Commentary

In many ways, much of what has been discussed in this chapter involves city planning and project development practice. Some of the examples included (e.g. the schools for Chattanooga) are drawn from the literature aimed at professional city planners. An argument can be made for the inclusion of all these examples in Chapter 4 and certainly the Chattanooga schools in Chapter 6. All these case studies, however, show that the continuous development and maintenance of cities and urban design schemes are essential to their success. The world does not stand still.

Explicit in the projects included in this set of case studies are social and/or economic objectives but there is also a strong recognition of the importance of the physical environment in operationalizing social goals by providing the affor-dances for them to be met. Urban design thus becomes a major issue - a central concern - in much social and economic planning. Social objectives are often difficult to meet without consideration of the milieu in which behaviour takes place. This lesson is one that many social planners have yet to learn.

The goal of infrastructure projects is to have a catalytic effect on their surroundings - social and physical. As Attoe and Logan note, urban catalysts have a greater purpose than solving a functional problem (defining 'functional' more narrowly than in Chapter 1 here) or creating an investment, or providing an amenity:

A catalyst is an element that is shaped by a city and then, in turn, shapes its context. Its purpose is the incremental, continuous regeneration of urban fabrics.

The important point is that the catalyst is not a single end product but an element that impels and guides subsequent development (Attoe and Logan, 1989: 45).

The case studies reinforce the observation that individual initiatives are crucial in perceiving opportunities for improvement in the built environment of cities. The studies also show that infrastructure covers a broad array of product types of which only a small sample has been addressed in this chapter. The studies show that the quality of design is crucial to the success of urban design endeavours. Quality is obtained through the coordinated action of diverse groups of people and individuals in a common cause. Design ideas come from precedents. Creative ones are inherent in the problems they address.

Lujiazui, Pudong, Shanghai in 2004
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