Friday, July 1, 2016

The Multi-Function Polis (MFP)

  Urban development experiences of countries around the world in the past few decades had made modern-day planners well aware of the importance of linking physical development with other aspects of equal importance which are, economic, socio-cultural and environmental development. The realization of such significant linkages brought about the birth of new concepts in planning such as the integrated area management (Better Cities program ) and the paradigm of  sustainable development (Khan, 1995). Built-in to these two concepts is the basic idea that a good balance of objectives for physical, economic, socio-cultural and environmental development should carry the economy and society across turbulent times.

The basic  MFP concept  is geared towards the development of an urban area (considering a population ranging from 50,000 to 100,000) which would provide a springboard for science, technology and advanced technology enterprise  (Yencken, 1989). The emphasis on high-tech and high touch industries  would bring the development up-to-date with the  information and communications technologies and likewise with economic trends such as globalization of economies, privatization and deregulation. The jobs created would help alleviate the unemployment statistics.

The MFP is aimed to be a model community. It is to be a city of new character (Yencken, 1989), a place where social opportunities can be maximized and social curtailment can be minimized if not totally avoided. In the process of developing MFP, it is intended that social issues in existing urban and developing countries and special problems of communities that have developed around advanced technology enterprise zones will be well considered.

As regards the environment, the MFP also is aimed to be an environmental model for the future. In the MFP Concept Paper (cited by Yencken, 1989)  it was posed that the development “should demonstrate how a site can be sensibly chosen, and  a community planned and built in harmony with its natural surroundings in accordance with a basic ecological policy; how pollution problems can be eliminated or minimized, and how citizens can be taught a strong environmental ethic”.
The magnet of a model MFP is IT.  It is clear that the magnet should be developed first and therefore, the government has to pump-prime the whole MFP machine by investing money on physically building a place where businesses can commence operations  with all the necessary facilities available, e.g.  offices,  houses,  shopping,  recreational facilities, research facilities, water supply, electricity and communications. Together with the physical infrastructure, the soft infrastructure should likewise be there such as, linkage with the universities, linkage with concerned government institutions and units, linkage with transport operators e.g. the airport management. To reiterate, all these necessary infrastructure should be put in place simultaneously in a very incremental but systematic manner. When investments start to trickle in, then a snowball effect can be expected while incremental developments are continually being pursued. There is no point in making available the housing accommodations if the primary reason for businesses to come over, which is the opportunity to conduct IT-related enterprise, is not there. Similarly, there is no point in investing too much on environmental projects now if investments from businesses do not flow in because that would mean that these environmental projects  will not be sustained without the money pouring in. MFP Administrators should realise that  MFP is no less an economic undertaking.  It is to be an enterprise zone. Businesses would come in to MFP with the end-in-view of  conducting business in a very economic standpoint. They will not come in with the end goal of appreciating environmental achievements only. 

Complementary to strengthening the magnet is widening its sphere of attraction. Development of transport links to make MFP accessible nationally and internationally is a way to do so. In this regard, again, the airport extension and upgrade project should be claimed and be advertised overseas as a part of a larger program for MFP. The development of transport links is very crucial. 

In the context of urban design, MFP should be flexible and robust. Since technology can change rapidly, technological devices for buildings and houses  should be add-on and not built in to the structures. In designing work places for buildings, it should be kept in mind  that  change in technology result in change in operations and consequently, changes in needs for spaces and facilities within the building.

The MFP should be aimed to be a strong regional centre. Employees and workers in the MFP will be encouraged to live close to work only if all of the services and facilities that they need to access in their day to day living is available in a spitting distance. It should not be thought that MFP will draw  people  and activities e.g. retailing away from the CBD and therefore contribute to the  doughnut effect.  The MFP, in terms of activities, will not compete but rather would complement the activities offered by the CBD. Its high-tech magnet could work in tandem with arts and cultural activities and would add to the overall attractiveness as a rich and versatile destination.

The MFP has indeed all the makings of a model, next generation urban settlement. MFP  planners just have to  bear in mind that although  the traditional locational forces are now rendered irrelevant (Hall, 1991) and communications technologies had shrunk physical distances,  other centripetal forces are still at work. The magnet of Silicon Valley in the US and TechnoParks in Japan are still working. Thus there is no acceptable  reason for an MFP’s magnet to fail. It’s a matter of drawing up the right implementation plan and time  table to make the ball start rolling to a sustainable future.

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