These are some developing thoughts about how to plan and grow cities.
Growing, as opposed to planning or building, is important as the cities we think of as successful today weren’t designed in one attempt, or built in a few phases, but grew over many years.
There’s a lot of criticism of the way cities currently respond in a physical way to their wider economic and social context. It is arguable that planning in its current form has not and does not achieve the objectives it sets out to. Many cities are fragmented by infrastructure, set out in low density single use zones, suffer poor health, are difficult to grow, irresponsive to market conditions, irresponsive to their residents, or uncoordinated in outcome.
Collage: Ed Parham 2016, combining: Hong Kong photos, Wolf; Exodus ii Dubai, Lyon; sprawl, unknown.
The last 100 years is littered with example of ambitious city projects that have not worked as intended. Why do so few new cities work the way they were meant to? How can we learn from these and avoid falling in to similar traps? What do we know now that could make any difference?
This post works through two examples to make a case for measuring density in terms of population per length of street rather than population per unit area.
It uses two different building typologies to distribute people. While these are typologies rather than measures of density, they are important because they are often how higher level, block-based densities get interpreted and applied at the scale of the urban block.
In both cases a consistent block size and population have been used. The variation comes from the way this population is distributed at the block level (through individual buildings on individual plots, or through a single building on a single plot.
These two approaches have then been distributed across a grid of streets, and compared in terms of the number of people who live on each street. While this is a very simple measure – it does not consider the people who may be passing through the street as part of a larger scale journey – it does give an impression of the latent activity that could occur.
This summarises some developing ideas on strategic planning, in particular trying to find a more spatial way to think about density.
Fundamentally density is a way of linking people to space in a way that can be compared within and between cities. However it could be argued that there are a number of flaws in the widely adopted approach, measuring people per hectare, that impact on the way cities function.
all images (c) Ed Parham 2016