This is a guest post from a reader who’s currently based in Germany. She takes a look at the evolution of Germany’s Ruhr region – a case study in the role of natural resources, technology, and disruptive economic change in shaping urban form.

In a recent New Zealand Herald article, Dushko Bogunovich and Matthew Bradbury suggest an alternative approach in how Auckland urban form should be developed, a theory that they are calling the “linear city”, as discussed in this previous post. To support their theory, they use the example of three German metropolitan areas including Munich, Frankfurt and Ruhr:

“Other famous models of successful, decentralised and polycentric development are metropolitan Munich and the urban region of the Ruhr. Both cover large areas, include plentiful open spaces, and have managed to contain urban sprawl in the form of a coherent polycentric pattern.”

They seem to suggest that what makes these case studies “successful” is that they have been able to contain urban sprawl. So lets look more closely at the success of one of their case studies, the Ruhr metropolis.

Ruhr Urban Metropolis

The Ruhr metropolis today has 5.30 million inhabitants, over 3 administrative districts and 11 cities (Hamm, Dortmund, Hagen, Bochum, Herne, Gelsenkirchen, Essen, Bottrop, Oberhausen, Mülheim, Duisburg). The area is geographically defined by being set between three rivers (Ruhr, Emscher and Lippe), and along a coal seam. Because of its history, the Ruhr is structured differently from monocentric urban regions such as Berlin and London, which developed through the rapid merger of smaller towns and villages with a growing central city. Instead, the individual city boroughs and urban districts of the Ruhr grew independently of one another during the Industrial Revolution.

The development of independent cities of Ruhr can be seen in the series of maps below from 1840, 1930 and 1970.

Ruhr - Map 1840

Ruhr - Map 1930

Ruhr - Map 1970

In the Middle Ages, the trading cities of Dortmund and Duisburg already existed and were part of the German Hanseatic League. The area began to transform in the late 18th Century with early industrialisation, and by 1820 there were hundreds of water-powered mills and workshops, and by 1850-1860 there were almost 300 coal mines in operation around the central cities of Duisberg, Essen, Bochum and Dortmund. Workers lived in close proximity to the place of work, often directly around the workshops, mills and mines.

Ruhr - Housing and Factories

The population climbed rapidly and small towns with only 2000-5000 people grew in the following years to contain over 100,000. By 1870, over 3 million people lived in the wider regional area, which had become the largest industrial region of Europe. During World War 1 the area functioned as Germany’s central weapon factory, and at the Essen company, employees rose from 40,000 to 120,000. The area was much disputed during the two World Wars and Cold War period due to its industrial importance. During the 1950’s and 1960’s during the rebuilding of Germany, a phase of very rapid economic growth created a high demand for coal and steel.

Ruhr - Number of mines
Number of mines in the Ruhr 1850- 1986

However, after 1973 a worldwide economic crisis hit the Ruhr region very hard, as the easily reachable coal mines had become exhausted and German coal and steel prices were no longer competitive globally. The region went through phases of structural crisis and industrial diversification, first through heavy industry, and then moving into service industries and high technology. Since the 1970’s, as mines closed, unemployment has been rising and population has been decreasing.

Beschäftigte in 1000 = Employed per 1000;
Beschäftigte im Bergbau = Employed in Mining;
Beschäftigte in der Eisen- und Stahlindustrie = Employed in the Iron and Steel Industries;
Arbeitslose = Unemployed

Ruhr - Unemployment
Source: Regionalverband Ruhrgebiet


Ruhr - Population
Source: Regionalverband Ruhr 2012

The transformation of former industrial sites into smaller modern commercial centres has been difficult, perhaps partly due to their poly-centric nature. As an attempt to encourage new forms of economic activity, projects such as the Phoenix urban development project in Dortmund are currently being implemented, to try and encourage more higher-income people into the area. Phoenix is not a market-led project, and instead has received considerable funding from both the local administration Nordrhein-Westfalen and also by the European Union in an attempt to regenerate the region.

