Category Archives: Urban Design

UHVDC and China

Credit: Economist Article about UHVDC and China

A greener grid
China’s embrace of a new electricity-transmission technology holds lessons for others
The case for high-voltage direct-current connectors
Jan 14th 2017

YOU cannot negotiate with nature. From the offshore wind farms of the North Sea to the solar panels glittering in the Atacama desert, renewable energy is often generated in places far from the cities and industrial centres that consume it. To boost renewables and drive down carbon-dioxide emissions, a way must be found to send energy over long distances efficiently.

The technology already exists (see article). Most electricity is transmitted today as alternating current (AC), which works well over short and medium distances. But transmission over long distances requires very high voltages, which can be tricky for AC systems. Ultra-high-voltage direct-current (UHVDC) connectors are better suited to such spans. These high-capacity links not only make the grid greener, but also make it more stable by balancing supply. The same UHVDC links that send power from distant hydroelectric plants, say, can be run in reverse when their output is not needed, pumping water back above the turbines.

Boosters of UHVDC lines envisage a supergrid capable of moving energy around the planet. That is wildly premature. But one country has grasped the potential of these high-capacity links. State Grid, China’s state-owned electricity utility, is halfway through a plan to spend $88bn on UHVDC lines between 2009 and 2020. It wants 23 lines in operation by 2030.

That China has gone furthest in this direction is no surprise. From railways to cities, China’s appetite for big infrastructure projects is legendary (see article). China’s deepest wells of renewable energy are remote—think of the sun-baked Gobi desert, the windswept plains of Xinjiang and the mountain ranges of Tibet where rivers drop precipitously. Concerns over pollution give the government an additional incentive to locate coal-fired plants away from population centres. But its embrace of the technology holds two big lessons for others. The first is a demonstration effect. China shows that UHVDC lines can be built on a massive scale. The largest, already under construction, will have the capacity to power Greater London almost three times over, and will span more than 3,000km.

The second lesson concerns the co-ordination problems that come with long-distance transmission. UHVDCs are as much about balancing interests as grids. The costs of construction are hefty. Utilities that already sell electricity at high prices are unlikely to welcome competition from suppliers of renewable energy; consumers in renewables-rich areas who buy electricity at low prices may balk at the idea of paying more because power is being exported elsewhere. Reconciling such interests is easier the fewer the utilities involved—and in China, State Grid has a monopoly.

That suggests it will be simpler for some countries than others to follow China’s lead. Developing economies that lack an established electricity infrastructure have an advantage. Solar farms on Africa’s plains and hydroplants on its powerful rivers can use UHVDC lines to get energy to growing cities. India has two lines on the drawing-board, and should have more.

Things are more complicated in the rich world. Europe’s utilities work pretty well together but a cross-border UHVDC grid will require a harmonised regulatory framework. America is the biggest anomaly. It is a continental-sized economy with the wherewithal to finance UHVDCs. It is also horribly fragmented. There are 3,000 utilities, each focused on supplying power to its own customers. Consumers a few states away are not a priority, no matter how much sense it might make to send them electricity. A scheme to connect the three regional grids in America is stuck. The only way that America will create a green national grid will be if the federal government throws its weight behind it.

Live wire
Building a UHVDC network does not solve every energy problem. Security of supply remains an issue, even within national borders: any attacker who wants to disrupt the electricity supply to China’s east coast will soon have a 3,000km-long cable to strike. Other routes to a cleaner grid are possible, such as distributed solar power and battery storage. But to bring about a zero-carbon grid, UHVDC lines will play a role. China has its foot on the gas. Others should follow.
This article appeared in the Leaders section of the print edition under the headline “A greener grid”

Dubai and Well-Being

Dubai: Dubai Healthcare City , a health and wellness destination, today announced the launch of the world’s largest wellness concept in its Phase 2 expansion in Al Jadaf Dubai.

World’s Largest Wellness Village

Jan 25 2016

World’s largest wellness village to launch in Dubai Healthcare City Phase 2

Dubai: Dubai Healthcare City , a health and wellness destination, today announced the launch of the world’s largest wellness concept in its Phase 2 expansion in Al Jadaf Dubai.

