Life + Arts

Future of master planning

Associate professor Wendy Fok and Lucy Bullivant discussed her new book "Futures."

Associate professor Wendy Fok and Lucy Bullivant discussed her new book “Futures.”

Cities can no longer rely on master plans that simply copy other cities to deal with complex economic and natural problems, said internationally published author, critic and curator Lucy Bullivant in a lecture she gave Tuesday at the Gerald D. Hines college of Architecture.

Lucy Bullivant, an internationally published author, critic and curator, examined the evolution of urban cities through their master plans. She studied the benefits of progressive planning strategies including the ability to be custom designed. She also analyzed the Skolkovo Innovation Center in Moscow, the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin and several other plans that utilized the cities’ ecological foundations.

“Master planning is defined as a set of tools that bring about certain change,” Bullivant said. “It must respond to the cultural diversity across continents.”

She focused on whether humankind has the luxury to equalize the developed and developing worlds.

“New technology can really change the way we understand the city, but the idea of cloning cities isn’t going to solve the economical and natural problems,” Bullivant said. “The evolution of master planning isn’t about rigid blueprints anymore but instead integrating loose knit frameworks so agencies and frameworks can communicate better.”

Kevin Hai Pham, Architecture junior, was intrigued by Bullivant’s dialog between traditional master planning and the idea of adaptive planning.

“Instead of having plans meant for a singular urban condition, it becomes vital to think about relational urbanism and the role it has on urbanism,” Pham said. “We no longer have a singular tree of life, but a web of life where different elements of an increasingly globalized society are connected.”

Pham expressed his ideas on the advantages of master planning and its future in the contemporary society.

“I do think that master planning can ‘equalize’ the world from a socio-spatial perspective because adaptive planning brings the potential for formerly separated socio-cultural systems to exchange between different agents,” Pham said. “Master planning could create porosity in the walls of a previously separated hierarchical system.”

A recent graduate from the UH College of Architecture, Thomas Pham, said he was enlightened by Bullivant’s concern for the practice of urban design in this century.

“The lecture has taught me that the designing of the built environment is still relevant,” Thomas Pham said. “The breadth of material that her analysis covered is something that can only be remedied through the informed collective agency of citizens, urban planners and developers.”

Bullivant said the solution is not master planning, but a clear understanding of the ecological foundations of the world.

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  • For readers interested to find out more, my new book, Masterplanning Futures, Routledge, 2012, is available through specialist retail outlets in the US or from I also launched my new webzine,, last month, focusing on critical issues of urban design in the 201st century.

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