Urban Planners as "Zookeepers"

At the National Building Museum's Intelligent Cities Forum, one participant compared creating healthy cities to creating healthy animal environments in zoos.

Dr. Howard Frumkin, dean of the School of Public Health at the University of Washington, proposed an analogy to the audience, asking them to "...imagine they were zookeepers and just received a shipment of hundreds of frogs. Immediately, the zookeepers would need to create a habitat with the correct temperature, humidity, water and plants to ensure the frogs are healthy and live long lives. Cities are really just habitats for humans and our zookeepers are our elected officials, urban planners, and designers."

The Intelligent Cities Forum focused on how to create healthy human habitats. Topics covered at the forum ranged from urban policy, to walkable streets, to shifting demographics in cities.

William Lucy, professor of Urban and Environmental Planning at the University of Virginia, believes that changing demographics will have major health implications. Lucy explains, "currently, poorer people have captured the better locations in the center of cities. They live in the convenient locations. However, this trend is changing. With the revival of cities, white flight has turned into white return." The result, he concludes, is that as poor people are pushed out of center cities to the suburbs, it will create "accessibility problems" that will lead to associated health problems.

Full Story: Creating Healthy Human Habitats


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