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With all due respect to architecture being mother of the arts and king of urban design, I would still argue the merit of urban designers and town and country planning and it’s seemingly outdated guidelines and laws to be relevant and not yet so outdated at all. Indeed today’s evils in built environments has largely come from and been the cause of poor foresight of architects who are in a hurry to win awards, a regime and perseverance to adhere to very established wisdom or ancient knowledge or even arguably outmoded pursuits of such humble philosophies as open space and public realms. Where in landscape architecture played very little or non existent roles and town planners have little or no merit in master plans prepared by master architects who later care more for their iconic structures (often mile high office towers) than to allow for eateries and public walk ways seen in older, more respectable and established city plans. In preparing blueprints for any 200 acre mixed developments, we tend always to bring focus on architecture, strikingly beautiful buildings and high return on real estate, not on providing quality development and designs for the spaces “between” buildings, the green pockets and the necessary linkages and arteries and networks that need to function as connectors between them, as these get secondary or no treatment at all, often terribly designed or thought out detail and often dysfunctional layouts, those that do not benefit the public in terms of real experience and easement. Call it lack of expertise, or lack of attention. Call it irresponsibility or lack of awareness. The best cities and mixed developments must enhance direct experience. Eateries, walkways, pedestrianised linkages and ample open space cannot be emphasised anymore than what town planning has allowed for in their design, merely marking out green belts and soft scape and residual zoning for playgrounds and parkways. Yet after a mere six or seven years later these would quickly disappear to make way for a higher density, pressures to respond to economic returns and real estate demands from clients who seek out for a more profitable development. Higher plot ratios is next on the list, and then allotting driveways for more and more cars, next comes the all important traffic impact study. Next more roads and elevated highways and a spaghetti junction. And then multi-storey car parks (put them in the basements) and then retail (put them in the basements) and next comes tiny little gardens to comply to statutory requirements, but just, and them more pockets of soft scape to pass the bill. Such is the ambit of master planner often lead by not so visionary architects who give little or no regard to the bigger town planner picture and the ever so important role of town planning and their original less confused vision for a more targeted and more restrained as it may be, of a sustainable design proposal whose aims of providing ultimately the more important, critical objective which is better and higher quality livelihood that is anticipated and desired in the proposed mixed development. In manifesting all the many merry iconic towers and in celebrating and glorifying iconic architecture, we do this often, most conveniently at the expense of compromising the vision of our fellow planner, of HIS master plan, the urban design and the local planning guidelines which should have been followed faithfully. There is often no reference or reflection of what was there in the first place, all the planning demarcations set down by the local councils or be it the mayor’s city structure plan. Each to his own and hence the pains of our new towns and built environment. We can see need for more intense collaboration and proper transition between the work of town planners and their more vocal or aggressive architects if we choose to see the necessary protocols laid down by more silent local planning architects before engaging in our rush to produce myriad award winning architecture at their expense, which is that of the public experience which is the net reduction of public realms in new cities or developments. A compromise to meet the returns often set down by greedy entrepreneurs whose brief, we as architects often do not challenge from this perspective of town planning.

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2 thoughts on “town planning : a necessary precedent

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