Strategically located on the waterfront, the WorldCare Wellness Village will occupy an area equivalent to roughly the size of 16 football fields, and is estimated to be significantly larger in scale and offerings to current wellness properties in Europe and the US.

Tapping into the growing demand of people looking for evidence-based and holistic care, the wellness concept is driven by US-based WorldCare International and developed by the Dubai-based MAG Group. WorldCare is renowned for its online medical consultation service that digitally connects millions of members worldwide with over 20,000 specialists at world-class medical centers.
MR_Story

The Wellness Village concept contributes to the vision of Dubai Healthcare City to become an internationally recognized location of choice for quality healthcare and wellness services. With DHCC ‘s Phase 2 expansion, over land area of 22 million square feet, the free zone will drive the global trend of preventative healthcare taking into account local and regional healthcare demands and demographic changes.

Increasing access to preventative care is important to improve wellbeing and lower healthcare expenditure in the long term, said Her Excellency Dr Raja Al Gurg, Vice-Chairperson and Executive Director of Dubai Healthcare City Authority.
IN_READ

“By enabling access to wellness services, we are strengthening the health system and bringing patient centered care to the forefront. We are confident that Phase 2 will drive wellness tourism together with medical tourism, boosting Dubai’s diversified economy. It will bring together unique wellness concepts and specialized services such as rehabilitation, counseling, sports medicine and elderly care for both residents and visitors.”

The WorldCare Wellness Village will be anchored by a 100,000 square feet Wellness Center that will focus on prevention and management of diseases such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes and other physical conditions.

The Center will provide diagnosis and treatment plans, offering comprehensive two-to-six week medical programs built around patient education and lifestyle change. More than 100 healthcare and allied professionals are expected to work at the Center.
Nasser Menhall, Chief Executive Officer and co-founder of WorldCare International, said “We are proud to bring to Dubai a diversified wellness capability that will aggregate leading technologies and best practices in wellness programs in an unprecedented manner. Benefiting from economies of scale and our broad medical network, we hope to deliver a unique package of services that will raise the bar and set high standards.”

The Wellness Village, occupying 810,000 square feet of built up area (gross floor area /GFA) on a 900,000 square feet plot, is also conceptualized to include customized living spaces such as residential villas and apartments, as well as rental units to support long-term stay for both for local and foreign patients.

The eco-friendly living spaces will be designed to serve wellness and rehabilitation needs through features such as therapy zero-gravity pools, personalized spas, and rigorous exercise and diet facilities.

Bader Saeed Hareb, Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Investment Sector, Dubai Healthcare City , said, “We welcome our new wellness partner WorldCare who brings international systems and healthcare expertise that will strengthen what we already offer within the free zone. Unique concepts like WorldCare are a step in the right direction to ensure long-term sustainability and to develop a health and wellness destination that improves quality of life and sense of community.”

Hareb added, “As projects take shape, there will be a significant impact on the overall health of our communities, giving impetus to more opportunities to develop unique wellness concepts.”
-Ends-

About Dubai Healthcare City ( DHCC )
Dubai Healthcare City ( DHCC ) is a free zone committed to creating a health and wellness destination.

Since its launch in 2002 by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, the free zone has worked towards its vision to become an internationally recognized location of choice for quality healthcare and an integrated center of excellence for clinical and wellness services, medical education and research.

Located in the heart of Dubai, the world’s largest healthcare free zone comprises two phases. Phase 1, dedicated to healthcare and medical education, occupies 4.1 million square feet in Oud Metha, and Phase 2, which is dedicated to wellness, occupies 22 million square feet in Al Jadaf, overlooking the historic Dubai Creek.

The free zone is governed by the Dubai Healthcare City Authority (DHCA) and regulated by the independent regulatory body, Dubai Healthcare City Authority – Regulation (DHCR), whose quality standards are accredited by the International Society for Quality in Healthcare (ISQua).

DHCC has close to 160 clinical partners including hospitals, outpatient medical centers and diagnostic laboratories across 150 plus specialties with licensed professionals from almost 90 countries, strengthening its medical tourism portfolio. Representing its network of support partners, close to 200 retail and non-clinical facilities serve the free zone.

