10 Principles of Intelligent Urbanism in City Planning and Urban Design

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Principle 1: Balance with Nature

Urbanization that is in balance with nature emphasizes urban ecological balance, emphasizing the distinction between utilizing resources and exploiting them. After a point of no return, anthropogenic utilization of natural resources will outpace the natural ability of the ecosystem to replenish itself. This principle promotes environmental assessments to identify fragile zones, threatened ecosystems and habitats that can be enhanced through conservation, density control, land use planning and open space design (McCarg, 1975). This principle leads to a particular level of human habitation intensity wherein the resources that are consumed will be replaced through the replenishing natural cycles of the seasons, creating environmental equilibrium.

Principle 2: A Balance with Tradition

Balance with Tradition is intended to integrate plan interventions with existing cultural assets, respecting traditional practices and precedents of style (Spreiregen, 1965). This urban planning principle demands respect for the historical and cultural heritage and values of a place. Planning decisions must operate within the balance of tradition, as in protecting, promoting and conserving generic components and elements of the urban pattern, including concerning unique local knowledge, cultural and societal iconography of regions, their signs and symbols that are expressed through art, urban space and architecture.

Principle 3: Appropriate Technology

Appropriate technology emphasizes implementation of building materials, construction techniques, infrastructural systems and project management which are consistent with local contexts (situation, setting or circumstances). People’s capacities, geo-climatic conditions, available on-site resources, and suitable capital investments all temper technology. Where there are abundant craftspeople, labour-intensive methods are appropriate. Where there is surplus savings, capital intensive methods are appropriate. For every problem there is a range of potential technologies, which can be applied, and an appropriate fit between technology and other resources must be established.

Principle 4: Conviviality

Conviviality promotes social interaction through public domains, in a hierarchy of places, devised for personal solace, companionship, romance, domesticity, “neighborliness,” community and civic life (Jacobs, 1993). Vibrant societies are interactive, socially engaging and offer their members numerous opportunities for gathering and meeting one another, which are space specific thus be achieved through design. The hierarchies can be conceptualized as a system of social tiers, with each tier having a corresponding physical place in the settlement structure. This includes a place for individual, for friendship, for householders, for neighborhood, for communities, and for the city domain.

Principle 5: Efficiency

Principle of efficiency promotes a balance between the consumption of resources such as energy, time and fiscal resources, with achievements in comfort, safety, security, access, tenure, productivity and hygiene (or performances). It encourages optimum sharing of public land, roads, facilities, services and infrastructural networks, reducing per household costs, while increasing affordability, productivity, access and civic viability.

A major concern of this principle is transportation. While recognizing the convenience of personal vehicles, it attempts to place costs (such as energy consumption, large paved areas, parking, accidents, negative balance of trade, pollution and related morbidity) on the users of private vehicles. Good city planning practice promotes alternative modes of public transport, as opposed to a dependence on personal vehicles. It also promotes medium to high-density residential development along dense urban corridors, social economic facilities and public services in compact, walkable mixed-use settlements, and efficient urban infrastructure systems, delivering services at less cost per unit to each citizen.

Principle 6: Human Scale

Intelligent Urbanism encourages ground level, walkable, and people-oriented urban development based on anthropometric measures. Human scale principle advocates removing artificial barrier and promotes face-to-face contact, providing friendly places, pedestrian walkways and public domains where people can meet freely. These can be parks, gardens, glass-covered gallerias, arcades, courtyards, street side cafes, river- and hill-side stroll ways, and a variety of semi-covered spaces. The trend towards urban sprawl also can be overcome by developing pedestrian circulation networks along streets and open spaces that link local destinations. Basic social services and activities should be clustered around public transport stops, orientated onto public open spaces, and at a walkable distance from work places, public institutions, or residential areas.

Principle 7: Opportunity Matrix

The city is an engine of economic growth. Moreover, cities are agglomerated places, or clusters or people, where individuals can increase their knowledge, skills and sensitivities efficiently. This principle envisions the city as a vehicle for personal, social, and [economic development], through access to a range of organizations, services, facilities and information providing a variety of opportunities for enhanced employment, economic engagement, education, and recreation. This principle aims to increase access to shelter, health care and human resources development, as well as increase safety and hygienic conditions.

