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«CSAAR (7: 2010: Amman) Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development \ Edited by Steffen Lehmann, Husam Al Waer, Jamal AI-Qawasmi. Amman: The Center ...»

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Read as a whole, the papers within this chapter are at once thought-provoking, and often provocative, as they hit at the very heart of Sustainability as a Humanist endeavor. Through various vantage points, each portends that sustainability must become evolutionary, needing to evolve beyond science and poliey and into something of a social ethos before it can become truly etTective.

The case studies and scientific research sited are well-founded and presented, but each plays as background to the optimistic yet challenging call for a new Ethos.

Several papers reflect on the need to sort out weather the key to our cities and built environments, both existing and newly planned, lie within an older, pre­ Industrial paradigm, or a new paradigm altogether. Delightfully, they progress to suggest both, that new readings of old models overlaid with new and innovative ideas may provide new and creative possibilities. It is this optimistic idea of harnessing our intellectual knowledge base that is so fascinating, and in so doing, providing an applicable method for the evolution of our cUITent ethos of consumerism and consumption.

Another underlying theme within this chapter is the poignant realization that with new technologies come new responsibilities. While we have enjoyed the fruits of the Industrial and Informational Ages, we have yet to embaITass them fully and responsibly, and are yet to define our cUITent Age. As with Darwinian theories of Evolution, the newly evolved must at times endure the weeding-out process ofthe unfit hybrids. Rather than over a millennia, we find the evolutions at hand taking their course seemingly overnight, making it incumbent as aglobai society to become global citizens, sharing a global ethos to handle the changes with intelligence and application. Technology will not save us, but enlightenment and intellectual pursuit just might.

This chapter suggests that perhaps it is no Ionger the Information Age, but rather, an Age more akin to Reason and Enlightenment necessitated by the hard lessons in disciplined self-reflection. After several eras of unabridged consumption as a way of Iife, we are slowly coming to the realization that a different lifestyle is not to be feared, and that a sustainable way of life is reasonable, convenient, and, shockingly, profitable. Several papers document the path blazed by select multi­ national corporations that in embracing sustainable practices as an ethos, have found new profit bases as weil as the most coveted of all commercial assets, self­ generating intellectual properties and their ability to commercially proliferate.

Matched to this rising economic ethos is it's miITor within the collective design communities, that sustainability is no longer an inarguable necessity, but rather intellectual Ethos ofReason.

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RevisitingLondon's First Garden Cities:

Failed Utopian Vision or a Sustainable 21st Century Model?

JeffRisom l, Maria Sistemas2 Project Manager al Gehl Architects, Copenhagen I 2 Urban Development Project Manager ai MedCities, Barcelona Abstract In the UK, the 'compact city' model for urban development has heavily influenced Urban Renaissance planning policy of the last ten years. This complex and contested ideal has been greatly simplified and selectively implemented throughout London. This paper examines the guiding framework for this form of 'compact city' policy. Some Urban Renaissance policies are reminiscent of the Garden City model put forth 100 years earlier. Yet this paper intends to investigate these "sustainable" policies as they manifest themselves specifically through a proposal for a tall building in the Garden City suburb of Ealing. Our analysis leads us to criticize regional policy used to designate the scope and scale of developmenl at the local level as it fails to identify key socio­ economic and spatial characteristics that contribute to the phenomenology of each specific location. This faHure sterns from an ideology that is largely rooted in convenient but overly simplified notions of what constitutes 'urban' and 'suburban' areas. We conclude with two bundles of policy and urban design interventions that address the flawed relationship between the regional and the local, identifying new evaluation criteria, while maintaining the strengths of current policy's main goals and aspirations.

–  –  –

1 Ten Years ofthe Urban Renaissance 1.1 The London Plan and the Compact City: a sustainable 21st century model'!

The first London Plan, released in 2004 after four years of preparation, is a regional planning document that sets out then Mayor Ken Livingstone's vision for London, as an "exemplary, sustainable world city" (GLA, 2004), The 'compact city' model for urban development was integral in achieving this vision and was envisioned as the most sustainable paradigm: environmentally, in terms of conserving energy and land; socially, by promoting the already vibrant and diverse quaJity of life found in the City; and economically, enhancing London's growth through economies of scale implemented through strategic partnerships,,The plan designates areas for growth, in both inner and outer London, but fifteen of the twenty-five identified areas jor intensification are widely considered suburban, including the Garden City of Ealing, and are located in Outer London, Over a century ago, Howard's plan for the Garden Cities of tomorrow laid out many of the 21 st century sustainability principles: Howard envisioned a framework of several 'compact' communities each highly accessible by foot (bicycle) and public transport and each offering employment diversity and residential amenity, These new urban areas were to be linked by an "intermunicipal railway", While this ideal drove Scandinavian post-war planning particularly in Stockholm and Copenhagen, in practice Howard's vision has only been partially realized in numerous English (Letchworth, Welwyn, Milton Keynes, Ealing, etc) and American cities (Radbum, Chatham Village, Baldwin Hills), Howard's Garden City vision of 'Town-Country' that "would gain the opportunities of the town and those of the country" (Hall & Ward, 1998) perhaps still remains the English ideal, over 100 years after it was first formulated, Yet, the 21st century lifestyle is a carbon and energy-intensive one, which eontradicts the perceived benefits of 'local proximity' and dense urban living promoted in the 'eompact city' policy, lt is argued in this paper that London's 'compact city' model risks imposing inferior 'apartment' housing types onto localities that lack sufficient provision ofservices, thus merging the worst oftown and eountry, The next paragraphs critically examine the main tools for achieving a more compact and thus more sustainable city according to the London Plan: brownfield redevelopment, and regionally determined density targets,





