Patrick M. Condon - Is the Sky the Limit?

Patrick Condon, Professor and Chair of Urban Design at the University of British Columbia gave an insightful keynote speech at the Bristol IMCL Conference examining patterns of economic, state, corporate and planning power that lead to what he calls the “concentrated” city structure (e.g. Suzhou), or the “dispersed” city form (e.g Medellin) in which decisions are made without the guidance of the state, and often against it.

What is curious, he says, is that most publications put forward a model of sustainable development that requires relinquishing personal power, and has a high degree of “techno-enthusiasm” and “green gizmo stuff”, and Vancouver is the model for that. Condon challenges the audience to compare the prices of these two models, to consider which is the better place to live, and which model we can afford.

He suggests that the more sustainable, livable model is what he controversially calls the “Flat City” rather than the “Pointy City”. The “Pointy City” has extremely high density and high-rise in very limited areas across the region (e.g. L.A.), and these cities seem to be very unsustainable and high in energy use. The “Flat City”, such as Copenhagen, which has a walking/biking/transit share of 76%, has a medium density over a large area and a distribution of land uses over the area so that origins and destinations are closer and more accessible by walking and biking. And in the “Flat City” the combination of walking and biking are by far the most used modes of transportation…