In this lecture Shlomo Angel, from the NYU Urban Expansion Program at the Marron Institute of Urban Management, offers a novel outline for a comprehensive room-making strategy for city densification. Prof. Angel proposes and addresses six factors that constitute urban density.


Download audio



Issues which the lecture addresses

Serious concerns with global warming have been translated into urgent calls for increasing urban densities, as higher densities have been found to be associated with lower carbon emissions from both vehicles and buildings. Still, attempts at effective densification have generally failed and urban densities, the world over, continue to decline. Calls for densification without making room for it has resulted in serious housing supply bottlenecks in many cities and have rendered their housing unaffordable. 


Short analysis of the above issues

Shlomo believes that for affordable densification to be successful, we must better understand the anatomy of density or the factors that constitute urban density. They propose a novel way to decompose the average density of cities into three and then into six factors that when multiplied together reconstitute urban density. They present the methodology and the ensuing preliminary estimates of our measurement of these factors in ten pilot cities in ten world regions. Such decomposition into factors allows us, for the first time, to begin to understand how different cities acquire their density: Hong Kong, for example, gets its density from building height; Kinshasa from crowding; and Dhaka and Bogotá from residential coverage. The anatomy of density offers a new outline for a comprehensive making-room strategy for city densification, addressing each and every one of the six factors that constitute urban density. 


Propositions for addressing the issue

Solly Angel introduces 5 principles as the conclusion towards a comprehensive strategy for making room for city densification. These are 1. Increase the Occupancy Rate, 2. Increase Floor Plan Efficiency, 3. Increase Building Height, 4. Increase Plot Coverage, 5. Increase Residential Share. For the Compact City Paradigm to remain relevant in the coming years, it must embrace making room. Otherwise, it will continue to disappoint, while precious time is squandered.



Shlomo (Solly) Angel is a Professor of City Planning at the Marron Institute. He leads the NYU Urban Expansion based at the Marron Institute and the NYU Stern Urbanization Project. Angel is an expert on urban development policy, having advised the United Nations, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). He currently focuses on documenting and planning for urban expansion in the developing world. 

In 1973, he started a program in Human Settlements Planning and Development at the Asian Institute of Technology in Bangkok. He taught at the Institute from 1973 to 1983, while researching housing and urban development in the cities of East, South, and Southeast Asia. From the mid-80s to mid-90s, he worked as a housing and urban development consultant to UN-Habitat, the Asian Development Bank, and the Government of Thailand. In 2000, he published Housing Policy Matters, a comparative study of housing conditions and policies around the world. From 2000 onward, he prepared housing sector assessments of 11 Latin American and Caribbean countries for the IDB and the World Bank. 

Angel earned a bachelor’s degree in architecture and a doctorate in city and regional planning at the University of California, Berkeley.




Find all Global Urban Lectures videos here

See all Global Urban Lectures full packages (video, synopsis, biographies, additional reading material) here.

The Global Urban Lecture series is an initiative by UNI – UN-Habitat’s partnership with universities worldwide.