Monday, February 9, 2009

Beside the skylines: urban development requires space and order

Beside the Skylines: “Urban development requires space and order”
Those who plan and model developments in our cities should have vision and insight with respect for human value. Genuine development demands basic ethical foundations to promote human standards and values. Urban development can be advance with improved living conditions for people. Cities are built for human habitation. The structures in place should in no way be oppressive to proper living and progress. Good planning, decent housing, decent living orders the human habitat and makes it beautiful. It is a public good. For real, providing improved living conditions and ordered planning for our cities are long-term projects that require the courage of creativity and implementation.
Beside the skylines, across the rail tracks urban development can best advance with improved living human conditions. But how do we further development without due attention to alleviating the inhuman conditions of poverty on our streets? Thanks to the Manila 2008 public service immersion. It was a Participatory Poverty Assessment for urban poverty reduction through Appreciative Inquiry. Poverty is real, and the project of reducing it goes beyond words and statistics. Action is needed in making people more resourceful and enterprising to sustain their livelihood.
At the base of the high-rise buildings in Manila beyond the borders of intra-murus, is the testimony of the city’s deficit. The beauty of city architecture and its planning spans beyond the alignment of physical structures. It must take into consideration the study of people and their needs. The poverty of people and their conditions of living is indeed an enigma that menaces human advancement and world development. Public servants have the daunting task of advancing human progress and not exploit conditions and processes of development.
A necessary puzzle
Within most cities of the world are squatter settlements. Planned developments in almost all cities of developing countries are shaded by the cast of these densely populated informal settlements. Urban slums or ghettos are symbolic of poor living conditions of most urban dwellers. Gentrification as government resort to implement city master-plan is plausible but has evidenced far much harm. It has most times displaced a huge sector of society, rendered many unemployed and made accessibility to market and economy difficult. Such developments have failed to make room for working families and the poor people; making our cities appear exclusively elitist than being inclusive of all. Part of the fact is that public planners have appeared short-sighted with no big plan, or have failed to pursue existing actual city master-plans.
It is a thing of great concern when you urban relocation or newly developed sites are in no time overcrowded with people. Sometimes one wonders if the planners never had the future in mind. Worse still, you see developers quizzing a well designed architectural piece in a congested environment. In most cases you find the so-called low income housing units so clustered in a location in the city suburbs. For the most part, these housing units become evidently inadequate before they are allotted for habitation. What a pity! I think poor planning could result from selfishness or naiveté that is not in the interest of the nation. It is an advanced face of oppression and poverty—some form of discrimination and inhumanity to poor and suffering people. Yes, we’ll always have the poor with us. But shall we orchestrate poverty or alleviate it?
The site and distance of locations is another cause for worry. They are times so far removed from the economic, social and commercial networks of development that accessibility is most difficult. The relocation project of Southville 1, Cabuyao-Laguna is case sample. With so dense a population of young people, the space in question and the planned design of this so esteemed project would is already a failure. Could it be the half bread that is better than known?
Needed attention: Basic lessons
City planning must stretch beyond fashion to quality and durability to stand the passage of time. Space may not be the expanse of an area but the creative use of areas available for beauty and order. Such an order must never underscore the dynamics of human activities. It needs to study the trends in the settlement of people and project possible directions in time. Order is required to manage space, aesthetics and avoid congestion or over-crowding.
Poverty of place and of human living conditions could affect the effective management of space and the creation of order. It is instrumental to the chaotic nature of our cities—poor planning, naïve and arbitrary developers. Urban centers are potential sites for job seekers. They attract the movement of people and potent population explosion. Strategic decentralization of workplace and social infrastructure could decongest and orderly translate city plan to reality. Developers must work according to plan over interest and greed.
I think the streets are in no way bedrooms for families. Cubicles are not decent settlements that meet millennium development goals. Citizens have right to decent living, shelter and participatory civic engagement. People need space and order for freedom. But why is infrastructure mostly clustered in particular areas of a city or country? Developments must enhance freedom and respect human values. Governments have the obligation to promote these rights and not treat as mere social benefits or privilege. Collaboration with private and nonprofit sectors will go a long way to advance development.
The reality developers must come to term with is that urban planning is no small matter requiring “no small plan.” Its implementation and renewal is never exhausted. Designer must plan beyond their milieu.

How will Vincent and Burnham solve this paradox? But they exist to contend our appreciation of their legacies.