A model for the pursuit of robust urban form

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The starting point of the argument to be presented here is that the physical structure of urban areas lasts from many decades to several centuries. Without rebuilding, it can constrain, or even prohibit, specific urban activities that are thought desirable and being planned for. In contrast, economic and social forces will change markedly over the same time period and it is desirable that the physical structure should be designed to cope with these changes. Growth of settlements is the norm rather than the exception and, at the very least, there is no basis for assuming that a city will never expand beyond its existing limits. As urban areas expand, it becomes necessary to retrofit them by inserting new, and adapting existing, buildings and by renewing and extending the infrastructure. Increases in residential density will result and will require similar retrofitting. If, therefore, a city is to be planned it must be robust: it should be designed to accommodate change, particularly the expansion of infrastructure, on a continual basis. Although, at first sight, very long-term physical planning of robust form may seem like a tall order, it will be argued that it is feasible. A theoretical and normative model of robust urban form can be derived, or deduced, from two sets of planning goals - pursuit of quality of life and pursuit of sustainability (Hall, 2015) - and it will be shown that it has some remarkable properties.
Book of proceedings: Annual AESOP Congress, Spaces of Dialog for Places of Dignity, Lisbon, 11-14th July, 2017
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