The images below are from the Ruhr area in 2015.

Ruhr - Pheonix Housing
Pheonix Housing
Ruhr - Skyline
A Ruhr Skyline
Ruhr - Old Factory
An old Ruhr Factory
Ruhr - Current Factory
A current Ruhr Factory

What does this mean for Auckland?

The development of Ruhr has therefore had a very different history to Auckland, which has instead grown around one main central city. The development of the Ruhr into poly-centric hubs was therefore not an urban planning vision, but a direct result of workers living close to the spread-out mining sites, and highlights the strong relationship between the location of employment and of housing. The poly-centric urban form does not help to create successful economic outcomes for the region today.

In his Auckland Conversation presentation in September 2015, John Daley from the Grattan Institute explains his research “City Limits”, concluding that the Australian economy is increasingly dominated by services produced in cities and that more jobs are being concentrated at the centre of big cities. However new housing is being supplied at the outskirts, which is creating long commutes, geographic divides and putting the social fabric under strain. These Australasian patterns are also clearly evident in Auckland’s urban issues.

It is therefore difficult to see how in 2016, with falling population, rising unemployment, and subsidised urban regeneration projects, how the Ruhr metropolis is a “successful model of a linear city” as Bogunovich and Bradbury claim. What we can learn from the Ruhr case study is the relationship between the type of economy and job location; and how transportation, job location and housing are critically linked. We therefore need to ensure that the urban plan for a growing Auckland, in determining the location and density of new housing, enables efficient public transportation networks between this new housing and the central city.

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  1. Well that was a bit of a burn, wasn’t it? I think our changing economy is having a big effect on cities. Most of the diseconomies of cities have/can be solved: the service industry and modern manufacturing barely pollutes, sanitation and healthcare are now often more superior in bigger urban areas, transport can be provided effectively.

    Especially notable in the UK and NZ where population is really concentrated in a few urban areas. If it weren’t for London’s housing difficulties (regulation caused) then it would probably scoop up a huge population very quickly (indeed, people live in towns and cities hours away but still work in London).

    1. Excellent point! In the last few decades the diseconomies of urban scale and density have massively reduced – less air pollution, lower crime rates, and so on and so forth – while the benefits of scale and density may have increased – industrial change, increasing role of consumer amenities.

      It wasn’t that long ago (1970s) that economists were writing papers arguing that cities should be “taxed” to reduce their size to a more socially beneficial level. But in the last decade most of the empirical and theoretical literature has swung the other way – arguing that cities should be allowed to get *bigger* in order to maximise agglomeration economies.

    2. ” the service industry and modern manufacturing barely pollutes”
      goodness me. There were over 50,000 noise complaints in Auckland last year and a very large percentage of them were related to commercial noise pollution.
      Illegal coffee roasting (yes, it’s a thing!) has popped up in Auckland (they run chimneys up trees to conceal the source). Odour is a type of pollution.
      Multiple manufacturing firms still dump chemicals via stormwater drains. Yes, that’s pollution.
      Many service industries still illegally pump fat into wastewater drains. Yes, that’s pollution

      We don’t have smokestacks pumping into the air, but perhaps before you say “barely pollutes” you might do an OIA for environmental health complaints to Auckland Council and see what pops up 🙂

  2. We are rapidly expanding Warkworth, Orewa, Kumeu, Pukekohe and Pokeno. Whilst clamping back on the growth of Auckland City, destroying its potential. The Super City is transitioning from the main central city towards dispersed regional centres. We are becoming a series of linear cities.

    The land cost in Auckland City is too high, it destroys the potential growth and drives people away.

    1. Is the land cost too high, or is regulation in the form of planning rules limiting the ability to re-purpose the land to higher value activities?

      1. Have a look at two places where regulation is largely unchanged – the Auckland CBD and in the Waikato – during consecutive property booms. The previous boom had an Auckland median new land price of about $300,000 and the current boom has a median land price of more than $600,000.

