Creating livable cities in a rapidly urbanizing world

If you have anything to do with urban planning, or any type of community development for that matter, I commend to you the report entitled Livable cities in a rapidly urbanizing worldissued by the Urban Planning Advisory Team (UPAT) of the International Society of City and Regional Planners (ISOCARP) For the Philips Center of Health and Well-being Singapore July 25-31, 2010.  Among the ideas discussed in the report are principles and practical solutions for so-called transforming cities to actually be livable.  The more I looked at these principles the more I realized that most of them really apply to any community attempting to make itself a better place.  Here are the principles listed in the report.


Strong regional governance
Stable, credible, passionate regional leadership is essential to take responsibility for the whole region and the long term.

Regional leadership must have sufficient legitimacy and credibility to transcend fragmented layers of government, short term and parochial priorities, competing interests and a lack of strategic responsibility for a rapidly urbanizing region.

Natural capital It is imperative that in future the natural resources of a region are understood, conserved and recovered as urbanization proceeds.

Maximising biodiversity in a rapidly urbanizing region requires a landscape framework to be designed based on excellent science, before indiscriminate development takes over.

Local energy Urban areas should maximize the local generation of low-carbon energy, through the efficient use of local energy resources.

All rapidly urbanizing regions have a unique endowment of potential energy resources distributed unevenly across the region, which can be fully employed only if researched, mapped and protected ahead of development.

Urban agriculture Food production, and agriculture generally, should be integrated throughout the urban environment.

Minimizing the separation between food production and urban living reduces energy use, improves urban metabolism, enriches daily life and improves well-being

Strategically certain, and tactically flexible Livable cities need strong strategies for the large scale patterns and networks, with greater creativity, flexibility and responsiveness at the smaller scale.

The planning of rapidly urbanizing regions is often typified by weak strategic regional frameworks but detailed local plans and rules, which are often used to simplify or standardize local development, usually by segregating land uses which might have negative impacts.

The more urban, the more innovation Cities generate innovation, through the intensity of interaction, the rate of change, and the market for creativity and art.

Rapidly urbanizing regions need to support the arts and enrich the cultural landscape, in order to create environments which attract and foster creativity and build stronger communities.

Mobility at all scales From local high-quality pedestrian spaces to international bullet trains, livable cities provide high mobility without compromising equity or environmental quality.

In the 1×1 urban living areas of rapidly urbanizing regions, the quality of the pedestrian environment should come first, with all other modes, including private cars, performing their optimal role and interconnecting effortlessly.

Actively engaged citizens Livable cities foster health and community connectedness by providing multiple destinations and opportunities within walking and cycling distance of where people live, work and play.

To counter the tendency in rapidly urbanizing regions for important urban functions to be segregated and even inaccessible, the many destinations of ‘daily life’ should be co-located, and where possible integrated, in places of high accessibility.

Equity and social mix Livable cities improve life chances, health status and well-being by minimizing social division, exclusion and income inequality.

Whatever the level of inequality in income and opportunity in society, well- planned social mix in rapidly urbanizing regions can improve levels of trust and well-being.

Corporate citizenship Large corporations can play an increasingly creative role – through their products, their operations and their partnerships with governments and communities – to help make cities livable.

In rapidly urbanizing regions, corporations can be instrumental in driving innovation and raising standards, through their own developments and through direct relationships established with a local community for mutual benefit.

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