Urban design is the modern tool for drawing people together, for giving physical form and making places to all the hopes, dreams and aspirations that people have for themselves, their families, and their fellow travelers on planet Earth. It gives physical reality to the inner lives and experiences we seek in having fulﬁlling lives.
Thoughtless urban planning may deliver a street, a train station, a housing estate or even a park, but great urban design creates great cities. To do this, all the considerations of a massive, diverse population must be brought into focus and answered through real, visionary solutions. Heritage, history and the future all come into sharp relief in a city whose design reflects livability and promotes a competitive economy.
This process does not happen automatically and it is not easy to achieve. Urban designers hold special skills and have a special responsibility to analyse economic, social, cultural and environmental issues. Only then can they propose solutions for land development that demand multidisciplinary professional teams to develop and execute on complex strategies.
Architects may deliver a complex building, but the urban designer must work hand in hand with many other professionals, including architects to develop a neighbourhood, a district or even a whole city.
Even the urban designer, however, is only one of a number of classes of key people who have to have a broad understanding of where they are taking a city to. For that, a virtuous circle must be established to develop social infrastructure. Without it, the physical infrastructure will, at best, be stunted and ill-suited to the people it is meant to serve. At worst, the city can wither and die without the proper leadership to develop its social infrastructure and sharpen its social IQ.
The Virtuous Circle
To accurately assess those aspirations, enlightened Integrative Leadership is crucial. Integrative Leadership is characterised by having leadership at many levels engaged with the people. Through this style of leadership, Effective Civic Engagement is made possible, where people are not only heard, but understood, and feel that listening from their leaders and fellow citizens.
Once this happens, we see the Heartware Installed – a growing level of harmonious relations among people in society. This can lead to resolution of issues that block the development of important developments, like vast amounts of new housing and green, efﬁcient transportation. NIMBYism Subsides as people learn to negotiate their competing interests in a civilised manner. This allows New Economic Growth Engines to rise, providing more opportunities for young people and for those displaced by the winds of change.
An Appropriate Population Policy can then be enacted as resistance to newcomers diminishes. Targeted labour import schemes for necessary development and caring for the elderly becomes possible as people lose their fear of the outsider, seeing opportunity for all. Affordable Housing Ownership is key to helping people keep abreast of asset inflation and give them a sense of security in one of the fundamental human needs – shelter. Rising productivity from worker satisfaction, productive infrastructure development and use of technology creates surpluses that allow for R&D Investment to be Increased, leading to even more productivity gains.
The Innovation and Technology society complements Creative Communities that permit high levels of economic achievement and even spiritual development.
Of course, these communities tend to react well to Integrative Leadership, lending their expertise and ideas from their work to better develop their city and look to the future – of 2050 and beyond!
Cheung is Founder and Convenor of Doctoral Exchange and of Central-Wanchai Reclamation Study Group. He also founded and chairs Neodimensions Group.
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