        In the last property boom phase we managed to create 20,000 apartments the in the central city and Pokeno remained a small lifeless rural town at a motorway junction. During this property boom phase we are building about 5000 apartments in the central city and Pokeno is a booming exurb of Auckland.

        Land Price is forcing development out of Auckland.

        1. Oh god not another person getting super excited over a few hundred houses in Pokeno and ignoring the 10,000 population growth of the Waitemata Local Board area in other last 2 years.

          1. Not ignoring those 10,000 people, just pointing out that it is such an amazingly small number.

          2. I’d like a compact, affordable city with a large degree of intensification and carbon efficiency. Auckland’s gutting of urban growth and series of car-centric exurbs from Wellsford to Pokeno, doesn’t match my preferred outcome.

          3. Amazingly small? That’s a quarter of the Auckland region’s growth happening in 0.3% of its area. What more do you want exactly?!

          4. In Auckland our current boom is shooting 3000-5000 apartments into Central Auckland. Which is a very small number.

            Our previous boom shot about 15,000 apartments into Central Auckland. In the current boom Brisbane is putting 31,000 apartments into Central Brisbane. This range is what I want, much bigger numbers.


  3. Ever noticed how people of similar religions hate each other the most? It must be the same with growth constraint ideologies. The anti sprawl bloggers here have a particular dislike of the linear city people.

    1. As far as the Liner City is any kind of coherent plan for the city (its mainly just empty bombast) it is a plan for sprawl from Wellsford to Huntly. It would stand to reason that those opposed to sprawl would be opposed to this.

        1. Also don’t agree that this blog subscribes to “growth constraint ideologies”. They have consistently advocated for a general liberalising of planning controls and proper pricing of externalities. But of course accurately portraying someone’s position limits opportunities for trolling.

    2. Transportblog has devoted many more words to advocating for the removal of constraints on development than it has devoted to advocating in favour of (other) constraints. I don’t think we’ve ever written a blog post arguing for a tighter MUL, for example. But we *have* written blog posts arguing that the city should be allowed to grow in response to, e.g., immigration and natural population increase.

      In short, it’s inaccurate to describe Transportblog as advocating a “growth constraint ideology”. But feel free to carry on assembling straw men if that’s what makes you happy.

        1. None of those posts advocate for restrictions on sprawl. They do point out that sprawl can be costly for society, that it can have unanticipated downsides, and that alternative growth patterns (that could be enabled by *reducing* restrictions on infill and redevelopment) may be more beneficial. But they don’t then say “therefore we should ban sprawl”.

          And as for my my review of Bogunovich’s linear city concept: I pointed out, in admittedly strong language, the many things that are unworkable about the idea. I am willing to change my views in response to facts and evidence, but no further evidence was provided. Just a bunch of half-baked assertions.

          Honestly, John, this is not up to your ordinary standard of trolling.

          1. I am laughing because I think I used that same back handed compliment on you Peter. I agree I have never read that sprawl should be banned in the main body of a post. But bloggers can be down on outward growth without having to go that far. The problem then becomes if we dont get sprawl and we dont get intensification as people won’t give up the amenity they have (as I am sure I commented at least two years ago) then all we will get is land price rises. Fine for me but a complete nightmare for most. Even for me it sucks as I will need to help my kids into houses. We need to get back to the old way of planning. 70% inside the urban area 30% outside and when the 30% is used up just add 30% more. Rinse and repeat. If any of the 70% actually happens then that is just a bonus.

          2. I agree with you to an extent mfwic, although I would say that we aim for 70/30 and if we don’t get 70 we need to liberalise zoning in the urban area to allow it to happen, but also ease MUL to accommodate the sprawl that people want. Though all of this is based on actually pricing the externalities of sprawl through higher developer contributions or rates.

          3. mfiwc,

            In Australia, the old 70:30 ratio is being surpassed and they are moving towards having a more urbanised norm. They allow much greater growth and intensification typically occurs at a rate of 75:25 or better. Meanwhile in Auckland, with its very restrictive MUL, growth is slovenly and happening at a ratio of what? – 40:60, maybe even 30:70.

