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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Add beauty to city planning

BUILD a city where you would like to walk in with a person you’ve just fallen in love with.

That was the advice of Charles Landry, an authority on creative cities, during his recent ‘Creative Cities: Lessons for Penang’ forum in Komtar.

Urging the state to strive for a “humane” city concept, Landry said it was time to reintroduce the word ‘beauty’ into the vocabulary of city planning.

“When thinking about which direction you want to take the state in, liveability should be the overall driving force. Ask yourself if your city or state is an emotionally-satisfying place on the ground,” Landry said.

He said in most cases, city planning took place “in the air,” but what makes sense on paper does not necessarily translate into good ideas on the ground.

“When we look at cities with the highest ‘liveability’ scores, we see places like Vancouver, Melbourne, Bilbao, Zurich, Geneva, Copenhagen, Stockholm and Singapore.

“Aside from being resilient, robust and having a high level of adaptability, these cities are great in terms of ‘walkability’.

“That is what Penang should strive for — creating places that make sense to the people and building areas where people want to be in,” he said.

Saying that market forces alone could not create this type of city, Landry urged the state and local authority to adhere to a new type of thinking in urban development.

“The old paradigm of thinking always emphasised quantity where bigger, higher and longer were considered better. Now, people are looking at questions like ‘what is the right size for what we want to do?’

“To achieve this, I believe a public-private partnership is needed along with a greater involvement (with the community),” he said.

Landry, whose work in creating creative cities has taken him to over 45 countries, also advised the authorities to not be confined by rules and regulations, but instead push the bar on what was acceptable.

“Instead of thinking about what the guidelines allow, we should think about what makes a place liveable and attractive, and shift those guidelines to incorporate those things,” Landry said, adding that issues like aesthetics and beauty should be put into planning guidelines.

“You have to look at each building and ask yourself if it contributes materially and spiritually to the city.

“If you really want to follow your slogan of ‘Penang leads’, raise your expectations to something better and make that standard non-negotiable,” he said.

The ‘Creative Cities: Lessons for Penang’ forum was organised by Think City Sdn Bhd and Khazanah Nasional Bhd.

By The Star

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