The Urban Environment

Getting the urban environment right is vital to the success of a city. A city that is a good place to live and work will prosper. This city will be picked as a location over other cities by companies and individuals. A city that gets their urban environment right will prosper, one that gets it wrong and does not adapt will ultimately begin to shrink and will eventually fail.

Sustainable Urban Design

A good starting point is coming up with designs that promote sustainability. Urban planning that is future proof falls as much into the category of sustainability as do designs that are sustainable from a purely environmental point of view. Some would argue that they are two sides of the same coin.

When the layout and infrastructure is well designed, i.e future proof, it will last for decades. Space and infrastructure will be provided for expansion. Therefore, there is less need to rip down parts of the city and construct new infrastructure and buildings. The less this happens the more environmentally sustainable a city is overall. Not having to re-build constantly cuts down on the building materials used in a city, which has perhaps the biggest positive impact on the environment. Making better use of existing land within a city’s boundaries also makes a city more sustainable.

Confronting Comfort

However, cities are not simply places of commerce. They are places where people live. Therefore, planners also have to plan comfortable environments for the residents of their cities.

The infrastructure of basic services, such as power and sewage, have to be adequate for the future as well as now. These facilities have to be well built and as maintenance free as possible.

Good schools, health care facilities and other public buildings need to be in place and easily accessible to all of the city’s inhabitants. Green spaces and leisure facilities are particularly important.

However, individuals also have to accept that living in a city means less personal space. There is a balance to be maintained between the needs of individuals and the needs of the city as a whole, the firms who do business there and the environment.


The BMW Guggenheim Lab has been visiting the world’s major cities looking at their urban environment and asking their residents for their ideas. To read more visit their website