The quality of the environment in which people live, work, and play influences to no small degree the quality of life itself. The environment can be satisfying and attractive and provide scope for individual development or it can be poisonous, irritating, and stunting.
The papers in this volume are concerned with the urban environment -- in which the majority of Americans live -- or, more accurately, with the environment of urbanites, for the concern extends to outlying areas where urban dwellers visit and play.
The papers were initially prepared for a conference on the urban environment sponsored by Resources for the Future, Inc. The conference was organized to evaluate the current "state of the art" and to stimulate research in the field. Its main objective was to review (1) both the established concepts and those now evolving or needed to advance work in the field; (2) the existing sources of information and the new kinds of information which are required, particularly in measuring improvement or degradation of the environment; and (3) public policy issues related to environmental improvement.
No attempt was made to provide a comprehensive overview of thinking and research in the field (much significant work in progress is not reported). Rather, the choice of subjects and authors was highly selective: essentially a sampling -- with a strong economic-cum-planning focus -- was made of some of the more interesting current work dealing with issues and methods directly relevant to public policymaking. The main purpose was to expose conceptual probings that would be of particular interest both to scholars concerned with environmental research and to policy makers concerned with narrowing the gap between intellectual speculation and practical application.
It should be stressed that the papers report on research that has been, and still is, under way. They have all the weaknesses -- and excitement -- of progress reports. Some ideas are well developed, others represent early speculation. Some of the research is theoretical or conceptual, some is largely empirical, while some is essentially "observational" in approach (if this is a legitimate way of describing Wilfred Owen's comparisons of U.S. and European styles of developing transportation environments and the Atkisson-Robinson provocative aesthetic evaluations).
No attempt has been made to bring the papers into a uniform pattern, since this would have been impossible or, if it had been possible, it would have been certain to take the edge off the special thrust and originality of each paper. They should be taken for what they are: individual probings into different corners of a vast and largely undefined field.
There were, however, three themes that emerged early in this joint effort that had at least some unifying impact. In inviting the authors to the conference, I had . . .