Planners to be told to adopt 'activist' personas and to create compact cities

PLANNING professionals attending the Planning Institute of Australia (PIA) 2011 National Congress will be told to see themselves as 'activists' and to create compact cities that provide for pedestrians and bicyclists.

According to the PIA, the National Congress, to be held in Hobart next week, will discuss the very latest world's best practice in planning.

The opening keynote address will be delivered by Enrique Penalosa, a former Mayor of Bogota, Colombia and currently the President of the Board of the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy of New York.

Mr Penalosa will tell the Congress that a radical reduction in car use is not just a "crazy green dream."

"Some very car-less cities such as Manhattan, central London or Paris are already very car free, yet extremely attractive and probably the most successful cities on many levels.

"I will be putting the case for higher density. Today most people agree that the compact city is the most desirable urban form. Yet we have not been creative in designing really different compact cities.

"It is not just about putting up some multi-story buildings: it is about imagining compact cities with, for example, networks of pedestrian-and-bicycle-only promenades, very wide sidewalks and greenways hundreds of kilometres long crisscrossing dense cities," Mr Penalosa said.

The PIA 2011 Congress will also hear from Dan Pitera the Executive Director of the Detroit Collaborative Design Center at the University of Detroit Mercy School of Architecture.

Mr Pitera will tell planners to see themselves as 'activists' affecting change in the urban environment for all people and that planners should be looking beyond the established way of doing things.

"I will use case studies from our work to foster a position toward activating change through an effective strategy," Mr Pitera said.

"The strategy establishes civic engagement, locates moments of intensity and designs responses and actions. I aim to show Australian planners that we do not have to abandon the tools of our discipline to have civic engagement."

Mr Pitera said that residents are now being acknowledged for the important role they have in "actively visioning, implementing and maintaining a community" and that communities "will not thrive" without the participation of residents.

The Planning Institute of Australia 2011 National Congress will take place in Hobart, Tasmania, 6 - 9 March 2011.

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