Sustainable communities

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SoftGrid in association with AESOP and IFHP
The planning and construction of ‘ideal’ urban forms in the modern era dates to the 19th century, and Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City concept. The advent of the environmental/sustainability agenda since the 1970s, and the imperative to reinvent many cities in a post-industrial age, has revived the debate, and it is within these parameters that the concept of ‘sustainable communities’ exists. Sustainability has been subject to multiple definitions - in general terms ‘sustainable development’ has meant pursuing growth economic strategies that ‘put greater value on environmental resources, extend the time horizons in which actors think and operate, and promote greater equity between different social groups and communities, primarily through new forms of democratic governance’ (Raco, 2005). Perhaps more specifically to urban planning and urban design, Owens & Cowell (2002) describe sustainable development and communities as the prioritising of 3 inter-related objectives in city design – environmental protection (reducing resource consumption, waste, and pollution); social development (equity and justice), and the pursuit of economic growth. In his polemic Cities for a Small Planet, the architect Lord Richard Rogers defines the ‘sustainable city’ as: A Just City where resources, education, and justice are fairly distributed, and in which all feel enfranchised; A Beautiful City, where physical surroundings fire the imagination; A Creative City, where people are encouraged to experiment, solve problems, and fulfil their potential; An Ecological City with minimal environmental impact and optimal resource efficiency; A City of Easy Contact, where the public realm is valued and information is freely exchanged, virtually and face-to-face; A Compact and Polycentric City, which respects surrounding countryside and focuses on neighbourhoods; A Diverse City, in which activities overlap to generate animation and inspiration.
Architecture & Planning in Times of Scarcity : Reclaiming the Possibility of Making. 3rd AESOP European Urban Summer School 2012, Manchester
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