The Lost Faith of City Planning

Witold Rybczynski says that people have lost their faith in city-driven urban planning, and that the private marketplace is driving the changes we need today.

Rybczynski cites the usual timeline for the downfall of city planning; the city-driven urban renewal of the '60s and '70s caused the public to turn against planners, and the NIMBY movement has effectively blocked planning from working.

He concludes that "The important lesson is not that city planning is unimportant but, rather, that urban development should not be implemented by the public sector alone and that in a democracy, a vision of the future city will best emerge from the marketplace. (That it may turn out to be a messy vision, lacking a grand aesthetic, Jane Jacobs long ago acknowledged.)"

Full Story: Don't Plan On It

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The lost faith of city planning

Even in a developing country like India, the forces shaping our cities today are not municipal agencies and the City Planners but private organizations, real estate developers bureaucrats and most important the politicians as the chief players on the urban scene
Despite the fact that in developing economy and low civic consciousness levels among citizens, city planning is important and that urban development needs to be implemented by the public sector alone in partnership with the private sector, a vision of the future city is being allowed to be dictated by the marketplace by the greedy politicians and conniving bureaucrats and so called city planners

In India the simple truth is that ‘successful’ (read ‘profitful’) city-building is less about public welfare and safety and more about profiteering from sale of urban land by indiscriminately increasing land to floor space ratio, taking up highest capital investment projects that do not benefit people but bring in substantial kickbacks, deliberately destroying infrastructure to award new contracts(and consequent kickbacks), destroy environment in the name of benefiting the urban poor to create a land Mafia (for the benefit of politicians & bureaucrats) take up totally unnecessary high technology projects (Mono rails) when the objective could be better achieved by low investment “cheap” options like BRTS, build ‘flyovers’ and ‘skywalks’ without any user survey only to award contracts and get kickbacks. I would agree that in India at least, make no big plans, only many small ones.

I reiterate the adage that I have coined, ‘in India projects are undertaken for their propensity to generate kickbacks for the politicians, bureaucrats and technocrats and any benefit accruing to the people is incidental and unintended’!

Prakash M Apte
Urban Development Activist, Mumbai, India

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