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Landscape planning for urbanisation

Urbanisation Policy

  1. Urbanisation should be preceded by landscape plans.
  2. Manifestly, we want access to clean air, sunshine, beautiful cities, sparkling rivers, ancient woods, gathering places in which to encounter other people.
  3. With imagination and skill, land uses can be integrated.
  4. Communities should found new settlements which conserve the existing landscape and create new public goods. Planning is required - but not too much of it.
  5. Landscape planning can produce settlements which are rich in public goods. We should, as Nan Fairbrother said, 'make new landscapes for our new lives' (Fairbrother, 1970:8).

All the world's cities are growing - and the quality of urban design in the new areas is deeply depressing. In large measure the problem results from entrusting the design of each component to specialists - without any serious attention to design of the space between buildings ('the outdoor landscape'). Highway engineers design roads, builders and architects design houses and apartment blocks, manufacturers design industrial sheds. Then, at the end of the day, one might commission a gardener to green-up the space between buildings, with ghastly results. If you want your city to have good open space between buildings, and on top of buildings, then landscape plans should precede urban development. The principle applies on greenfield sites and in urban renewal and regeneration projects.

Manifestly, we want access to clean air, sunshine, beautiful cities, sparkling rivers, ancient woods, gathering places in which to encounter other people. Landscape planners should focus on public goods and EID (environmental impact design). They should be plural in spirit and forward-looking in practice. This requires knowledge and information. With clear objectives for guidance, as beacons guide ships, we can respond to contexts and prepare plans which reflect the diverse wishes of diverse groups.

With imagination and skill, land uses can be integrated. Single-use planning is generally bad planning. It causes side-effects and public goods to be neglected, so that the land uses fall into disfavour and then decay. In this chapter, I have aimed to take a long view of the urbanisation process. While it proceeds, communities should found new settlements which conserve the existing landscape and create new public goods. Planning is required - but not too much of it.

At the start of the twentieth century, when optimistic reformers first argued the case for 'planning', they were confident that state control would produce a better world, with social justice, green parks, housing set apart from industry, towns ringed by fields, sunny streets, dung-free roads and hygienic disposal of other waste products. By the end of the twentieth century, some of the dreams had been realised and others had become nightmares. The new cities had dirty rivers, polluting roads, dreary parks, ugly scenery and dangerous footpaths. The City of Dreadful Night became the City of Dreadful Day.

Planning was part of the problem. In the Soviet Union, government planning produced grim totalitarian cities dominated by wide roads and high blocks, set far apart. In the United States, government planning took the form of over-investment in roads, rigid land use zoning and under-investment in public space. Western Europe compromised between these extremes, keeping its ancient town centres but surrounding them with a mix of Soviet and American planned development.

The author of London's best plan, Patrick Abercrombie, argued that:

When two or three buildings are gathered together, there arises the question of their relationship to each other; when a road cuts across an open stretch of country, there is its relation to the landscape; when a piece of Land is enclosed, the question of the boundary lines occurs, and the decision as to the use to which it is put or the manner in which it is divided up. All these are examples of Town and Country Planning (Abercrombie 1959 edn: 11).

Like other modernist planners, he was too hasty in arguing from some to all. Twentieth century planning rested on an invalid argument form:

Some actions by land users affect other land users
All actions which affect other land users require planning

Therefore all actions by land users require planning

To logicians, this is known as the fallacy of the undistributed middle. I prefer the following, valid, argument:

Some actions by land users affect public goods
All actions which affect public goods require planning

Therefore some actions by landowners require planning

Landscape planning can produce settlements which are rich in public goods. We should, as Nan Fairbrother said, make new landscapes for our new lives (Fairbrother, 1970:8).

  • Urbanisation requires planning.
  • Finding a good site is the hardest task.
  • Settlements need parents.
  • Good decisions rely on good information.
  • Topography comes first.
  • Heed the wisdom of the ancients!
  • Parks rely on contexts.
  • Earthmoving provides great opportunities.
  • Streams should be treasured.
  • owns need lakes.
  • Towns need community forests.
  • Roads can spoil towns.
  • 'All public' is just as bad as 'all private'.
  • Planning housing areas for a single aspect of the public good tends to produce an unnacceptable degree of uniformity.
  • Planning commercial projects like fried eggs disregards the public good.
  • Noxious industries require special zones. Other types of industry do not.

 

Refences

Turner, T, Landscape planning and environmental impact design. London:UCL Press 1998 Chapter 11

Bacon, E.N. 1967. Design of cities. London:Thames and Hudson.

Ashihara, Y. 1983. The aesthetic townscape. Cambridge Mass:MIT Press.

Krier, R. 1979. Urban space. London:Academy Editions.

Lynch, K.1960. The image of the city. Cambridge, Mass:MIT Press.

Trancik, R. 1986 Finding lost space New York:Van Nostrand.

Whyte, W.H. 1980. The social life of small urban spaces. Washington:The Conservation Foundation, Washington.

Medium urbanisation original

Ian McHarg asked 'Is man
but a planetary disease?'