Mobilizing sustainable urbanism: international consultants and the assembling of a planning model
AbstractRecent years have seen a growth in proposals around the globe to develop new urban areas incorporating ambitious sustainability objectives. These projects are often planned by a small, elite group of international architecture, engineering and planning consultants, the Global Intelligence Corps (GIC). This dissertation describes and conceptualizes how and why urban planning ideas travel internationally, using sustainable urbanism as a case study. The dissertation draws on qualitative research conducted between 2010 and 2012. The data is interpreted through a conceptual framework grounded in assemblage thinking, that provides a way of understanding how a model can crystallize in a particular form, but still remain dynamic and flexible. The research found that sustainable urbanism, as it is applied by the GIC, has three key objectives: the creation of “good”, high-performance and integrated urban places. The GIC have a substantial influence on international conceptions of sustainable urbanism, in part as a result of their close involvement in the development and application of some of the key devices for coordinating the model’s travels. Sustainable urbanism’s international success is linked to two factors in particular: its flexibility, which allows it to be expressed in ways that speak to the key drivers of individual urban development projects, and the ease with which the model can be deployed in an entrepreneurial climate. The GIC encourage the take-up of sustainable urbanism in new environments through the use of materials and experiences to introduce their ideas. For practitioners, these findings point to the importance of developing a broad awareness of how the objectives of sustainable urbanism can be achieved, to think critically about where their ideas come from, and to look widely for examples and inspiration. Practitioners also need to apply a pragmatic and iterative ethical frame to guide decision making in the planning process.