<html><head /> <body> <META http-equiv="Content-Type" content="text/html; charset=UTF-16"><title>The Future of Cities</title><meta name="keywords" content="cities,planning,city,urban,architecture,britain,building,density,development,England,environment,high-density,housing,land,low-density,overcrowding,Richard,rogers,towns,urbanisation,urbanization,"><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; " align="center" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td style="background-color:silver; border-color:white; border-left-style:none; border-style:none; " width="730"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:larger; ">The Future of Cities</span></td> </tr> <tr> </tr> </tbody></table><br><table style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:medium; " align="center" bgcolor="white" border="0" width="50%"><tbody><tr> <td height="131" width="669"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small;"><strong>Editors Introduction</strong></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; "></span><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><IMG SRC="auth_Rogers.jpg" WIDTH="90" HEIGHT="120" ALT="Rogers" VSPACE="10" HSPACE="10" BORDER="0" ALIGN="right"><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The invidious sprawl of suburbia visible throughout the Western world can be halted only by intelligent town and city planning. As chairman of the Urban Task Force in Britain, architect Richard Rogers (right), has made it his business to propose such measures for the revival of British cities. But his message has universal application.</span> <p><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">In an increasingly single-household society on an overcrowded planet where land is scarce, insistence on low-density living is environmentally unsustainable and socially exclusive. Rogers argues that the traditional semi-detached house and garden is no friend of the community and that the future of cities in Britain and around the world lies in high-density, well-designed urban housing--structures that maximise not only land use but sociability as well.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Over the next 20 years, Britain will need to find places to live for up to 4 million more households. This is a prospect greeted with almost universal horror. This could mean the erosion of valuable countryside, the buildup of congestion, the spread of urban and suburban areas on top of the unhealthy cities we already possess, and the diminution of our quality of life. Nobody but the house builders, it seems, faces the future with anything less than dread.</span><br> <br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>The state of our cities</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The demand for more households is irresistible. We are living longer, and alone, more than ever, whether from old age, divorce or a preference for singledom; the number of flats coming to the market has doubled over the last 20 years--more than 80 percent of the new households will be for single people. Yet this phenomenon, I believe, if properly managed, could be a marvellous opportunity. We could use it to reinvent our notions of the city, urban life and citizenship; it could be the basis for an attack on urban dereliction and, with it, entrenched poverty. All we have to do is to use our land better, and so build more vital communities. And for that, the key is to build to dramatically higher densities.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><a href="1699_lowhouses_lg.html" target="_browser"><img src="1699_lowhouses_sm.jpg" alt="low density housing" align="left" vspace=10 hspace=10 border=0 width=150 height=125></a>The British are extravagant with land. We insist on building as if we lived in the American Midwest or the Australian outback. Even though we are an overcrowded island where land is scarce, we often behave extravagantly when it comes to houses, building new estates at unacceptably low levels of density.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">My contention is that our extravagance with land use has created the worst possible outcome; we are losing our countryside and building low-density urban areas which create the worst imaginable forms of urban life. High-density, high-quality urban areas, where houses are mixed in with a range of different uses--shops, schools, places of work and leisure--are attractive places to live. Well-managed and planned cities, like so many Georgian streets and terraces, can encourage civic pride, promote a sense of security and create the conditions for social and economic integration.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">But where people are spread out more thinly, from the city centre to the outlying suburb, it becomes impossible to sustain the social interaction that is the basis for good urban life. Instead, as the urban environment becomes brutalised, people move out, and there is a polarisation into poor or wealthy ghettos. This generates a vicious cycle of social conflict, economic inequality and environmental decline. I am amazed how difficult it is for many to understand the simple equation that physical dereliction affects social well-being. Poverty and social exclusion are inextricably connected to the state of our cities.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The political and cultural challenge of the future is to transform British attitudes toward city life; the semi-detached house and garden is expensive in land use and is no friend to the true sociability and well-being of a well-ordered urban community. This was the heart of the message of the Urban Task Force which reported to the deputy prime minister, John Prescott, last year. But while I find the government's initial response to improving design and increasing density encouraging, I am convinced that a profound change in culture requires a truly cross-departmental effort.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>Low-density living</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">For the last 30 years, people have been moving out of cities to suburbs and new estates in search of better and more affordable schools, less traffic and reduced crime. Today, 1,700 people a week are moving away from English towns and cities. If Britain does not grasp the nettle soon, the southeast of England will become intolerably congested and will do little to restore the pattern of high-quality urban life, while the other cities in the north will suffer out-migration and the blight of decline. High-density, well-designed housing is a social and economic imperative.