‘Making room for a planet of cities’ – Shlomo (Solly) Angel, Stern School of Business, New York University
“Making room for a planet of cities” argues that the current urban planning paradigm championed in the United States and Europe—the Containment Paradigm, also known as urban growth management, smart growth, or compact city—is inappropriate in the rapidly-urbanizing countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Instead, Solly Angel calls for a new paradigm for coming to terms with rapid urbanization: The Making Room Paradigm.
The Making Room Paradigm draws on data collected from a sample of 120 cities, extracted from a much larger database, and is based on the realization that rapid urban population growth and its rapid concomitant urban expansion are inevitable and that cities need to secure the lands for essential public works—an arterial infrastructure grid and a hierarchy of public open spaces—well in advance of their expansion for them to become more efficient, more equitable, and more sustainable.
Solly Angel introduces the containment paradigm in Seoul, Korea and notes that it has lead to a serious loss of housing affordability. At the other end of the spectrum, Bangkok, Thailand, which did not try to contain its expansion and created a lot of highly affordable housing. But Bangkok laissez-faire failed to allow for enough land for public works, particularly land for arterial roads and trunk infrastructure. The result has been that traffic in Bangkok is restricted to a few arterial roads and is one of the world’s most congested cities.
Angel advocates the adoption of a making room paradigm in rapidly growing cities. That paradigm requires the adoption of a four-step action program:
1. Realistic projection of land needs: correctly estimating the amount of land required for expansion, based on good population projections and assessments of density decline;
2. Generous metropolitan boundaries: the expansion of the current city limits to accommodate the entire projected area of expansion, so as to make it possible to plan and implement the expansion program;
3. Acquiring the rights-of-way for an arterial grid: planning an arterial road grid, 30-meter-wide roads spaced one-kilometer apart that can carry public transport and trunk infrastructure in expansion areas and securing the land for that grid; and
4. Securing the land for a hierarchy of public open spaces: identifying critical open spaces, large and small, that need to be protected from development and creating an institutional structure to protect them.
Shlomo (Solly) Angel is a Senior Research Scholar and Adjunct Professor of Urban Planning at the Urbanization Project, located at the Stern School of Business of New York University. He is the leader of the Urban Expansion Initiative there, an action program aimed at preparing cities in rapidly urbanizing countries for their inevitable expansion. The Initiative is now working with four cities in Ethiopia and five cities in Colombia on implementing the Making room Paradigm there. Angel is the author of Planet of Cities [Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, 2012] as well as numerous books and articles on housing and urban development focused on developing countries. He has worked as an advisor to UN Habitat, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank, and has taught urban planning at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok, at Princeton, and at New york University.