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This post is the first in a series that discusses population density in the context of cities and their development, and examines the emerging questions that are arising as cities subsequently redevelop and reinvent themselves.

I’m not entirely sure where this discussion will lead – the initial intention is not necessarily to default to a conventional anti-suburban/pro-high-density position, but rather will be an attempt to wade through several of the many variables that comprise what is a very complex condition.

A quick note, though… this format doesn’t lend itself to an exhaustive presentation of my analysis nor is it meant to definitively convey/portray facts, but should instead merely provide a forum where general thoughts, opinions, and ideas can be formulated, developed, and presented.

Calgary, as seen from the top of 14th St in the NW

Calgary, as seen from the top of 14th St in the NW


I have to admit, I have a bit of a fascination with cities. This shouldn't come as much of a surprise given my chosen profession - my interest in cities likely precedes my study of architecture and in fact may have one of the many factors that pulled me down this path in the first place. It may correlate with an underlying interest I have with human behavior and in particular how we act, live, and inter-relate.

The interactions that occur as part of our existence in contemporary society (and specifically in my case, in a Canadian city) reflect an important underlying symbiotic inter-dependence we have on others for our survival.

Spaces, services, sunset.

Spaces, services, sunset.

 Our relationship with the city is participatory.

The functions of the city demand that we inter-connect, which occurs at a minimum as we require and attempt to gain access to food, clothing, and shelter. A city in theory is a convenient & efficient container that should facilitate not only our physical survival but also promote our social, spiritual, & emotional wellbeing. They are places where we are born and raised and then live, and where our lives play out.

Granted, this is a simple argument that becomes incredibly blurry in our contemporary cities because, despite the existence of these potentials, access to basic necessities in addition to the provision of wellbeing on several fronts is not guaranteed. This, however, is a much different discussion that will be explored further at a later point in this blog, but hopefully the significance of which is somewhat acknowledged by this qualifier.

9th Ave in Inglewood, Calgary, AB. 

9th Ave in Inglewood, Calgary, AB. 


It must be remembered, though, that cities at their root are economic engines and their construct and function are inherently driven by economic factors. Thus, the applicability of this discussion to architecture, planning, and design in general is, at a basic level, profound. The shape and layout of cities determines how we move around, how goods and services are made available and administered, and the degree to which we interact with one another. The permitted use of land in a city is determined by law and dictates the type of housing available, where that housing is located, and its relationship (or lack thereof) to the economic components of a city such as the commercial, office, institutional, and industrial areas.

Through this, a logical potential exists. A city may itself not be able to ensure that every person receives all of the basic necessities and the pieces of wellbeing, but more importantly through well-considered and implemented design may become a framework that fosters the provision of necessities and the delivery of wellbeing components, and at the very least sponsors a healthy degree of interactivity to enhance how we live, work, and play.