DHCC is also home to academic institution the Mohammed Bin Rashid University of Medicine and Health Sciences, part of the Mohammed Bin Rashid Academic Medical Center. The free zone’s integrated environment provides leverage for potential partners to set up operations to promote health and wellness.
To learn more, log on to www.dhcc.ae.

About WorldCare International, Inc.
WorldCare’s mission is to improve the quality of health care worldwide by maximizing timely, efficient and strategic access to the best in health care. For over 20 years, WorldCare has empowered members and physicians with the clinical information and resources needed to make more informed medical decisions. WorldCare’s online medical second opinion service does this by digitally connecting millions of members worldwide with specialists at world-class medical centers within the WorldCare Consortium®. These teams of specialists and sub-specialists, with the experience that best matches each member’s needs, review the member’s medical records and diagnostics, confirm the diagnosis, recommend optimal treatments and empower members and their treating physicians with the information and resources needed to make informed medical decisions. WorldCare’s services are available through health plans, employers or insurers. 


For media enquiries, please contact:
Dubai Healthcare City
Carolina D’Souza / Awad Al Atatra
PR & Communications Department
+971 4 391 1999 / +971 4 375 6264
media@dhcc.ae

Africa Grid lags economic growth

New York Times reports…and here is the essence:

Nigeria’s leaders have promised a stable power supply since the end of military rule in 1999, spending about $20 billion and dismantling the state National Electric Power Authority, better known as N.E.P.A. — and widely derided as “Never Expect Power Always.”

Yet the country’s power generating capacity has remained virtually unchanged, about six gigawatts for a country of 170 million. The United States, with 310 million people, has a capacity of more than 1,000 gigawatts

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Here is what keeps hope alive:

Post on Elon Musk and his powerwall factory

Note Musk is in record that his real vision is to sell battery factories….like the factory he is building in Nevada.

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For Many in Africa, Lack of Electricity Is Barrier to Growth

JULY 1, 2015

JOHANNESBURG — In the darkened and chilly parking lot of a mall, a suburban family huddling around a shopping cart shared a snack on a Friday evening out. After finding their favorite restaurant closed because of a blackout, Buhle Ngwenya, with her two sons and two nephews, settled for meat pies from one of the few stores open in the mall.

“It’s like death, this load shedding,” Ms. Ngwenya, 45, said, referring to the blackouts imposed by South Africa’s state utility to prevent a collapse of the national electricity grid.

With winter here in South Africa, the worst blackouts in years are plunging residents into darkness in poor townships and wealthy suburbs alike. The cutoffs have dampened South Africa’s economy, Africa’s second biggest, and are expected to continue for another two to three years.

Despite a decade of strong economic expansion, sub-Saharan Africa is still far behind in its ability to generate something fundamental to its future — electricity — hampering growth and frustrating its ambitions to catch up with the rest of the world.

All of sub-Saharan Africa’s power generating capacity amounts to less than South Korea’s, and a quarter of it is unproductive at any given moment because of the continent’s aging infrastructure. The World Bank estimates that blackouts alone cut down the gross domestic products of sub-Saharan countries by 2.1 percent.

The crippling effect on sub-Saharan Africa was recently on display in Nigeria, which overtook South Africa as the continent’s biggest economy last year.

Nigeria’s electrical grid churns out so little power that the country mostly runs on private generators. So when a fuel shortage struck this spring, a national crisis quickly followed, disrupting cellphone service, temporarily closing bank branches and grounding airplanes.

The power shortages and blackouts have cast a harsh light on elected officials, causing rising anger among voters for whom reliable electricity was supposed to be a dividend of democracy and economic growth.

Experts say that the appointment of politically connected officials with little industry expertise at the South African state utility, Eskom, has led to mismanagement just as it has at other state-owned enterprises.

“It’s not only a symbol of failure when the lights go off,” said Anton Eberhard, an energy expert and a professor of management at the University of Cape Town. “It’s experienced directly by people. If you’re about to cook or if your child is studying for an exam the next day and your lights go off, people feel this very directly. There is a very concrete and dramatic expression of failure.”