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">The free-market economy of the last decades has encouraged a laissez-faire attitude to planning. Over the last 50 years, the built-up area in England has grown by more than 60 percent. Lax planning controls have fuelled suburban growth. Four million square feet of out-of-town shopping centres have been built since 1980, four times the amount built in the previous four decades, consuming the countryside, emptying out our town centres and increasing dependency on cars. This insidious process of suburbanisation is following the US pattern, using up to eight times the amount of land and five times the amount of energy of compact towns.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><a href="1699_houses_lg.html" target="_browser"><img src="1699_houses_sm.jpg" align=left vspace=10 hspace=10 border=0 alt="aerial view of housing" height=129 width=150></a>Low-density layouts, with houses strung along a road, are the result of limited vision and poor spatial skills. They represent the cheapest and least challenging response to the potential of collective living. The impact of this approach has had a disastrous effect on the fragile constitution of towns and cities. To be sustainable, urban development needs to embrace a broad range of social, technical, financial and artistic skills. Throughout history, the best examples of city making--from the beautiful crescents of Bath to the streets of new Barcelona--have always been design-led. Architecture is a creative act which leaves a lasting imprint on the way we live.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Large parts of highly desirable Georgian London or Edinburgh were built to densities of between 100 and 200 dwellings per hectare (roughly the size of a football pitch). Many attractive settlements--such as rural villages in Cornwall with two-storey terraces at 60 dwellings per hectare--have higher-density centres arranged around a village green or public space, surrounded by shops, homes and local facilities. Even the Town and County Planning Association, which pioneered the Garden City movement at the turn of the last century as a reaction to the real overcrowding of Victorian cities, recommends a minimum of 40 dwellings per hectare. The key point is that many successful urban developments--old and new--have been built to much higher densities than the ones we tend to build today.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">Over the last 10 years, all new development in England has been built at an average of 23 dwellings per hectare. This is unacceptably low. Too many planning policies continue to recommend unacceptably low development densities. A simple mathematical calculation tells us that a modest increase in density would dramatically alter the equation between number of units and "land-take." Just adding an extra room to a five-bedroom house or creating more apartments would absorb much of the increase in households.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; "><a href="1699_highhouses_lg.html" target="_browser"><img src="1699_highhouses_sm.jpg" alt="high density housing" align=right vspace=10 hspace=10 border=0 height=126 width=150></a>We are nowhere near breaching the limits of acceptable living through higher densities. An increase of 50 percent or even 100 percent would create more contained neighbourhoods, without remotely risking overcrowding or "town cramming." In fact, I cannot think of a recent development in England which I would describe as being crammed. On the contrary, I have visited many underdeveloped areas--from Liverpool to Ayslebury--where densities are so low that they fail to create any sense of continuity or community. In East Manchester, for example, the density has dropped tenfold in the space of one generation and the area has become derelict.</span><br><br><span style="font-size:x-small;"><strong>My vision for British cities</strong></span><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">If there is to be an urban renaissance, some tough decisions need to be taken. Planning allocations on rural land need to be revisited and permissions modified before construction is allowed. We must encourage higher densities and a greater mix of uses. We should not allow low-density residential developments on greenfield land to go ahead, if there is available inner-city land nearby. I feel strongly that we must build on those vast swathes of redundant industrial land--brownfield sites--that scar English towns. We must reuse, recycle and regenerate our city areas before touching the countryside. "Brownfield first" should be the commitment of all local authorities, whether urban or rural.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">London has room for the creation of 570,000 extra homes over the next 20 years without claiming a single virgin field. At a stroke this would absorb almost the whole of London's demand. With a more consistent approach to housing numbers and better use of urban land at higher densities, the need for new homes in the southeast of England could be accommodated on previously developed land and existing greenfield allocations. On this basis, there might be no need to touch any more rural land in the southeast well into the twenty-first century.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I believe that if the public were offered a choice to live in the contemporary equivalent of a spacious Georgian terrace, with tree-lined streets and landscaped parks, beautiful buildings and public spaces, close to good schools and public amenities, with access to public transport and with a strong sense of community and safety, they would see the benefits of city living. In fact, I am convinced that they would flock back to our urban and town centres. This must be our ultimate goal. To stop people moving out and bring them back to the heart of our towns and cities.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; ">I am not a politician. I am an architect with a passion for cities. But I want to encourage our politicians to make a promise: to give future generations of urban dwellers in England a real choice to rediscover the pleasures of urban living in the twenty-first century. This vision, I believe, is within our grasp.</span><br><br><span style="font-family:Verdana; font-size:x-small; font-style:italic; ">This is an edited version of an article that appeared in The Observer in February 2000. Copyright Richard Rogers.</span></td> </tr> </tbody></table> </body></html>