A model urban community

As a young boy, I loved drawing a “roadmap” of livable communities where family and industry were central to this unadulterated fun design. I would put skyscrapers and blend these with old trees, brilliant lights, and flowers along walkways and entertainment centers. The distance between neighborhoods was enough to give space and privacy. In this universe, people of different economic classes are resilient to the challenges and complexities of modern living.

I grew up in a small town with inadequate potable water and transportation. There was a thin line between regression and progression where one cannot differentiate silt from clay particles when wading through the flooded, muddy streets of Barangay Busugon in San Remigio municipality. Life then was simple but joyous because of my family and the neighborhood. This was my unsophisticated urban planning, where things that matter most to me can be found in one place.

Although I did not become a city or urban planner, my interest in “designing” communities is as strong as my entrepreneurial consciousness. It has become an advocacy.

Be that as it may, urban planning, a form of spatial planning, requires strategic innovations and thorough study to develop equitable habitats and sustainable human settlements and development. A strategic plan, or a development plan, considers population growth, zoning, geographic mapping, structural and people’s safety analysis, water supply, and essential social services.

Urban planning, says the United Nations Human Settlements Programme or UN-HABITAT, should “improve policies, plans, and designs for more compact, socially inclusive, better integrated, and connected cities that foster sustainable urban development and are resilient to climate change at the city, regional, and national levels.”

The world’s best-planned urban cities include Singapore City in Singapore, Brazilia in Brazil, Chandigarh in India, Seoul in South Korea, and Copenhagen in Denmark.

In the Philippines, five regions that surpassed the national level of urbanization in 2020 are Calabarzon (70.5 percent), Davao (66.8 percent), Central Luzon (66.3 percent), and Soccsksargen (55.5 percent), according to the 2022 report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) based on the 2020 population census.

The cities of Angeles in Pampanga and Mandaue in Cebu had the highest level of urbanization, with 100 percent each. Of the country’s 81 provinces, 11 provinces registered a level of urbanization higher than the national level in 2020.

On a sad note,  Eastern Visayas (14.7 percent), Cagayan Valley (19.5 percent), Bicol (23.8 percent), Ilocos (25.5 percent), and Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (27.6 percent) posted the lowest level of urbanization, the same PSA report showed.

Overseas, towns and villages have adapted to technological innovations and big data for urban analytics. Urban planners now consider including countryside localities in developing sustainable and resilient communities despite needing more resources, strategies, and expertise.

Many urban planners find harmony in geometry and numbers, taking a leaf from the ancient works of Greek architect and mathematician Hippodamus of Miletus, considered the father of urban planning.

Today’s towns and cities incorporate functional innovations where everything gets “smart,” from people to intelligent traffic lighting and drones, better infrastructures, facilities, and communications systems, and a strategic blueprint for mitigating the impact of climate change and other environmental problems.

With the booming population nationwide, it would be wise to create more growth areas outside the center of progress to improve service and operational efficiency. Local executives and councils must do much work to empower those who must catch up and provide leadership in a highly competitive environment.

After all, greater economic inclusion should benefit people with low or no incomes and vulnerable sectors. The beauty of inclusive urban planning lies in ensuring that all can partake of its benefits. As Greek philosopher Socrates once said: “By far the greatest and most admirable form of wisdom is that needed to plan and beautify cities and human communities.”

Ultimately, any strategic urban design should not only be a mixture of arts and humanities, but also a fusion of science and numbers.


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