Intelligent Urbanism sees an urban plan, not only as a physical plan, but also as a social plan and as an economic plan. It views the city as processes and an opportunity system. Yet these opportunities are not equally distributed. Security, health care, education, shelter, hygiene, and most of all employment, are not equally accessible. If the city is an institution, which generates opportunities, intelligent Urbanism promotes the concept of equal access to opportunities within the urban system, and allowing citizens to grow according to their own essential capabilities and efforts.

Intelligent urbanism promotes opportunities through access to:

  • Basic and primary education, skill development and knowledge about the urban world;
  • Basic health care, potable water, solid waste disposal and hygiene;
  • Urban facilities like storm drainage, street lights, roads and footpaths;
  • Recreation and entertainment;
  • Transport, energy, communications;
  • Public participation and debate;
  • Finance and investment mechanisms;
  • Land and/or built-up space where goods and services can be produced;
  • Rudimentary economic infrastructure;
  • Intelligent urbanism provides a wide range of zones, districts and precincts where activities and functions can occur without detracting from one another.

Principle 8: Regional Integration

Intelligent Urbanism envisions the city as an organic part of a larger environmental, socio-economic and cultural-geographic system, which is essential for its sustainability, seeing a city development and its hinterland as a single holistic process of planning. The region may be defined as the catchment area from which employees and students commute into the city on a daily basis; or from which people choose to visit one city, as opposed to another, for business, shopping, entertainment, health care and education; or else. Economically the city region may include the hinterland that depends on its wholesale markets, banking facilities, transport hubs and information exchanges. In this context, Intelligent Urbanism understands that the social and economic region linked to a city also has a physical form, or a geographic character.

Principle 9: Balanced Movement

Intelligent Urbanism advocates integrated transport systems comprising a balance of modal splits between walking, cycling, driving, and rail or bus-based mass rapid transit. This principle accepts automobile system, but it should not be made essential by design. A well planned metropolis would be dense and intensive along mass transit corridors and around major urban hubs, functioning as urban conviviality and public access to urban services and facilities. Therefore, if the movement of all corridors are in balance, urban social and economic infrastructures can be equally intensified as well.

Principle 10: Institutional Integrity

This principle emphasizes that good practices can only be realized through accountable, transparent, competent and participatory local governance, founded on appropriate data bases, due entitlements, civic responsibilities and duties. The institutional framework can only operate where there is a Structure Plan, or other document, or equivalent mechanism, which acts as a legal instrument to guide the growth, development and enhancement of the city. It defines, for instance, how the land will be used, serviced, and accessed. The Structure Plan is intended to provide owners and investors with predictable future scenarios.

There must be a system of participation by the city stakeholders in the preparation of plans, in a form of institutionalized public meetings, hearings of objections and transparent processes of addressing objections, in promoting public participation. For urban development activities, the main actors also must be institutionalized or professionally qualified or licensed, so there is a guarantee that they truly understand the issues, plan objectives, configurations, standards, the codes and regulations, methodologies, and so on. This applies to architects, planners, contractors, and other designated consultants, civil engineering and M&E, for instance. Finally, there must be legislation creating statutory Local Authorities, and empowering them to act, manage, invest, service, protect, promote and facilitate urban development.

Intelligent Urbanism insists that cities, local authorities, regional development commissions and planning agencies be professionally managed. City Managers can be hired to manage the delivery of services, the planning and management of planned development, the maintenance of utilities and the creation of amenities. In this context, Intelligent Urbanism fosters the evolution of institutional systems that enhance transparency, accountability and rational public decision making.

This article is summarized and re-concretized from Principles of Intelligent Urbanism (PIU) on Wikipedia. The term of Principls of Intelligent Urbanism was coined by Prof. Christopher Charles Benninger, evolved from the city planning guidelines formulated by the International Congress of Modern Architecture (CIAM), the urban design approaches developed at Harvard’s pioneering Urban Design Department under the leadership of Josep Lluis Sert, and the concerns enunciated by Team Ten.

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