This module will focus on sustainable urban form in the context of global urbanization. We will define what urban form is, identify different typologies and think through how they relate to sustainability. We will also review prominent urban planning paradigms and explore how current trends in urbanisation and urban governance shape prospects of sustainable cities.
The module will cover important concepts and principles in urban planning with a particular focus on sustainable urban form. We will also link our debate to wider geographic theories of cities and urbanisation.
The hands-on session will give you an opportunity to look at different examples of urban form and apply planning concepts and principles to real-world examples. You will think about ways of evaluating urban form and develop your own ideas on building better cities.
The video presents some influential ideas on good urban planning and design. You will be invited to compare it with your own ideas of good cities and to identify strengths and weaknesses in current visions of sustainable urban form.
Kandt, J. (2018). Heterogeneous links between urban form and mobility: A comparison of São Paulo, Istanbul and Mumbai. Journal of Transport and Land Use, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.5198/jtlu.2018.1359 (Links to an external site.)
Kandt, J., Rode, P., Hoffmann, C., Graff, A., & Smith, D. (2015). Gauging interventions for sustainable travel: A comparative study of travel attitudes in Berlin and London. Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice, 80, 35-48. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.tra.2015.07.008 (Links to an external site.)
Campbell, S. (1996). Green cities, growing cities, just cities?: Urban planning and the contradictions of sustainable development. Journal of the American Planning Association 62(3), 296-312. https://doi.org/10.1080/01944369608975696 (Links to an external site.)
Brenner, N. (2013). Theses on Urbanization. Public Culture, 25(1 69), 85-114. https://doi.org/10.1215/08992363-1890477 (Links to an external site.)
Barr, S., & Prillwitz, J. (2014). A smarter choice? exploring the behaviour change agenda for environmentally sustainable mobility. Environment and Planning C: Government and Policy, 32(1), 1–19. https://doi.org/10.1068/c1201
Look at the different examples of urban form below and consider the questions.
1. How would you describe the urban form of the neighbourhoods?
2. Which urban form principles, visions or design ideas can you identify? Which elements do you
deem to be inconsistent with the idea of sustainable urban form?
3. Which of the two do you think is more sustainable?
4. What changes, if any, would you suggest to make the neighbourhoods more sustainable?
Neighbourhoods & links:
1. Pasadena, Los Angeles, US
2. Rainier Valley, Seattle, US
3. Hang Hau, Hong Kong, China
• google earth
• open street map
4. Fujisawa SST, Fujisawa, Japan
5. Kirchsteigfeld, Potsdam, Germany
6. Ijburg, Amsterdam, The Netherlands
7. Asa Sul, Brasilia, Brazil
8. Central, Milton Keynes, UK
Class discussion around the workshop:
Video for Discussion:
- Why is building better cities important? Do you think compact, mixed urban form will solve most of the problems in relation to climate change? Why so/why not?
- Which sustainability goals does Calthorpe allude to, and which ones are missing? Can you see any tensions between them?
- Do you think the planning principles Calthorpe advocates would be successful everywhere? Why so/why not?
- Do you agree with Calthorpe’s points on autonomous vehicles? What impacts of future technology on urban form can you think of?
Written response from WG2 (Frans Libertson, Ruth Onkangi, Laurie Kerr, Eva Nedorostova):
Why is building better cities important? Do you think compact, mixed urban form will solve most of the problems in relation to climate change? Why so/why not?
Calthorpes principles present optimal strategies, based on the notion that building denser cities will increase efficiency and reduce emissions. However cities might be limited by what they can implement, and the uptake of these, due to lifestyle, choice, and behaviour.
When asking the question of how planning decisions are made, there is an inherent tension. Calthorpe states that individuals have a choice, but the principles and their implementation are at the level of planners. Therefore this represents a tension between the individual, the wider environment, and power. Who is making the decisions and what are these decisions motivated by? We need to look at the planning process, and who is making the decisions behind this. The planning process always has formal and informal elements, and different ones can take precedent in different settings. Planning is about balancing different demands from different groups.
Furthermore, we must ask what assumptions are being made about lifestyles and day to day practices, and their links to urban form? Are they realistic? Do they apply everywhere? The principles are formed on a particular vision. There is a certain specificity which may not be universal. Are Calthorpes principles informed by middle class visions of a good city? The strict division between private and public spaces is based on western visions. In China, as an example, there is much more shared space, and a different kind of communal life which isn’t formed on the distinction between private and public.
Do you think the planning principles Calthorpe advocates would be successful everywhere? Why so/why not?
As well as the western-centric view presented above, other geographic, and social factors may mean that these principles can’t be applied universally. We need to look at the cultural context in planning.
Compact urban form has a potential to mitigate energy demand, opens up opportunities for shorter distances and more active travel, but whether that happens in the real world is a different question. We need to look at the other factors around it that may be in contradiction and may not allow for energy benefits to be realized in all contexts.
Do you agree with Calthorpe’s points on autonomous vehicles? What impacts of future technology on urban form can you think of?
The issues that cars create in a city are not solved by replacing them with another form of car. Specifically, autonomous vehicles will not solve the issues of congestion, traffic accidents, parking, car-centric city planning, and the status that society attached to owning a car (the inherent symbolism). Instead, these issues are solved be redesigning the system, and changing the practice of mobility rather than incrementally changing technology.
Autonomous vehicles could present an opportunity but we need to think about it carefully. One example could be to look at locations which are currently less accessible by public transport, and perhaps autonomous vehicles be used in these locations, as a feeder service, to respond to the first-mile last-mile issue. This could also help increase use of existing transport infrastructure.
Jens Kandt is lecturer in Urban Geography and Data Science at the Bartlett Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis (CASA) at University College London. His research focuses on how social and urban processes shape inequalities in health and well-being. He is particularly interested in how insights on day-to-day practices, social structure and mobility can contribute to urban policy, transport planning and public health. He also works on methodological innovations in processing novel data sources (big data) for applications in urban policy and planning.