            They allow external growth and get intensification, we restrict external growth and get sprawl-villes from Pokeno to Wellsford.

      1. “But feel free to carry on assembling straw men if that’s what makes you happy.”
        It obviously makes him very happy as he does little else.

    3. Yeah, that’ll be why Muslims and Hindus have had such a bloody past; Islam is monotheistic and so is, er hang on……

  4. However new housing is being supplied at the outskirts, which is creating long commutes, geographic divides and putting the social fabric under strain. These Australasian patterns are also clearly evident in Auckland’s urban issues.

    Not really.

    Auckland has decided not to allow new housing to be supplied to its outskirts at anything like the Australasian norm. Auckland has foregone the “burdens” of Australasian style development – slow sprawl with a massive record shattering booming construction of apartments. Auckland has chosen to halt sprawl on its outskirts – eviscerating the nascent apartment construction boom – whilst expanding sprawling pocket exurbs 10 km, 20 km, 30 km, 40 km and 50 km away.

    Auckland has bucked the Australasian trends.

      1. That looks a quite interesting read, thanks. But it doesn’t appear to draw that time lag conclusion in the summary document. I’ll read a bit further.

        1. From the exec summary: “All leader cities are within Australia and all laggards are within New Zealand, while the (mid-group) followers comprise a mix of Australian and New Zealand cities. These results indicate that non-stationary shocks to Australasian house prices are first experienced in the major Australian cities, then flow through to the more peripheral Australian cities plus Auckland (New Zealand’s largest city) and Wellington (New Zealand’s capital city), and subsequently flow through to the more peripheral New Zealand cities.”

    1. Are you seriously claiming that restricting sprawl has reduced apartment-building in the Auckland region, or are you just using some different meaning of ‘eviscerated’?

      1. Yes. I’m saying that jumping the land costs, and therefore construction costs, has a very negative impact on the profitability of building apartments.

        In the rest of Australasia where the cost of new land is lower than the median apartment price, they are building lots of apartments. In Auckland where the cost of new land exceeds the median apartment price, we are building very few apartments.

        Do you seriously think increasing the costs of building an apartment will increase the number of apartments being built?

      2. I can see where Angus is coming from. He’s arguing (basically) that constraints on land availability at the fringe make it easier for landowners *anywhere* in the city to exert market power over developers and/or landbank rather than develop.

        This makes a certain amount of sense, but I’d argue that it misses a key point, which is that even if fringe land availability were eased, zoning would still constrain the amount of land that could be used for apartment development. Landowners in desirable areas would *still* be able to exert significant market power over developers:

        1. Zoning itself is a political function motivated by the interests of people.

          In Auckland’s constrained market people have the ability to induce an increase in their property value by preventing up-zoning.

          In a non-constrained market people have the ability to decrease the value of their property by preventing up-zoning.

          In a constrained market up-zoning is very difficult to bring about and in a less constricted market up-zoning becomes much easier.

          1. I see your point, but I don’t think people are quite that rational. You’d see substantial opposition to rezoning even if land prices weren’t budging. For example, restrictive deed covenants are popular in Houston, which is land-unconstrained by any measure. Although the city doesn’t have zoning, its covenants result in a situation that resembles zoning but has the added disadvantage of being immune to change by the city government.

            Hence why I tend to emphasise the role of cognitive biases – e.g. status quo / anchoring bias – in shaping people’s opinions about urban planning issues.

          2. I think you are underestimating greed, as a motivating force it is quite pervasive.

            Is it Auckland (with its council “committed to intensification” and high land prices); or Houston (with its federally subsidised sprawl, entrenched unchangeable “deed covenants” and low land price) – that is building apartments faster on a per capita basis?

            Price must matter a lot, because it is Houston that intensifying quicker.

          3. Basically what you are saying is that if we freed up land for the external expansion of Auckland we would still be left with the entrenched zoning like Houston, and I am wrong to think financial interest could change peoples views.

