What will be the urban form of our future cities? Is the compaction of cities a sustainable way or dispersion of cities is the only solution? The issues of sustainability and sustainable development have become a mainstream concern about cities for the new millennium. As Richard Rogers puts compaction as a method for packing greater improvement into the city which prompts making open spaces of higher thickness and quality which will make urban living progressively alluring, naturally feasible, monetarily solid, and socially comprehensive. But as one argues what explains the Idea of “Compact cities”, they are essentially a manageable city of a structure and scale suitable to walking, cycling and efficient public transport, and with a compactness that empowers social association and community living (Elkin, Mclaren, Hillman, 1991).

How are 'compact cities' a sustainable option
Image Sources: Compact City Model an illustration by Andrew Wright Associates ©www.gehlpeople.com

Compact City: a sustainable solution to present-day urban issues

The Compact city model for urban advancement has vigorously impacted the urban renaissance, arranging strategies that principally centers around the increase of existing settlements on forsaken land. Intensify structures around public transportation concerns the nature of the plan for open spaces and buildings. It also supports walking, cycling, and public transportation. Lessen ozone harming substances and furthermore perceived that the wealth distribution, environmental change, and quality of built environments are critical issues.

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Image Sources: Melbourne Skyline ©www.wikimedia.org

Consider the case of Melbourne in Australia where The metropolitan planning strategy ‘Melbourne 2030’ was released in 2002 as a significant advance towards a low-carbon city and a counter to urban spread; it provides strengthening of land-use inside an urban development limit concentrated on activity centers that focus on transport oriented development. It is currently broadly recognized that this strategy has not been executed and the development limit has been extended considerably (Woodcock, 2009). Likewise, the instance of Vancouver in Canada where the significant strategy apparatuses are centered around densification in residential neighborhoods. The territorial administration is conceivably working in diminishing greenhouse gas emissions and is focused on making a compact city.

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Image Sources: View of CBD and downtown in Vancouver ©Vancouver.ca

Indian Cities are additionally investigating compaction as a method for directed development and urban advancement, many cities like Ahmadabad and Mumbai are concentrating on making a polycentric city model, a Centralized Business Region. While likewise allowing higher FSI around public transport corridors through policies focused on transport-oriented development.

So, the Initial impression that determines a compact city is a city whose boundaries are clearly visible. In an able synopsis, compact city is a high-density mixed-use city where development is encouraged within the limits of existing urban regions, however, with no improvement past its fringe. Does the characteristics of the compact city are Polycentric model? Well-connected, intends at public transport integration, is multifunctional (live-work-leisure), socially inclusive, environmentally responsible, and is supportive of good design.

A Critical outlook towards City Compaction

The issues of urban spread have been perceived for some time. The great reaction to spreading has been compact urban forms. However, the ideas of the city design have often come from reactions to congestion and overcrowding. Alleviating overcrowding by allowing in increasingly light and air prompted a less small urban structure. This oddity stays uncertain in spite of a compact city, smart growth, healthy community, and new urbanist endeavors (Neuman, 2005).

The criticism associated with compaction as a sustainable city model is about less domestic living space that affects the quality of life, lack of affordable housing which practically contradicts the idea of social inclusion, poor access to green spaces due to enormous pressure on existing land value and its respective uses. This characteristic often results in increased crime level as people’s association with the streets as public spaces is reduced due to higher living which sometimes results in dark and dingy alleys for e.g. Manhattan, New York. Higher densities additionally lead to awful neighbor impacts in local locations, where closeness can prompt clashes between those with different lifestyles. Local effects of implementing the strategies of the compact city are often problematic.

The searches for the ultimate sustainable urban form perhaps now need to be reoriented to the search for a number of sustainable urban forms that respond to the variety of existing settlement patterns and contexts (Jenks, Williams, Burton, 1996). Despite the fact that there will consistently be inquiries regarding how compact is sustainable. Or what next when a compact city achieves its highest possible density? But the way out is to understand there is a dire need to identify boundaries of our cities and also understand the saturation level of compaction attached to those boundaries. In this way the thoughts behind making a compact city are a significant strand in the endeavor to discover sustainable urban form. The compact city is just a single method for reacting to the challenge of thinking globally and acting locally.


Elkin, T., Mclaren, D, and Hillman, M. (1991) Reviving the City: Towards Sustainable Urban Development, Friends of the Earth, London. Woodcock, I., Dovey, K., Wollan, S., Beyerle, A. (2009) Compact city visions for Melbourne.Neuman, M. (2005) Compact City Fallacy, Journal of planning education and research.Jenks, M., Williams, K. and Burton, E. (1996). Achieving sustainable urban form. Echenique, M., Saint, A. (2013). Cities for the new millennium.


Yash Siroliya is a Masters in Urban Design student at the Planning Department in CEPT. In an award winning bachelor's thesis, Yash focused on the restoration of the artistic and cultural legacy of a Himachal village. These days he spends his time thinking about public spaces for the next billion.

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