The UK Center for Sustainable Cities sought its cues for urban sustainability design from a variety of towering figures and from many historic and architectural exemplars. In its early years, the Center took inspiration from the writings of Louis Mumford, Patrick Geddes, Kevin Lynch, and Ebenezer Howard. Their urban history, social planning, urban architectural theories, and political and sociological insights into what makes a good city in harmony with nature drew the Center and its founders to the studies of the Italian medieval hilltown and the Greek polis as models for re-integrating their strengths and defining features into the contemporary world and its enormous demands for re-making the urban habitat from nightmare to practical utopia.
Whether touting the special resources of the Umbrian hill town of Todi through summer design studios contributing to its worldwide popularity and allure, working to overcome the wound in Austria’s Westbahnhof railway site through the design of a massive sustainable implantation, exploring the next steps in Okotoks’ (Alberta, Ca.) progress ino maintaining population limits based upon its maximum share of water from the Sheep River or assisting Chinese villages to become vibrant sustainable towns through sustainability-oriented innovations and democratic practices in the face of China’s enormous urbanization campaign, the Center for Sustainable Cities has worked with its personnel and international partners, especially Oikodrom, to shine a light on the high standards and critical design principles necessary to surpass reformist and ultimately self-defeating alternatives based upon smart growth, Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) criteria, and other “green” programs.