Further to last weeks’ article, I want to continue sharing with you global best practices and model cities that we can follow for our future cities. As I have mentioned in my previous article, the Philippines will need 100 new cities by 2050 as our population is projected to increase to 148.3 million by that time.
According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s (CTBUH) definition, tall polycentric cities have three or more clusters of tall buildings that are clearly separated, visually and geographically. These clusters are a group of buildings that are significantly taller than the surrounding urban fabric and are visually and geographically distinct, with at least five buildings (completed or topped out) of at least 100 or 150 meters, depending on local height context. I am a fellow, regional leader, and country representative of CTBUH based in Chicago.
In polycentric cities, multiple economic centers distribute resources and inclusive growth among towns and cities, allowing other areas and regions to be developed properly. This is opposite to urban sprawl, which is the rapid expansion of the geographic extent of cities and towns and often characterized by low-density residential housing, single-use zoning, and increased reliance on private automobile for transportation. This definition certainly suits Metro Manila: low-density and gated communities within the business districts and inefficient mass transportation system forcing many to opt for private vehicles. Monocentric city development causes sprawl development toward the outskirts of the core. Just like in Metro Manila, the distance from the CBDs affects the housing type and affordability, hence employees cannot afford the housing stock close to their places of work.
According to The Global Liveability Index 2019, the world’s most livable city is Vienna followed by Melbourne, Sydney, Osaka, Calgary, Vancouver, Tokyo, Toronto, Copenhagen, and Adelaide. For the second year in a row, Vienna ranked No.1 for its high scores in stability, culture and environment, education, and infrastructure and health care. Vienna’s exceptional and progressive housing system offers superior yet affordable housing to residents. In fact, 62% of its residents live in social housing. For its infrastructure programs, the city allotted €1.3 billion or $1.4 billion to ensure that its water and energy supply and wastewater management can serve the projected population of the city.
In 2014, the top 10 most resilient cities identified were Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Chicago, Pittsburgh, Stockholm, Boston, Zurich, Washington D.C., and Atlanta. Their resiliency scores were based on their “adaptive capacity” to react to categories of vulnerabilities like climate change, resources, environment, and infrastructure, among others. Part of Toronto’s “Resilience Strategy” are road maps to retrofit and improve the city’s more than 1,000 apartment towers, enhance a sustainable and resilient food system, scale up green and blue infrastructure systems, address housing needs, and increase flood resilience, among others.
Walkable and bikeable cities
Last year, the Institute for Transportation and Development Study released a study showing a list of the most walkable cities in the world, which included London, Paris, Bogota, Hong Kong, and Tokyo. The study also presented the numerous benefits of walkability such as it makes cities more equitable, it is good for people’s health and the environment, it is a safer and reliable mode of transportation especially when social distancing is required, and it helps people save money if their daily needs can be accessed thru walking instead of using private vehicles, among others.
For the world’s most bike-friendly cities, the 2019 Copenhagenize Index included Copenhagen, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Antwerp, Strasbourg, Bordeaux, Oslo, Paris, Vienna, and Helsinki. As you will observe, the list is dominated by European countries that are famous for setting this global best practice. In Copenhagen, 62% of the people use their bikes for trips to work or school, there are more than 104 miles of new cycle highways, and they have “more than $45 per capita in bicycle infrastructure investments.”
According to the World Bank, transit-oriented development is a “planning and design strategy that consists in promoting urban development that is compact, mixed-use, pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly, and closely integrated with mass transit by clustering jobs, housing, services, and amenities around public transport stations.” The World Bank also recognized Stockholm, Copenhagen, Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Singapore as having successfully applied this concept.
In contrast to single, standalone developments, mixed-use developments are characterized by the Urban Land Institute as: 1) having three or more mutually supporting, revenue-generating uses such as offices, residential condominiums, retail, restaurants, hotels, and others; 2) with significant physical and functional integrations, including pedestrianization; and 3) developed in conformity with a coherent plan. This type of development is seen as ideal for urban renewal and revitalization where people of all ages can live their best lives in communities that blend residential, commercial, cultural, institutional, and natural spaces.
Connectivity goes beyond the physical, beyond the distribution systems — roads, mass transit, and communications. Connectivity refers to the integration of activities that define the character of the city, including its social, economic, and cultural links. Improving connectivity can be achieved by infusing new activity to areas outside the city core or by creating new development corridors between these outlying areas and the core.
I had the opportunity to write and publish more than 700 articles and 3 books about global best practices. I have given lectures and attended speaking engagements in 20 countries and applied these best practices and principles in 40 countries through projects that I was part of as architect, urban planner, environmental planner, and development consultant.
Based on what I have learned through the years, we should not wait until 2050 to transform our communities, towns, and cities to become more sustainable, inclusive, healthy, and resilient. It is urgent that we learn from the design and planning mistakes of Metro Manila and apply global best practices that have helped transform cities into exemplars of good architecture, planning, and urban design.
Image Source: One of Copenhagen's Elevated Bicycle Highways: AWOL website