THE PRINCIPLES OF INTELLIGENT URBANISM

Prof. Christopher Charles Benninger

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The Principles of Intelligent Urbanism (PIU) is a set of axioms, laying down a value-based framework, within which participatory planning can proceed. After review and amendment by stake holders, the PIU acts as a consensual charter around which constructive debate over actual decisions can be evaluated and confirmed. The PIU emerged from several decades of urban planning practice by Christopher Benninger in the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia. They were the foundation upon which the new capital plan for Bhutan was prepared.

The ten Principles of Intelligent Urbanism are:

Principle One: A Balance with Nature emphasizes the distinction between utilizing resources and exploiting them. It focuses on a threshold beyond which deforestation, soil erosion, aquifer deterioration, silting, and flooding reinforce one another in urban systems, destroying life support systems. The principle promotes environmental assessments of ecosystems to identify fragile zones, threatened natural systems and habitats that can be enhanced through conservation, density, land use and open space planning.

Principle Two: A Balance with Tradition integrates plan interventions with existing cultural assets, respecting traditional patterns and precedents of style. It respects heritage precincts and historical assets that weave the past and the futures of cities into a continuity of values.

Principle Three: Appropriate Technology promotes materials, building techniques, infrastructural systems and construction management that are consistent with peoples= capacities, geo-climatic conditions, local resources, and suitable capital investments. The PIU focus on matching interfaces between the physical spread of urban utilities and services, watershed catchments, urban administrative wards and electoral constituent boundaries.

Principle Four: Conviviality sponsors social interaction through public domains, in a hierarchy of places, devised for personal solace, engaging friendship, romance, householding, neighboring, community and civic life. It promotes the protection, enhancement and creation of “open public spaces” which ae accessible to all.

Principle Five: Efficiency promotes a balance between the consumption of urban resources like energy, time and finance, with planned achievements in comfort, safety, security, access, tenure, and hygiene levels. It encourages optimum sharing of land, roads, facilities and infrastructural networks to reduce per household costs, increasing affordability and civic viability.

Principle Six: Human Scale encourages ground level, pedestrian oriented urban arrangements, based on anthropometric dimensions, as opposed to Amachine-scales.= Walkable, mixed use urban villages are encouraged, over mono-functional blocks and zones, linked by motor ways and surrounded by parking lots.

Principle Seven: Opportunity Matrix enriches the city as a vehicle for personal, social, and economic development, through access to a range of organizations, services and facilities, providing a variety of opportunities for education, recreation, employment, business, mobility, shelter, health, safety and basic needs.

Principle Eight: Regional Integration, envisions the city as an organic part of a larger environmental, economic, social and cultural geographic system, which is essential for its future sustainability.

Principle Nine: Balanced Movement promotes integrated transport systems composed of pedestrian paths, cycle lanes, express bus lanes, light rail corridors and automobile channels. The modal split nodes between these systems become the public domains around which cluster high density, specialized urban Hubs and walkable, mixed-use Urban Villages.

Principle Ten: Institutional Integrity recognizes that good practices inherent in considered principles can only be realized through the emplacement of accountable, transparent, competent and participatory local governance. It recognizes that such governance is founded on appropriate data bases, on due entitlements, on civic responsibilities and duties. The PIU promotes a range of facilitative and promotive urban development management tools to achieve intelligent urban practices, systems and forms.

Presented at the World Society of Ekistics Symposium in Berlin Ekistics, October, 2001

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