Lessons Learned from 55 (or More) Years of Professional Experience in Urban Planning and Development

Open Access Journal | ISSN: 2183-7635

Commentary | Open Access

Lessons Learned from 55 (or More) Years of Professional Experience in Urban Planning and Development


  • Han Verschure Department of Architecture, Urbanism and Planning, KU Leuven, Belgium


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Abstract:  Reflecting on the many debates over the years on changing urbanization processes, on the towns and cities of yesterday, today, and tomorrow, the main challenge will be listening to lessons of wisdom from the past and adapting these to our future professional work. When Chief Seattle said that the Earth does not belong to us, we belong to the Earth, he called for more humility and respect so as to plan for the needs of today and tomorrow, and not for the greed of a few. The doomsday scenarios of overpopulation only make sense if we continue to exploit our planet the way we do today, as if we have an infinite reservoir of resources. Already back in the 1960s, Barbara Ward, John F. C. Turner, and particularly Kenneth Boulding taught me to rethink our whole perception of Spaceship Earth. I have seen many towns and cities grow as if resources were limitless; I myself have seen and worked on efforts to focus on spatial quality, respecting nature whenever possible for a growing number of people, recognizing resources as being precious and scarce, and yet guaranteeing equitable access to a good quality of urban life. Such objectives are not evident, when models in education, schools of thought, professional planners, and greedy developers are often geared towards the contrary: the higher the skyscrapers, the better; the more egotripping by architects, the more the rich like it; the more people are stimulated to consume, the better the world will be. Such narrow visions will no longer help. At several global urban planning and developments events (1976, 1992, 1996, 2016, etc.), new ideas and agendas have been put forward. Whether the present Covid-19 crisis may induce a more rapid change in vision and practice is still too early to confirm, but luckily, several towns and cities, and a few visionary planners and decision makers are showing some promising examples.

Keywords:  human settlements; international cooperation; lessons learned; planning and design; sustainability; transdisciplinarity

Published:   25 May 2021


DOI: https://doi.org/10.17645/up.v6i2.3980


© Han Verschure. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0), which permits any use, distribution, and reproduction of the work without further permission provided the original author(s) and source are credited.