Importance of the adaptable city.

According to Hildebrand Frey, good urban design can be measured by two core products: The imaginable city and the adaptable city. Two terms that I use as guidelines in my work. These two words are, for me, strongly connected.

Adaptability: the quality that allows the physical environment to adjust itself for new social-economic structures in our society. We know how to build durable: good buildings can last for ages. It’s not the fysical durability that makes buildings or public spaces obsolete, it’s the way it can adapt its function for use in an ever changing society. This adaptability is a necessity for every good city structure, not only because of economical longevity but also because of the second product: the Imaginable city.

This imaginable city appears to be about subjective feelings of beauty in the public space, but for me it’s more about the identity of a city. A city identity is not unlike a person’s identity. The city is born with some of it’s unchangeble properties , but most of it will grow in years and is formed by influences from the outside world. For this identity to come into existence it will need room to grow and be able to incorporate the influences of new times. Structure that are unable to adjust will have to be rebuild every time, and will never gain a strong identity. Adaptability is the key for a rich and layered city, and is the key in my thoughts on urban design.

We should aim towards a new kind of city development. Cities designed to never be finished.


Curitiba is a metropolis in Brazil. By realising a lot of small strategic implementations, the economical and social level of this city has dramatically improved. These implementations stretch from pure spacial and transportation improvements to social, security and participation improvements. The urban planning institute lead by Jaime Lerner made lots of different subjects come together in a few strategic projects. Because of the Curitiba development i’ve become the urban designer I’m today. The great thing about this development is the simple direct approach that results in great improvements. For example: clearing some exisiting streets from cars and making them a high-speed bus route, resulted in great improvements of mobility that enabled the poor part of the city to get into the citycentre and find a job.
In the link beneath the plan of Curitiba is discussed, and explains for me a lot of the success of this plan.