and Tel-Aviv) was also in UCL as Instructor in Physiology in 1878. I am intrigued by the way the dynasty of planning professors was then connected and I hadn’t imagine that Manchester was linked to the Liverpool-London axis in this particular way.

I can find little about what Holliday did but I know there are one or two papers. The best I could find by Googling him was the following from Answers.com

“Albert Clifford Holliday (b Gildersome, W. Yorks, 21 Dec 1897; d Manchester, 26 Sept 1960). English architect and urban planner. On graduating from the University of Liverpool in Architecture and Civic Design, he went to Palestine (1922), succeeding C. R. Ashbee as Civic Adviser to the City of Jerusalem. In 1927 he began private practice, serving also as Town Planning Adviser to the Palestine Government. In these various capacities, he was central to many major planning proposals, including the master plan (1926-30) of Jerusalem, the restoration of the walls and gates of the Old City and, together with Patrick Abercrombie, a regional plan (1933-66) for Haifa Bay, for the Jewish National Fund. His work in Jerusalem was traditional, responding sensitively to local climate, materials and culture: Barclays Bank, the ‘Khan’ of St John’s Ophthalmic Hospital (1929-30) and his undisputed masterpiece, St Andrew’s Church of Scotland (1927-30). With the Israeli architect Richard Kauffmann he planned the Reclamation Area (1929-31) in Haifa, adjacent to the new harbour; later, as consulting architect (1933-7), he set the architectural guidelines for its development: an exercise in civic design innovative in process, impressive in extent and urbane in character.”

Incidentally I can find even less on the web about the prize I got in 1966 which was well established then and for all I know it may be long gone – and the only reference on the web is to my own CV ! Universities have a nasty habit of forgetting their history. C’est La Vie.

Michael Szell’s Review in Science


Michael Szell from the SENSEable Cities Lab at MIT has given my book a very generous review in this week’s edition of Science (28 February, Volume 343, pp. 970-971) where he suggests that my synthesis defines a way forward for bulding a science of cities that is progressive. Thank you, Michael. You will need a subscription to read it but if you are linked to your university network – or in Europe to Eduroam – you will doubtless be able to download it.