Compact Cities: Sustainable Urban Forms for Developing Countries

By Mike Jenks; Rod Burgess | Go to book overview

Xing Quan Zhang

High-Rise and High-Density Compact Urban Form:

The Development of Hong Kong

Introduction

Technological development in the twentieth century gave the freedom to create different urban forms and structures. The debate over the concentration or dispersal of urban development has had a long history, and has intensified over the past two decades since the widespread acceptance of the ideas of sustainable development. Urban planners and policy makers increasingly believe that there is a link between the prospects for sustainability and urban form. A powerful argument in favour of urban concentration was made by the Commission of European Communities (CEC, 1990), whose vision for sustainable urban forms is centred on the notion of the compact city. The rationale for the compact city lies in the assumption that high densities can reduce travel demands and energy consumption and pollution and provide more environmental and quality of life benefits (Breheny, 1992; Morrison, 1998).

Although the actual benefits of compact urban form are far from certain, a number of European countries accepted the idea of the compact city as a policy direction in the 1990s (Morrison, 1998). Compared to these latest moves to develop more compact urban forms in Europe, the policy change in urban development from dispersal to compaction in Hong Kong began much earlier, about 40 years ago. This was at a time when western planners, social scientists, architects were stressing the ill effects of high-rise and high-density development such as crime, vandalism, social dysfunction and high vacancy rates. The demolition of St Louis’s Pruitt-Igoe housing project and the tragic deterioration of high-rise housing in Chicago, Boston and elsewhere become a symbol of the failure of the high-rise and high-density approach (Fuerst and Petty, 1991). Fear of the ill effects of high densities has also influenced past planning policy in Hong Kong. However, the combination of rapid population growth and limited land resources made dispersed development unsustainable in Hong Kong. As a response, Hong Kong switched to a high-rise and high-density development approach. Now Hong Kong has the highest urban density in the world. It is a good example of the compact city model. This chapter illustrates the forces that caused Hong Kong to adopt the compact

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