The demand for power in Africa has become a major international issue. China has taken the lead in financing many power projects across the continent — mostly hydroelectric dams, but also solar power plants and wind farms. Private companies from Asia, the United States and Europe are also supplying power to an increasing number of countries.

China has taken the lead in financing many power projects across the continent, and independent power producers are now supplying some countries with electricity.

President Obama, in a visit to Africa two years ago, highlighted the importance of improving the continent’s power supply with a $7 billion initiative called Power Africa. The American government, partly through entities like the Millennium Challenge Corporation, is focusing on improving the electricity infrastructure in several countries, including Ghana, Malawi and Tanzania.

But investments and changes in the electricity sector on the continent have yet to yield significant gains, and experts predict that it will take decades before sub-Saharan Africa enjoys universal access to electricity.

In his inaugural address last month, Nigeria’s new president, Muhammadu Buhari, said that his nation’s attempts to overhaul its electricity sector “have only brought darkness, frustration, misery and resignation among Nigerians.” He singled out unreliable power service as the biggest drag on his country’s economy.

Nigeria’s leaders have promised a stable power supply since the end of military rule in 1999, spending about $20 billion and dismantling the state National Electric Power Authority, better known as N.E.P.A. — and widely derided as “Never Expect Power Always.”

Yet the country’s power generating capacity has remained virtually unchanged, about six gigawatts for a country of 170 million. The United States, with 310 million people, has a capacity of more than 1,000 gigawatts.

“Most companies don’t have four hours of power a day from the national grid,” said Akpan Ekpo, the director general of the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. “If they do, they’re lucky.”

Most of the $20 billion spent to overhaul the power sector is believed to have gone into the pockets of corrupt officials, Mr. Ekpo said.

“With the advent of democracy, we were promised constant power, or at least improved power,” he added. “But much to our surprise, things have only gotten worse. In some middle-class parts of Lagos, people are lucky if they now get 30 minutes of power a day.”

Yet the country’s power generating capacity has remained virtually unchanged, about six gigawatts for a country of 170 million. The United States, with 310 million people, has a capacity of more than 1,000 gigawatts.
“Most companies don’t have four hours of power a day from the national grid,” said Akpan Ekpo, the director general of the West African Institute for Financial and Economic Management in Lagos, Nigeria’s commercial capital. “If they do, they’re lucky.”
Most of the $20 billion spent to overhaul the power sector is believed to have gone into the pockets of corrupt officials, Mr. Ekpo said.
“With the advent of democracy, we were promised constant power, or at least improved power,” he added. “But much to our surprise, things have only gotten worse. In some middle-class parts of Lagos, people are lucky if they now get 30 minutes of power a day.”
South Africa’s recent history of electrification is more complicated, and it has been the subject of fierce debate as the current blackout crisis has dragged on for several months.
In the last years of apartheid, before a democratic government was elected in 1994, electricity reached only a third of South African households, few of them black.
Under the African National Congress — whose leaders have governed ever since, often promising free electricity and other services as part of the nation’s new democracy — 85 percent of households now have electricity, a remarkable accomplishment by any standard.
President Jacob Zuma has forcefully rejected any blame for the energy crisis. The strain on the grid, he said, resulted from the burden of bringing light to millions of black households without power under white-minority rule.
“It is a problem of apartheid, which we are resolving,” he said this year.
But energy experts say that these households, many of them low-income, consume little electricity. Instead, they said, the shortages result from frequent breakdowns at aging plants and, most critically, the delayed construction of two new facilities.
As far back as 1998, a government report warned that without new capacity, the country would face serious power shortages by 2007. A year later, in 2008, South Africa suffered its first rolling blackouts.
South Africa, which has the continent’s only nuclear power plant, has around half of sub-Saharan Africa’s power generating capacity, roughly 44 gigawatts. Still, the power cuts contributed to a recent drop in economic growth and a spike in unemployment to 26.4 percent, the worst level in a dozen years.
The rolling blackouts have affected everyone from giant gold mining companies and manufacturers to small businesses and individuals.
South Africans are now buying up generators, rechargeable lights and gas burners. They plan their days and evenings around scheduled blackouts by the utility. Dominating South Africa’s list of popular app downloads are ones that alert smartphone users to the impending start of a cutoff in their neighborhood or the risk of one as load shedding across the nation increases from Stage 1 to Stage 2 or Stage 3.
To Ms. Ngwenya, who was sharing meat pies with her family in the parking lot, load shedding was not only about electricity. She blamed the African National Congress, the party that liberated South Africa and has steered its course ever since.
“I always supported the A.N.C.,” said Ms. Ngwenya, who grew up in Soweto, a black township outside Johannesburg, but now lives in a wealthy suburb. “However, when it comes to load shedding, I don’t know. It’s not normal coming to a mall and carrying a torch like this man here,” she said, pointing to another consumer shrouded in darkness.
“For me, this is the biggest failure of the A.N.C.,” she added. “We even have a name for it, load shedding. Why don’t they say blackout once and for all?”
In Sandton, a Johannesburg suburb with gated communities and sumptuous malls, Junior Nji, 38, walked out of a well-lit Woolworth’s in an otherwise dark mall. His wife had just sent him a text message with the news that their neighborhood had gone dark and not to bother getting groceries.
“Load shedding boo,” she had written him, using a term of endearment. “This can’t be life.”
That morning, Mr. Nji said, he had finally decided to buy a diesel generator for his house, and workers had come to prepare for the installation. But Mr. Nji, an architect, was holding off on plans to move to a bigger office because of the extra costs of equipping it with a generator. He had been planning, he said, to hire an additional architect and a draftsman.
He texted his wife: “Then let’s go out somewhere. That Chinese restaurant might just be O.K.”

