Friday, July 1, 2016

The Complexity of Urban Planning

“Urban  planning  seeks  to  direct  and  control the  course of urban affairs and events in the interests  of  the  society  as  a  whole.  The  nature of the planning contribution is to identify  needs and issues, to anticipate challenges, to identify goals  and  objectives, to formulate  policies  and  to  prepare  strategies  for the future  which  resolve  problems,  not  separately,  but with the means available and within their total urban and regional contexts.”

            --John N. Jackson, “The Urban Future: A Choice Between Alternatives”.

The  complexity of the conditions in the urban setting  make the urban planning  very complicated. Every community  is  composed of different individuals  and  groups  with varying  needs.  Each town and city has their own distinctive attributes, emerging through time as a result of a complex interplay of many factors. The complexity is exacerbated by  the  fact that  these  diverse needs further evolve   and vary  from  place to place. There are a  number  of  factors cited by Hall (1989) which trigger these changes. Among others, are (a)  changes in  economic trends such as privatization, deregulation  and globalization  of economies; (b) advent of  new  information and communications technologies; and, (c)  conceptualization of new ideas in managing the society and environment.

These factors can significantly affect people's patterns  of living.  The way humanity uses spaces and structures changes with needs pressures and demands. It changes in response to new circumstances such as the invention of the lift, the institutionalization of public transportation, the increasing need for recreational space as cities grow, and the changes in demographic characteristics and socio-economic attributes as a result of in-migration and out-migration (Jackson, 1972). The industrial revolution in Europe, for  instance, essentially  changed the way businesses were  conducted  and the travel and settlement patterns of the European  society. Now, in almost every corner of the globe, the recent economic  trends of globalization of cities and trade  liberalization are changing people's lives  anew. Consequently,  needs are changing as well.

Amidst these changing needs of the populace, the context and approaches  to  planning  are changing too.  More  and  more fields  of expertise are becoming involved in  the  planning arena. According to Healey (1988), what used to be the realm for  architects, engineers and urban design planners now has likewise  become  the realm  for  economists,  sociologists, community  development experts, environmentalists  and  even theoreticians. Healey (1988) accepted that all the fields  now involved  have  legitimate roles to play   in  the  planning process.

But the difficulty lies on achieving a high degree of interaction and understanding not only between planners and  cli­ents (the community) but also between and among the planners themselves.  As emphasized by Udy (1994), Planners  need  to "know how to get  behind the facelessness of other  planners and  find  the human beings who are there...the key  to  the success  of  the  planning process is a  high  and  constant degree of interaction".

Another  development  in  urban planning amidst the changing urban setting  is  the  increasing popularity of people's participation as an accepted approach and an essential part of the whole planning exercise.   Many planners  had realized that the people can not be  separated and is an integral part of the built environment. Participatory  methods were then included specially in  the  critical areas of planning.

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