Visionary opportunities and challenges

This is the fourth blog on issues to be addressed at the 55th International Making Cities Livable Conference, May 14-18, 2018, in Ottawa. As our cities grow, we face many challenges in how to roll with the punch - to transform what seems like a negative challenge into a positive gain. At this conference we will hear many stories about how cities are determined to create a humane and livable urban environment while handling rapid growth and economic and ecological threats.

Rapid growth of a small town
In Northern Norway lies the tiny port city of Bodø, with a population of 50,000, voted Norway’s most attractive city in 2016.  For geopolitical and industrial reasons, the national government wants Bodø to grow, and over the next few years, the city will expand by 900 acres. The primary goal is to build a human friendly, smart, green 10-minute city with numerous social meeting spots, providing a high quality of life. At the conference we will hear from Gøran Raade-Andersen, Bodø’s Public Health and Planning Coordinator, how the new district is being planned to achieve this with input from the community.

How to maintain diversity and affordability in a booming region
Despite its location in the increasingly unaffordable Bay Area, San Bruno’s vision is to become a model of affordability, sustainability and diversity. Rick Phillips, AICP, RA rp [PLACE] and David Woltering, San Bruno Community Development Director will share the elements of the plan designed to counteract gentrification and unaffordability while enhancing walkable livability.

Rebuilding inhuman neighborhoods
In Italy a vehement debate rages between those who consider modern planned neighborhoods such as Zen, near Palermo, and Corviale, Rome (an 11-story slab of apartments nearly one kilometer long) to be irreplaceable modernist architectural icons, and others, such as architect Ettore Maria Mazzola who see the degradation of the human spirit they have imposed. Mazzola’s solution is a complete reconstruction of each into a hospitable neighborhood in the form of a traditional small town with piazzas. Working with these communities, Mazzola’ plans would generate a rebirth of the community, opportunities to generate positive social networks, and a healthy way of life.


High-rise challenges
In China, the galloping construction of high-rise residential gated compounds intended to rapidly increase GDP has come under criticism even within China for their unwalkability and auto-dependency (not to mention the pollution and environmental degradation caused by such massive, rapid development). Today, as Yuhan Shao will tell us, planners in Shenzhen are considering how to turn these high-rise compounds into walkable neighborhoods. We face a similar problem in some North American cities, as well as in the very fast-growing “global” cities, especially in Asia, Africa, and the oil-rich countries of the Middle-East under the influence of neoliberal economics.

A new capital city in India
From India, the Conference will hear about ambitious plans for the new capital city Amaravati. Apart from the high-rise corporate business center, planners are working to make surrounding neighborhoods mixed-use, with a compact human scale urban fabric. The renowned Indian planner Dr. Shyam Khandekar and Amaravati planning staff will be speaking about integrated street networks and social spaces for pedestrians, promoting social life and community.

Water transit development, Bangkok
Bangkok has a huge network of unused canals. Pawinee Iamtrakul, Assoc. Professor at Thammasat University, Thailand will present plans to introduce Water Transit-Oriented Development "WTOD" as a way to improve healthy and sustainable mobility and focus development around the water stops.

Rapid growth in Ho Chi Minh City: An ecological challenge
In Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City has been growing rapidly over the past decades. Now, with a population of over 8 million, the city is looking to develop a 200-hectare site in the flood plain on the opposite side of Saigon River from the main city. Can this be done in a sustainable manner? Quan Nguyen Hoang, Senior Associate at B+H Architects will present their plans for a sustainable urban sub-center that retains the network of canals, and provides a mix of housing types and community amenities with access via waterways, linear parks, streets, and walkways.

Transforming a park
Eddie Wu, Principal at B+H Architects will present the plans for transforming September 23 Park, a passive linear green park in Ho Chi Minh City’s CBD into a dynamic commercial, cultural, and green place.

In previous blogs we have described guiding principles, some of the new human scale neighborhoods from around the world, and transformational neighborhood case studies, that will be presented at the 55th IMCL Conference. Future blogs will address some of the presentations on strategies and tools to be discussed at the conference. Join the discussion!