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Bird’s eye view of a real habitat: At what levels does sustainable urban planning take effect?

The intertwined relationships between a particular location, its natural environment, surroundings, landscape, people, between ‘inside and outside’, are more complex and multi-layered than one might initially assume. Starting in the 17th century, topography or the description of countries turned increasingly to appreciating landscapes and cities not only based on their geography, but also from a political, socio-cultural, economic or historical perspective. This was done to obtain a more detailed analysis of the actual interrelationships. A study entitled “LANDSCAPE AS A MEDIUM FOR REGIONAL DEVELOPMENT” by the University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, is a prime example of how many dimensions are involved in the interplay between space in its broader sense and the people that call the place home. It also provides an impression of the considerations and long-term perspectives that modern regional and urban planning is required to address.

Space and people in urban planning

“Urban planning answers questions about how people will live, work and play in a given area and thus, guides orderly development in urban, suburban and rural areas.” (Wikipedia)

It is hardly surprising that once created, this space affects the people living there at different levels. The retired university professor Erwin Frohmann draws on Böhm (1985) to formulate a holistic understanding of space and lay the foundation for sustainable urban, municipal and spatial planning: “Space is a steadily condensing continuum, an implied order that connects the physical with the spiritual.” In the above study, he provides a detailed description of the relationship between space and people and how its various dimensions take effect in physical, substantial, measurable and sensory terms. Appraising the various disciplines that come together within the field of spatial and urban planning – from architects, landscape designers, geologists, civil and traffic engineers to psychologists and historians – is equally unsurprising. The discipline has become so complex that some universities now even offer urban planning as a separate subject or as a specialisation in a related degree programme.

Multiple levels and tasks – but just one objective

Our blog post entitled “Architecture, Psyche, Quality of Life” ( addressed the impact of residential space and its immediate architectural surroundings on the human psyche. And what we see in the direct environs is even more striking from a bird’s eye view, with the disciplines and professional fields mentioned above adding further intricacies. The remit of urban and municipal planning has evolved in line with these developments, also: From the mere provision of space for residential and/or commercial use to a “sustainable sense of inclusion and opportunity for people of all kinds, culture and needs.” (Wikipedia)

Creating a liveable environment

In the same way that people influence and are influenced by their surroundings in the ‘small’ world of their own four walls, the environment they create also has an effect in the ‘big’ world. This includes spending time outdoors, the impacts and opportunities of (large) spaces, walking around buildings, using (public) transport and routes, the types and potentials of social interaction, the so-called ‘circumstances’: All of these things affect quality of life, as well as the vitality, health and ultimately the satisfaction of an inhabitant.

If we allow our minds to drift beyond project development for a building or a complex and take a ‘bird’s eye view’, if we broaden our focus to include entire neighbourhoods and towns, then we add many more facets to the planning dimensions. The projects now involve far greater responsibility, but harbour the very considerable and enduring opportunity to make an environment not only liveable but also lovable.

“Landscape as the medium”

Retired university professor Erwin Frohmann, Institute for Landscape Architecture, Boku Vienna