Tuesday 28 November 2006

Planning and aesthetics in countries like Ireland

What is good planning makes for a difficult conversation. Essentially it's all about aesthetics.

In developed countries like Ireland, there has been a backlash against excessive man-made clutter in the environment, such as signposts, signs, and hoardings. Other issues that generate strong debate amongst urban designers are tensions between peripheral growth, increased housing density and planned new settlements. There are also unending debates about the benefits of mixing tenures and land uses, versus the benefits of distinguishing geographic zones where different uses predominate.

Successful urban planning considers character, of "home" and "sense of place", local identity, respect for natural, artistic and historic heritage, an understanding of the "urban grain" or "townscape," pedestrians and other modes of traffic, utilities and natural hazards, such as flood zones.

Some argue that the medieval piazza and arcade are the most widely appreciated elements of successful urban design, as demonstrated by the Italian cities of Sienna and Bologna.

While it is rare that cities are planned from scratch, planners are important in managing the growth of cities, applying tools like zoning to manage the uses of land, and growth management to manage the pace of development. When examined historically, many of the cities now thought to be most beautiful are the result of dense, long lasting systems of prohibitions and guidance about building sizes, uses and features. These allowed substantial freedoms, yet enforce styles, safety, and often materials in practical ways. Many conventional planning techniques are being repackaged using the contemporary term smartgrowth.

There are some cities that have been planned from conception, and while the results often don't turn out quite as planned, evidence of the initial plan often remains.

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