1.2 The redevelopment ofBrownfield sites

Brownfiled poliey can increase land values, thus pricing certain income classes out of the city and disconnecting established social networks, Basic principles of urban economics state that restricting the supply of land increases land values (O'Sullivan, 2007; Chesire & Sheppard, 2005), This is further exacerbated in Sustainable Architecture and Urban 393 suburban areas. Other studies refer to econometric evidence showing "that urban dwellers value local open space and underdeveloped land considerably more than they do greentield land outside the city" (Whitehead, 2008, p.8).

Therefore, urban policies aiming at developing brownfield sites come at not only tinancial costs but also detract from the social sustainability of the local community as such sites could otherwise provide local amenities.

At a broader seale, current foeus on browntield development in London restriets house building in piaces where employment is growing beeause they often do not eoineide with the zones that have most brownfield land.

(SOLUTIONS, 2009). Thus, eurrent poliey is advoeating the eonstruetion of thousands of new hornes, far away from existing and new employment centres resulting in inereased demand for ear use and Jonger eommuting times.

Finally, The London Plan assumes that brownfield sites are centrally located and " ideally suited to this form of intense and integrated development" (GLA, 2008, p. 64 seetion 3.6). While ihis may be the case in certain eontexts, Research shows that local policy often fails to address the relative aceessibility of brownfield sites (SOLUTIONS, 2009). This eritique is not to say that brownfield poliey is entirely misguided, but must be adjusted to speeific sites and eontext as in the absence of robust local poliey that responds to specifie eontextual issue, the rigidity of the less eontextual poliey of the London Plan ean be misinterpreted at the local seale.

1.3 Density targets regional focus versus local context

Planning and built densities have been rising rapidly aeross England and espeeially in London over the past 25 years in response both to govemment poliey and market pressures (Whitehead, 2008; SOLUTIONS, 2009). Yet one ean question whether the dramatie inerease in densities of residential development is marketable in the long-term. When eonsidering the built density alone (the regulated supply of housing), suggested densities found in eurrent London policy advoeating for at least 60 dwellings per heetare are "far higher than anything observed in new building [in the UK] for many deeades" (Whitehead, 2008, pA), and substantially higher than the density of 25-30 dwelligns/ha. of the first Garden Cities. With higher densities on a eonstrained land supply, the result is that new units are smaller than existing units. This seems to imply that housing stock being produced will not be desirable in the long-term as this eontradiets the prevailing trend in high ineome groups to demand not only high quality hornes but also more spaee.

leff Risom & Maria Sistemas

–  –  –

Proponents of higher density argue that more compact urban forms built at higher densities reduce carbon emissions, often referring to the causal relationship between density and personal energy, powerfully illustrated by Kenworthy and Newman in 1989. Yet conclusive proof ofthis causal relationship is contested. The study is criticized for neglecting the 'real' (income and fuel prices) and 'opportunity' costs of transport (time and access) (Rudlin and Falk, 2001; SOULTIONS, 2009). Specific research in the suburban context implies there is little or no correlation between density and private car use (Echenique, 2005). Thus higher densities can lead to traffic congestion rather than decreased automobile dependency and negatively impact environmental sustainability.

These negative eftects can be measured in terms of increase in fuel consumption and subsequent emissions and pollution caused by "queing and stop/start traffic flow" (Eehenique, 2005, p. 126).

Furthermore, The London Plan sets a generic target to "maximise the potential of sites... eompatible with local context, the design principles in Policy 4B.l and with publie transport capacity" (GLA, 2008a, policy 3A.3). With no maximum density set in regional policy, the question of appropriate density is left to local authorities. Yet these loeal decision makers are eaught in a difficult situation between local demand for housing and regional policy. These competing claims are still very much contested.

Sustainable Architecture and Urban Development 395

1.4 Critical evaluation of the "Compact City" policy

While limiting sprawl and encouraging more efficient land-use, current 'compact city' polides that may appear sustainable, often result in negative externalities as weil.. Economically and sociaUy, it could be argued brownfield targets restrict land supply, driving up land prices and the cost of Jiving, which in turn threatens to disconnect established social networks. By not explicitly tying land re-use to building re-use, brownfield policy has a potentially net negative effect environmentally as weIl.

The tendencies of market and policy forces have contributed to reduced new dwelling sizes, contradictory to demand in the UK for more dwelling space.

Intensification policy tends to neglect context and services, focussing predominately on access to public transport as justification for building at higher densities. Narrowly defined categories used to regulate levels of intensification fail to address the complex and diverse nature of London's outer boroughs.



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