            So if I am wrong and we free up much more external land to Auckland, we will start intensifying like Houston – about 100% faster than we are now.

            But if I am right and we free up much more external land to Auckland we will start intensifying like Brisbane – about 500% faster than we are now.

          4. Brisbane/SEQ has an urban growth boundary, and (just a wild guess) higher land prices than Houston. So according to your logic they should be building apartments slower than Houston, not faster. It’s almost as if other factors play a role in the process of urban development…

            One piece of indirect evidence for my view that entrenched cognitive biases, rather than greed, play a decisive role in political outcomes is the fact that actual political actors in Auckland tend to argue that greenfield growth is a *substitute* for intensification, not a *complement*. For example, the alleged libertarian David Seymour argues for more sprawl in order to prevent growth from happening in his electorate:

            This position is hard to explain if greed is the underlying motivator – why argue for expanding the MUL, in that case? But it’s easy to explain in terms of property owners’ desire to prevent things from changing *around them* – which is, I would argue, founded in status quo bias. (“The status quo *must* be better than any possible alternative!”)

          5. The rules play a vital role as soon as it becomes profitable to build apartments, after that happens the rules matter a great deal. But profitability is the first step and if it is not taken nothing we will do matters.

            Where you can build them, their size limitations, their balcony requirements, parking spaces, offsets, light wells, fluency of zoning changes – these make all the difference after it becomes profitable. Adopting a bat-shit crazy governance structure like Houston will retard intensification and sprawl will be maximised. Whilst a responsive governance structure more akin to the Australasian cities favours intensification.

            Auckland has a governance structure more similar to Australian cities than Houston, we should be intensifying much faster than Houston.

          6. One piece of indirect evidence for my view that entrenched cognitive biases, rather than greed, play a decisive role in political outcomes is the fact that actual political actors in Auckland tend to argue that greenfield growth is a *substitute* for intensification, not a *complement*.

            There are reasons why politicians are not well respected in our society as being entirely truthful in their proclamations. The old saying in politics is Baptists and Bootleggers – both support a politician for very different reasons. A politician preaches to the morals of the Baptists and caters policy to the back pockets of the Bootleggers – to win votes from both camps. Also politicians operate in teams, if the Left is saying it is a sunny day full of enjoyment the Right will be predicting rain drenched smog laden clouds of doom.

            Which is why we people create lobby groups to push their own agenda concisely, cutting through the political BS and providing coherent worthwhile pressure. If for instance there was a lobby group in Auckland in favour of a compact intensifying city, with great interconnectivity and maximised agglomeration. That lobby group would surely be in favour of an MUL that allowed 25-35% outward expansion of Auckland City each year, instead of the current MUL that allows less than 10%.

  5. Yes, freeing regulation up in the urban areas is important regardless of whether things are also freed up on the fringes. It doesn’t “have” to be either / or.
    Peter, what do you think of the notion of freeing things up everywhere? There is a notion, as Angus points to, that freeing fringe land up should also more readily enable redevelopment of the urban area, through land price impact…
    There’s some logic and attractiveness to this conceptually!

    It may be that ex urban development would be self limiting (mainly because of traffic), so why are we getting worried about a ‘threat’ that isn’t really a ‘threat’, and might somewhat counter-intuitively
    even help realise the compact city???

    So just conceptually, maybe we could keep the greenfield growth areas ‘as is’ (or maybe increase them a bit), but beyond these ‘planned’ greenfield areas enable (everywhere except really important landscape or ecological areas) clustered residential ‘hamlet’ developments that come with non-negotiable high bars around environmental performance, design, affordability….It will meet a need but be self limiting (ie. retirees, work from home business people etc)


    1. From a philosophical perspective, I’m always more inclined towards removing constraints rather than trying to add new offsetting constraints. And as I’ve written before, I usually prefer better price signals over regulation. (The exceptions being cases where pricing is excessively costly to implement or politically difficult to maintain.)

