The Intentional City - Applying local values and choice in a global context
To plan a city is an attempt to shape its future; to intentionally create a more ideal place that builds on local assets and community values. While notions of the "ideal" vary across cultures, places, and time, they almost always include concepts of civic quality, economic prosperity, and a life sustaining environment. The globalized economy, increasing community empowerment, and growing concerns about accelerating impacts on the Earth’s ecosystems make the pursuit of local goals more challenging. Planners and leaders must consider both local desires and global influences in planning for their communities’ future growth, development, and vitality. The phrase "think globally, act locally" has now become a defining concept for metropolitan areas around the world. This conference provided a forum for sharing ideas, approaches, and specific experiences that can inform our efforts to create "ideal" 21st century cities. The conference considered three aspects of this theme in detail.
Subtheme I: Assuring Civic Quality, Achieving Urban Excellence
For some, "civic quality" is about the design of significant buildings. A broader understanding encompasses everything from the design of public and private places to the spatial arrangement of a region’s activity centers and connections. The broadest view incorporates notions of social capital, shared identity, and community responsibility. This conference component highlighted efforts and projects that seek to achieve urban excellence in the context of the various understandings of civic quality from the narrowest to the most expansive.
Subtheme II: Planning for Human and Environmental Health
At its most basic level, urban planning strives to address essential community needs, first and foremost the health and safety of residents. Today’s world demands that we go beyond the basics and plan for more sustainable communities. This aspect of the conference examined how to encourage human and ecological well-being through policies and choices in growth management, urban design, and site development and how community organization and social systems can contribute to sustainability.
Subtheme III: Creating a Niche in the Global Economy
In the past, local economies were limited by geography and the time necessary to transfer information and goods. Advances in transportation and technology have reduced or removed many of these limitations, resulting in a more global economy. The challenge now for many cities is to find a niche that will preserve their unique identity while assuring vitality and prosperity. This conference track considered policies, approaches, and projects that successfully promote local economic development and respond to regional contexts and global realities.
The conference program illuminated these concepts and placed special emphasis on the role of design, the use of public/private partnerships, the influence of different scales, and the importance of social capital.