The EcoCity World Summit took place in Istanbul, Turkey last month. I enjoyed attending the 2008 EcoCities World Summit in San Francisco, so I have followed news posts from others for this latest event. I was pleased to learn of an ongoing debate (via Tree Hugger) that was spurred at this year’s event regarding whether these cities can be master planned or whether they should come about organically.
I live in Stapleton, the largest redevelopment project in North America, and a master planned community with some undercurrents of sustainability, but by no means an EcoCity initiative. Some of my personal observations echo the criticisms that these master planned communities are “compounds” that reduce the points of contact with the outside world for an insular experience that doesn’t scale to the wider community. The comment was also made that the master planned communities are largely for a rich and privileged set, and can’t be replicated on a global scale.
Austrian architect and urban consultant Johannes Fiedler was quoted as the most boisterous opponent of master-planned designs. His assertion is that more chaotic development needs to take place with an agglomeration of densities at different scales with high quality public space as the thread to stitch communities together.
I’m encouraged that a public space effort is taking place here where I live to extend a greenway that used to be contained in concrete channels into surrounding neighborhoods. This greenway is now a thriving urban creek and wetlands corridor through Stapleton, and it would be great to see this amenity extended into the less affluent surrounding neighborhoods.
With redevelopment, the set boundaries of the reclaimed space often form a wall with long-term division even after fences are removed. Cities might work to gain broader acceptance for such eco-oriented gentrification if projects aimed to incorporate and engage more with established neighborhoods in a way that improves walkability and livability for all from the outset.