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How to capture public life in public spaces?

Fen Wei's picture
Photo credit: Lois Goh/ World Bank
Urbanization and economic growth go hand in hand.  Cities are turning into centers of attraction in developing countries and their population is rising constantly. In such cities, we often see in a city a mix of old and new, slow and fast: Street vendors hawking their wares by luxury shopping malls; highways segmentizing parks and walkways; high-rise crowding out traditional neighborhoods, etc. However, we do not often see a well-balanced mix that serves all urban dwellers with a wide array of needs, economically and socially.
 
What are the ingredients of a good urban life, or rather, what does it take for a city to make the public happy? The answer to this is multifaceted. Cities need to be accessible, vibrant, and create safe public spaces to meet public needs.
 
As UN-Habitat’s Charter of Public Space states, public spaces are a key element of individual and social well-being, the places of a community’s collective life, particularly in situations of poverty and limited public resources, such as those in the developing countries. The Charter also highlights that participation of citizens and in particular of communities of residents is of crucial importance for the maintenance and management of public spaces. While there might be no objection to this statement, it is also true that it has been easily overlooked, especially in developing countries, for the sake of “economic efficiency.”

改造城市滨水区

Fen Wei's picture
Also available in: English
HafenCity, Hamburg. Photo Credit: ELBE&FLUT / Thomas Hampel at http://www.hafencity.com
港口新城,汉堡。
图片来源: ELBE&FLUT / Thomas Hampel at http://www.hafencity.com
 “滨水区不只是孤立存在的。它与其他所有的东西相关。” —— 杰出的城市规划师Jane Jacobs说。
 
这种关系是两方面的;它指的是城市与其滨水区的关系,这种关系不断变化正如城市本身不断变化一样。
 
在工业化时代,城市滨水区是服务于城市的后院,但最近几十年来,它已经从以前的定义发展演化,有了新的含义。

一方面,在改变城市结构甚或重塑城市形象方面,滨水区发挥了更重要的作用。
 
另一方面,成功的城市滨水区也展示了可以怎样释放和利用城市资源(如可利用的土地、更清洁的水、历史遗产保护和城市更新),以及怎样将这些因素融入城市和公众的生活。

[参阅: 城市土地再生:利用私人投资从业者指南]

Transforming urban waterfronts

Fen Wei's picture
Also available in: 中文
HafenCity, Hamburg. Photo Credit: ELBE&FLUT / Thomas Hampel at http://www.hafencity.com
HafenCity, Hamburg.
Photo Credit: ELBE&FLUT / Thomas Hampel at http://www.hafencity.com
“The waterfront isn’t just something unto itself. It’s connected to everything else,” said Jane Jacobs, a prominent urbanist.
 
This connection is twofold; it refers to the relationship between cities and their waterfronts – as ever-changing as cities themselves.
 
Evolving from its past definition during the industrial era as a city’s service yard, the urban waterfront has, in recent decades, taken on new meanings.

On one hand, the waterfront is playing a more significant role in transforming the urban fabric of a city or even reshaping a city’s identity.
 
On the other hand, successful urban waterfronts have also demonstrated how city resources – such as available land, cleaner water, historic preservation, and urban revitalization – can be unlocked and realized, and how these elements can be integrated into the city and public life.
 
[Read: Regenerating Urban Land: A Practitioner's Guide to Leveraging Private Investment]

There are otters in the city

Ede Ijjasz-Vasquez's picture

Photo by budak via Flickr CC

When a family of 10 smooth-coated otters appeared in Singapore’s urban downtown of Marina Bay last year, the city was ablaze with excitement and delight. Who would have thought that these otters would make a dense urban environment like Singapore home? After all, otters were thought to have vanished in the 1970s as Singapore rapidly developed into a dense metropolis.
 
Was this a fad? Probably. Was this a big deal? Absolutely. In a small city-state where land is considered a scarce resource, the tension between urban development and biodiversity conservation can be very pronounced. This was not the case in Singapore. Between 1986 and 2010, as Singapore’s urban population doubled from 2.7 to 5 million, its green cover also increased from 36% to 50%, all within the confines of just 710 square kilometers. The increase in green cover in urbanized Singapore was seen as a sign that the efforts by the urban planning agency, parks and water management boards had paid off, and a testament that the natural environment could be indeed be integrated effectively into the urban fabric of the city.
 
Today is World Environment Day. This year, it celebrates the theme of “connecting people to nature,” and invites us to think about how we are part of nature—and how intimately we depend on it.

Engineering Civility: A Lesson in Civics

Dan Hoornweg's picture

London Riots, CroydonCivil Engineering students graduate knowing at least three things: you can’t push a rope, gravity never takes a day off, and a three-legged table won’t wobble. They are now learning a fourth: You can’t build a city without civility.

Civil engineers are largely responsible for our built environment. Generally they’re a studious and busy lot; and they are about to get a lot busier – in the next twenty years they have to help build cityscapes for about 2 billion new urban residents. But today what’s needed even more than civil engineers is more civility. A few recent examples, big and small, come to mind.