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Need for a whole new way of urban planning city and leadership?

Is there a need for a whole new way of doing urban planning and lead cities in order to confront the challenges of rapid urbanization, climate change and creating sustainable cities? During the World Cities Summit in Singapore in June 2012, the IFHP trave

Is there a need for a whole new way of doing urban planning and lead cities in order to confront the challenges of rapid urbanization, climate change and creating sustainable cities? During the World Cities Summit in Singapore in June 2012, the IFHP travel-squad asked three of the keynote speakers this crucial question. Here is what they responded: 

Professor Sir Peter Hall, University College London:

‘I don’t think that we need a totally new way of urban planning and leadership. We were pretty good at planning 50 years ago – take cities like Copenhagen with its Finger Plan, Stockholm with its famous general plan, London with its Greater London Plan and New Towns. These were great plans and they still stand up. I think that the model they set still applies for cities in the developing world as well as in the developed world.’

Professor Peter Newman, Curtin University, Perth:

‘Yes, in many ways we need a whole new way of planning and urban leadership. I wrote a book in 1989 called ‘Cities and Automobile Dependence’ where I first recognized that the trends in cities were out of control and that all the urban planning was about lowering density and building them around cars. And we had to reorient the transport priorities and re-urbanize the cities. Now that’s largely happening, but I would add to that now a green element – that we also have to reduce all over footprint, all of the resources that have gone into making cities for thousands of years, we now have to reverse that trend and make them more sustainable. Now, that’s a big task and it requires a different way of thinking, different way of doing the technology, techniques and practices of town planning.’

Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Parks & Recreation:

 ‘What we need to confront this problem is leadership at the top. We need mayors, governors, deputy mayors and senior administration officials who are not afraid to take bold steps. To do that, they have not to worry too much about politics and worry more about doing the right thing. And one of those things also means appointing the right people at the technical levels.

Boulder, Colorado 

We also asked Hall and Newman what recommendations they would give today’s city leaders:

Professor Sir Peter Hall, University College London:

‘I would say campaign for more resources because too many cities really lack autonomy. We are speaking here in Singapore which is the ultimate – very special case – of a city-state that is completely autonomous. Here, the city is the government and the government is the city. Most cities in the world aren’t that fortunate and their relationship to their nation-state will often complex and really leave them without the resources to tackle their problems, including the financial resources. That is the question I would address above all.’

Professor Peter Newman, Curtin University, Perth:

‘First of all: believe in it. It is a reality, it is the next economy. If you don’t believe in it, you are just going to be playing the fiddle while Rome burns and you are not going to be part of the future, but part of the past. Second thing is that it is a lot easier than you think. There are many planners that have given up because it seems too hard, but it is remarkable how quickly these changes are happening. The growth in renewable energy is dramatic and it is just waiting for the planners to fit it into the cities so that they come alive with renewable, green technologies.  The opportunities are there, the technologies are appearing – you don’t have to wait for that. Just get on and just feed it into the whole planning system. Can be new local energy and waste systems, new sustainable transport and much more resilient systems, biophilic urban systems where you can green buildings as well as areas between them. This combination of techniques are available if you can just work with the community on getting this vision in place, you will find that this vision will unfold a lot quicker than you ever imagined.’

So, in fact answers pointing in different directions when it comes to the need for a change in planning to create sustainable cities: Hall basically believes in traditional great master planning if it is based on principles like the plans in Copenhagen and London, where comprehensive public transportation has been a key element. Newman and Benepe, on the other hand, advocates for a profound change in the mindset and also for the need to integrate new techniques in planning. What do you think?

More on

Sir Peter Hall: https://iris.ucl.ac.uk/research/personal/?upi=PGHAL68

Professor Peter Newman, Curtin University, Perth: http://humanities.curtin.edu.au/about/staff/index.cfm/p.newman

Adrian Benepe, Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Parks & Recreation: http://www.nycgovparks.org/about/people/commissioner-adrian-benepe