Institutional Place-Making

Summary
Institutions help give a place its unique identity. They come in many shapes and sizes and types. There are schools, museums, playhouses, photography centers, fitness centers, parks, playgrounds, daycare centers, bike shops, coffee shops. The “invisible hand” of capitalism can design, implement, and organize some of these on a sustainable basis – but very few. Most require leadership, a “coalition of the willing”, and financing that goes beyond investment with the normal paybacks and returns on capital.

Moreover institutions that can create a sense of place need planning, so that they are symbiotic and not redundant.

A master plan for institutions is every bit as important as a master plan for physical design.

Institutional Place-making
Place-making is normally a phrase which is attributed to physical place. But institutions are places too, and they need to be designed with as much care as physical places.

Institutional place-making can be approached from the standpoint of a physical place, or from the standpoint of a virtual place.

From the vantage point of a physical place
From a physical place, such as Serenbe, obviously place-making is about building a vibrant community. No matter how beautiful or sustainable or well-thought-out the physical place is, every community will be made more vibrant by the institutions that are a part of it. Again, using Serenbe as an example, the Blue Eyed Daisy is a bit hard to imagine as an institution, but is it? Architecturally, there is no doubt in the minds of Serenbe residents that it is a place.

The question arises: what is the institutional master plan for a physical place? No one questions the need for a master plan for a community. In Serenbe, Phil Tabb laid out a brilliant master physical plan, and continues to evolve it, update it, etc. In like manner, Serenbe needs an institutional place-making master plan, and is creating it and evolving it every year. The emergence of the Serenbe Playhouse as a major institution that brings joy to Serene residents and non-residents alike is just one example of institutional place-making. The Serenbe Institute, The Photography Institute and the Chattahoochee Hill Charter School are other examples.

From the vantage point of a virtual place
Any institution must choose – will it be in one physical place, or many? Will it have a virtual presence and a physical presence? If yes, which will be the stronger component? Amazon, for example, skews its institutional place-making to virtual. Starbucks, as a second example, skews its place-making to be physical.

Will the institution be designed to appeal primarily to local sensibilities or to global sensibilities? McDonalds clearly strives for a global appeal, as do most well-known global brands. Starbucks, again, is a counter-example – of a global brand that strives to present itself as very local.

The point is that institutional place-making architecture is a very real need. Good institutional place-making has an architecture all its own. It starts with a master plan, and evolves into governance issues, technology platform issues, unit-business-model issues etc. Doing it well for any physical place makes that place really special. Doing it poorly is recipe for disaster.

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