Description

How are we going to make our cities better places for living?

This question is often served as a cliché for those interested in cities and urban planning. And adding ’sustainability’ to that equation doesn’t make it less cliché.

… And yet it is exactly what I tend to tell people when they ask me what I do. I study different approaches to creating better cities for living – and also more sustainable cities (what sustainability means then… that is another discussion).

I have just now finalized and defended my PhD project on urban development projects as one approach to creating better and more sustainable cities. However, research wouldn’t be interesting if it was all that easy.

Urban development projects are often based on ambitious ideas and impressive visions about, not only improving cities, but also contributing to a sustainable transition in cities. Yet, as soon as ideas and visions are to be realized they are confronted with an already existing reality. And reality hits hard at times.

My research is based on thorough investigations of what happens just there between vision and reality when doing urban development. When for example visions on sustainability become a reality that is equally unsustainable to what we have now. Or when we continue doing the things we’ve always done – well aware that is not exactly what we wanted in the first place.

Trying to tackle this conflict could imply optimizing our plans by looking at all the things that could go wrong or imagining those unforeseen barriers that eventually tears the visions’ utopia apart.

But perhaps we’re looking in the wrong direction. Will we ever be able to foresee the unforeseen? Probably not. We cannot optimize our way out the mismatch between vision and reality. At the end of the day it is not visions and plans who are speaking when actions and decisions in realizing urban development projects are made.

Decisions are made by people. So we need to ask ourselves what their opportunities are for taking action and making decisions. Are they in a position to nurture the long-term needs? Most likely not. Short term needs often tend to overpower and suppress the long-term needs – those originally stated in the visions and plans.

We need to look at people’s space for action if we want to understand better how we can create better cities for living.
StatusFinished
Effective start/end date01/12/201013/08/2014