      To be honest, I’ve thought a bit more about exurban growth in a transport context than in an urban planning one. One observation that I’d make is that structure planning in greenfield areas tends to be pretty short-sighted. In a growing city, today’s fringe suburbs will be part of tomorrow’s urban fabric. But we’re often building street networks that are going to be very difficult to get efficient bus services through.

      This is linked with our approach to building trunk infrastructure. For example, every time I drive past the roadworks on SH16 it boggles my mind that NZTA didn’t get on with building a busway (or even HOT lanes) out to Westgate *before* the area grew. Rapid transit works to limit congestion (or exposure to congestion), but we underinvest in it.

      1. Also replacing a hard MUL with congestion or road user charges might help achieve the conceptual outcomes Matt and Angus are hoping for.

  6. More confusion between “descriptive” and “normative” (or “positive” and “normative”)

    Just because a particular phenotype (the Ruhr linear city) developed due to a specific experience (i.e. descriptive) does not mean that we cannot build that same phenotype based on different experiences due to the inherent benefits of that phenotype

    Analogy: democracy. This developed due to specific cultural constraints/beliefs in Athens. It was, however, successfully exported around the globe. Because we do not share the same concept of the polis etc. do we need to get rid of democracy? Perhaps given our history we could look at stone-age governance structures.

    1. Wrong.

      Dushko and Bradbury presented the Ruhr valley as a successful example of the linear city.

      Unfortunately for them 1) It’s not a linear city, at least not in the way they describe it and 2) it’s not successful.

      Those are positive statements that undermine their position.

      1. I would go further than Stu and say the Ruhr valley is a dump. It is a place you drive through quickly to get to somewhere nice.

        1. I would beg to differ- yes the Ruhr valley is highly industrial but the cities themselves are vibrant. I lived in Dortmund for 10 years or so from mid 80’s to 90’s and thoroughly enjoyed my time there, great bars, cafes, parks and entertainment- the PT was great and has been improved even more since I left.

          1. Vinny

            if you take a look at the population growth graph you’ll see that there was a decline from 1975 to 1985 and then a period of population growth from 1985 to circa 1995. I’m not sure exactly when you were living in the area, but it may have well coincided with this decade of growth. Since 1995, however, the population began to slide again – and is expected to continue for the next 15 odd years from the look of it. So it may well be that 1) your perceptions of the area being relatively vibrant were accurate of the period but 2) that specific period is extremely unusual when compared to wider demographic trends.

            I don’t have strong views on the attractiveness of the area myself; but my main point was that socio-economic trends illustrated above indicate the Ruhr Valley has not been doing particularly well over the last 5 decades or so. This presents some high-level problems for Dushko and Bradbury’s use of it as a case study for Auckland. Or at least they need to discuss why Auckland should look to imitate the growth patterns of an urban region that is failing.

      2. What is your “measure of success”?
        The Ruhr has had a greater impact on human history than Auckland has. That’s one measure of success.

        1. Reply to Stu – Hi I lived in Dortmund from 1984-1994, my comment was in response to mfwic calling the place a dump and not responding to any of the more detailed assessments of growth etc. Recent visits and friends views still make me think fondly of the place- great PT ( getting the train back from Bochum or Dusseldorf after gigs was a joy even at 2am), large areas of pedestrianisation and BVB on the up!

  7. Peter, love it – ‘alleged libertarian’!!! very good.
    I once worked with a great guy, an architect, who was a true libertarian and I respected him for it – no MULs, and free up density everywhere (subject to some sensible development controls to mitigate
    impacts on neighbours). Nothing worse than a ‘libertarian’ who picks and chooses – once the ‘purity’ of one’s libertarian values are compromised, it’s a slippery downhill slope from there…

    I agree – status quo bias is a big issue.
    When I lived in Australia, I went to an interesting presentation from renowned planner Wendy Sarkissian.
    She focussed on the psychology of NIMBYism – she argues that humans have deeply wired protective notions of home and territory,
    And that given this defensive NIMByism is a natural evolutionary based reaction to the ‘threat’ of intensification.
    That all makes sense to me.
    What I didn’t like about her presentation was that she described the problem but not the solution. I now wonder if that was intentional – perhaps she wants planners to think about it.
    But basically she left it at ‘Planners need to understand this psychology better and respond to it’……

    1. Yes indeed… a while back I went to a talk given by an American exponent of heritage protection. He was from Washington DC, and so he spent a while expounding the virtues of DC’s 10-storey height limit (one of the few planning rules to be enshrined in federal law), which, in his view, resulted in a city with ideal building heights.

