In the past decades we have observed an accelerating urbanization around the world where many old cities expanded enormously. Leaving little spaces for the citizens to move freely, to breath fresh-air, to exercise in natural environments and even be exposed to the sun. In many cities there are no affordable and easy access to parks, forests and green areas. Even more serious new cities in many parts of the world are built intentionally with increasing densification where living areas are designed to meet the needs of working adults, transport systems and cars as if recreation and children don’t exist.
All of us have definitely experienced the considerable degradation in the life-quality of our modern cities. They became parts of complex industrial production sites and we became part of complex machinery systems. Even with the invent and use of ICT we still over crowded in small areas, i.e. to be as productive as possible. In the early days of the ICT is was believed that people can be more flexible and resilient and not always forced to be in working places. However, business-as-usual became part of our life-style as if ICT doesn’t exist.
COVID-19 has drawn our attention to how urbanization and modern life-style brought with several negative impacts to life-quality. In many cities and urban areas around the world it is even hard to apply ‘physical distancing’ as there are no spaces to do so. Also, ‘stay at home’ isn’t a suitable practice as household may have many persons living in the same appartements and houses. Public transport systems, schools and public services can still be very crowded. Even the use of masks are not standard in many places or even not recommended or recognized as being a safe option. One can ask what options are left other than transmitting infections.
A city is more than its buildings and more than just housing. Modern densification is often about constructing as much housing as possible, as quickly as possible. Of course, considerations are great for housing but in the rush to build quickly it is important to slow down and ask ourselves: What kind of environments and life-style are we creating? Why and for whom are we building? How can we create cities and living environments that are sustainable, resilient and comfortable for everyone? Are our urban spaces contributing in a good built environment for pleasant life?
The Swedish National Board of Housing, Building and Planning has produced a
document in response to public debate on the densification of cities and communities, and to provide inspiration and guidance regarding ways to supplement the existing environment. Densification is not only about housing, it is about good built environment and life-quality for the people who live, work and spend time in the city. This publication gives views and arguments concerning some of the challenges and opportunities of densification. It also has interviews conducted with a few people about how they approach the challenges that exist. For example: how people’s needs for sunlight and daylight can be satisfied, how disturbing sounds in a dense city can be handled, how vegetation can be used as a resource, how room for public services can be created, and how a densification strategy for the entire city might be developed. It highlights a number of examples of municipal densification projects, all of which have added value over and above new housing. Mirja Ranesköld, planning architect, was the project leader and Elin Normann Bjarsell, landscape architect, was a member of the project team. Other coworkers contributed with their views and suggestions during the course of the project. The interviews were conducted by Elisabeth Klingberg at PratMinus (https://www.boverket.se/globalassets/publikationer/dokument/2017/urban-density-done-right.pdf).
Here some example of successful planning in the city of Gothenburg, Sweden, where I spent marvelous time in its ’Slottsskogens’ (https://www.goteborg.com/en/slottsskogen/) with an animal park, one of the oldest in Sweden. Just to demonstrate the old good times.