Landscape Management & Spatial Planning; Bernd Scholl

Landscape Management & Spatial Planning; Bernd Scholl

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Bernd Scholl has spent years contributing to spatial development in Switzerland and Europe. Now he is making plans for life after academia.
photographs: Alessandro Della Bella / ETH Zürich

‘Planning strategies should focus on future looking at the past too. The experts should decide on the parts of city which needs to be preserved and those to be developed. A plan should be developed on the basis of places requiring rapid development and those needing long clauses, incorporating transport, infrastructure, sewage plans. Considering all these strategies, the master plan has to be designed. It is not the other way round; first the making of the master plan and then formatting strategies which is happening in most of the urban planning programmes today’, says Bernd Scholl, Professor for Spatial Planning and Development at the ‘Institute for Spatial and Landscape Planning Development, ETH Zurich.

What is heritage-based urban development?

It is very important to merge the heritage of the city into urban redevelopment. Urban heritage is the visible memory of our past societies and it is important to have the historic monument around us as a reminder of the past. In the Second World War, Europe, especially Germany, lost a lot of its heritage. It is not only about conserving heritage, but also of integrating heritage in new development. Thus, with the contrast of new and old, transformation of cities can be done through heritage-based urban development. With the demolition of heritage buildings, the connection between the past and present is totally lost.

How do you define sustainable development of cities?

Sustainable development means minimum wastage of energy, water and other resources and the carbon footprint should be least. It is very abstract to say, but the scale varies from place to place or project to project. Considering the development of sustainable cities, urban sprawl is one of our biggest disadvantages. Rather than extension of existing cities, which might consume a lot of land including agricultural land, it is better to develop self-sufficient compact cities. In Europe, we promote development strategies for inner development of cities rather than expansion of outer development. We transformed existing industrial areas within the city and this avoided urban sprawl. Many other countries are following the same strategies in Europe. But in India, with the increasing urban densities and population the case may be different.

Which sustainability-related pressures you think are going to have the biggest impact on urban environment?

The coordination between the spatial development and transportation development is the most important issue. In India, the dynamics of development is very different from other European countries. In Europe, people are very curious to know about sustainable ways of development. In India too, approach towards projects are changing and people are looking for more concrete results.

What are the key factors for sustainable urban planning?

The key factors for development of sustainable urban areas are well-defined programme and integration of process ie: bringing together authorities and people who can contribute towards sustainable development, the contributors can be from various discplines and the process should be a coordinated one. ‘Working together’ is very important for success of any concrete project.

How do you develop a sustainable plan for a city in India?

I feel that it should be done foreseeing the need of the next twenty years. Planning strategies should focus on future looking at the past too. The experts should decide on the parts of city which needs to be preserved and those to be developed. A plan should be developed on the basis of places requiring rapid development and those needing long clauses, incorporating transport, infrastructure, sewage plans. Considering all these strategies, the master plan has to be designed. It is not the other way round; first the making of the master plan and then formatting strategies which is happening in most of the urban planning programmes today.

Do you see sustainability-related developments in India promising?

Yes. It is promising. I have seen that the projects are going in the right way, especially while looking at the smaller project like energy efficient office spaces, transport development, the metro rail, and others. Transport system is the backbone of any city’s development and is the biggest challenge. The growth of motorization and efficient transport networks are proportionate to the growth of economy of the country. Public transport systems needs strategic planning in the national level, in the state level and also in the local level. There should be a strong cooperation between the associated personnel in all three levels. That is the structure followed for efficient systems in Germany and Switzerland.

How do urban planners and designers endure negative public reactions in urban planning?

People’s participation is an indispensable part of the programme. It is very important to involve people from all strata from the beginning of the project.

To what extent do the creative arts and popular culture influence your urban design decisions?

Artists are like seismograph for future development. Involvement of artist becomes more important while developing the historic parts of the city and many a times their involvement is more helpful than an advise from an engineer.

What are your goals for future?

In Switzerland, there are many ongoing projects to avoid urban sprawl in future, in which I am involved. We do regular revisions on these projects, and constantly study concerning special development of cities – that is the inner and outer development of the cities. We have to develop a network of cities and this would be the backbone of the system for future for effective urban development. Thus, the cities of Switzerland would have their own identities, but the network of cities will help to perceive Switzerland as a big single city by itself.

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