      So I put up my hand and asked if he’d go on record as saying that 10 storey buildings were also ideal for Auckland.

      “Umm… errr… no, it’s different in Auckland.”

      In a sense, the only way to overcome anxiety about change is for change to happen and people to realise that it wasn’t so bad. This is one of the reasons why Janette Sadik-Khan is so brilliant – she realised that the best way to change NYC’s streets was to start changing them on a trial basis and make changes permanent only after people had a chance to try them out.

      It’s harder to do that in urban planning, though… although development itself is almost always incremental, in some contexts you may have to implement rather sweeping changes to rules in order to enable incremental development to happen!

      1. JSK vs. Bratton is a great debate I have with my friends. Both New York revolutionaries.

        Bratton had measurable, tangible results from his “New York revolution”. He shattered crime.

        JSK doesn’t. She has a bunch of anecdotes etc. but there’s absolutely zero hard data of any service improvements from her innovations.

        Unless you can count it, it doesn’t count 😉

  8. continued….

    Is this just pandering to NIMBYs. Yes and no, because I do think NIMBYs sometimes have a point.

    What I thought was that – no, this shouldn’t stop intensification. But maybe we need to make sure intensification is done in a ‘softer’ way, so it’s a bit more ‘give and take’

    – More landscaping on medium density sites, and use of living walls etc.
    – More use of natural materials in development
    – design that responds sensitively to neighbours’ amenities: bulk and location, placement of windows and design etc to mitigate privacy impacts etc.

    Without killing development feasibliity – a fine balance!

  9. Aspiring Libertarians should read this authoritative / seminal piece from the USA’s Reason Foundation on planning. Owen McShane here in NZ held similar views. Very little picking and choosing in this:

    I was once very attracted to this view of the world, and still am to some extent, but where I part ways is the notion that the market will fix everything – I think targetted intervention is at times necessary, even critical.
    But I tend to concur with planning needing to get away from the micro stuff, and letting things happen subject to controlling the ‘nasty effects’ – shading, noise etc

  10. “The poly-centric urban form does not help to create successful economic outcomes for the region today”
    Ruhr area is changing because the industry/employment has changed. The poly-centric urban design is not the cause of this.
    From my visit there last year, It did seem common to see Poly-centric cities as the norm in Germany, even medium size cities like, Ulm, New Ulm because of Historical reasons or Kassel Central, Kassel-Wilhelmshohe for Transportation reasons.
    Looking at the Netherlands, to me it seemed normal for the city centre to be residential / Retail and the employment spread throughout the city, See Apeldoorn NL, Dutch Central Tax Office (John F. Kennedylaan)

    1. Polycentricity as a consequence of long and slow historical development overlaid with modern transport networks is very different from planned polycentricity, or planned linearity. Plenty of examples of the former, few that I know of for the latter. Would love to hear different, references welcome.

  11. While there’s plenty to admire and learn from in European urban form, and indeed all other cities around the world and through time, but the pattern of development of the Ruhr Valley, with its vast differences geographically, historically, technologically, culturally, economically, politically, as a useful guide for how Auckland might grow in the 21stC?

    It’s simply very hard to find any value in the comparison; the differences are just too vast.

    1. I find it very amusing that if pro-cycling/PT arguments are made that refer to Amsterdam or Copenhagen or Vienna, pro-sprawlers say they are completely different cities to Auckland and cant be used as templates.

      Yet when pro-sprawlers find European cities that seem to support their views, suddenly there is no barrier to looking at high density European cities,

      The hypocrisy is tangible.

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