Most anyone reading this blog will be aware of “smart growth”, intensification, infill, the Portland nirvana example, the glorious Vancouver leadership, and other urban design trends.
A number of posts back, I questioned whether the assumptions of high density redevelopment in the existing inner city areas made sense. Do people moving from suburbs to infills exhibit the behaviour of the inner city population or do they bring with them their suburban lifestyle and consumption patterns? It strikes me that there is an element of geographic determinism going on here: if the inner city population exhibits certain characteristics now, moving people who have very different socio-economic characteristics into the same area will cause those people to behave the same way as the existing urban population. I would like proof of that. And it would not be difficult to determine if its true.
Now, in the blog NewGeography.com, in an article headed “ducks”, I see quoted Sir Peter Hall, who before he was a Sir, wrote some of the geography textbooks we used at Carleton back in the 1970’s:
The compact city cut carbon emissions by just 1 percent; but there were higher economic costs in outer areas where people still want to live, and where demand was greatest. Also, any social aspects of the compact city were to some extent undermined by crowding, exposure to noise and the crush on facilities.
American style sprawl by contrast raised energy use and CO2 emissions by almost 2 percent, but engendered lower house prices, less crowding and less road congestion. (Hall, Sir Peter ‘Planners may be wasting their time’, Regeneration and Renewal, 6 July, 2009)
(The article in the blog talks about how the leading political classes have larger duck houses – paid for by taxpayers – than citizens have regular houses. Typically, the proponents of more dense cities and smaller housing want it for others, but not themselves. )
I strongly feel inquiring minds must always challenge received wisdom and put it to the test.