Achieving Sustainable Urban Form

Achieving Sustainable Urban Form

Adam Voelcker

Edited by Katie Williams, Elizabeth Burton and Mike Jenks. London: E & FN Spon. 2000. [pound]35

Does intensifying cities make them more sustainable? Do higher densities promote social equity? Does urban intensification really reduce car traffic, fuel use and carbon dioxide emissions? Are mixed-use areas always preferable to single-use areas? Are apartments more sustainable than detached houses? What is urban sustainability anyway? These are some of the many questions raised in this collection of papers by planning academics across the world. The book is a sequel to The Compact City: A Sustainable Urban Form? (1996) which concluded that there are many ways of achieving sustainable urban form other than through compactness. This book explores those alternatives. Papers are wide-ranging: some are theoretical, others are historical or practical and deal with actual built schemes. Examples come from Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Australia and California. Some papers lost me completely, others seemed obvious.

No great conclusions are reached by the end, except to state that there seems to be no clear consensus of opinion among the experts (surprise?). So where does this leave us? I fear not very far forward. Trying to make our towns and cities sustainable will remain a useless pursuit until we see urban life in relation to its rural counterpart as one symbiotic whole. And we will get nowhere as long as growth remains the underlying force of our lives — whether it is private (getting richer, having more leisure time, living longer) or corporate (expanding companies, increasing profits, boosting GNP). Simply said, growth is not sustainable.

COPYRIGHT 2000 EMAP Architecture

COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning