The villages through which we passed were of mud and mud Taiyuan Vacations -brick. Gone was the drab concrete of^Kunming. The hills had bamboo groves Taiyuan Vacations , and crops of rice, maize and tobacco. Most of the Chinese passengers dozed off to sleep, but with the bus swinging so violently around the hairpin bends one had to sleep with both hands holding on. The Han woman beside me had stowed a string bag of pears on the overhead rack. The bag gradually slid through the bars and a pear fell out, hitting me on the head.
Architecture and urban design can attempt to consider all of the above, but social and cultural capital are highly qualitative and even the most quantifiable capital – economic capital – can be a chimera as property and financial markets always go through boom and bust cycles. Conversion can take place between the capitals, but with inherent losses (or costs) and, at an urban design scale, conversions are likely to be politicized since they will result in significant change that will impact on a population. Conversions can take place in many ways, for example slum clearance, the establishment of an arts centre, a university or a new tourist attraction.
Urban design at its best provides a physical framework to be populated by activity and energy, as well as a fair share of chaos. Cedric Price’s blog, Re: CP (Price 1999) succinctly summarized urban design as a facilitator for delight, learning, sanctuary, friendly thresholds and urban convenience. But achieving Price’s positive and desirable design outcomes within the context of city is a challenge; the multiple criteria of city design can conflict and the criteria are not always complementary. Add to this the dynamic effects of transitions over time – the evolution, revolution, regeneration and resilience that ebbs and flows through local, national and international cycles – and it is unsurprising that design outcomes are impossible to predict.
The rapid urbanization of the world’s population over the last 100 years has lent some urgency to getting the architecture of cities right in a less evolutionary or leisurely manner. According to the World Resources Institute more than 50 per cent of us now live in cities (http://wri.org) and it is increasing fast; by 2030 it will be 87 per cent in the US and 60 per cent in China. In the future, it is arguable that cities rather than countries will be the powerhouses of the global economy (Florida 2008). The age of globalization has seen relentless growth of cities. Urban densification is a worldwide phenomenon and it is sustainable; according to Dodman (2009) people who live in small towns and rural areas emit 50 per cent more greenhouse gasses than city dwellers.