My practice recently made a study of East Manchester, a city that had been one of the great industrial
power centres of the 19th century. In this part of the city the population has dropped from about 80,000 immediately after the Second World War to only 18,000.
Four out of five houses are boarded up, most urban entrepreneurs are leaving, and indeed anyone who can get out does so, hopping over the green belt areas and moving into the suburbs. The result is an inner city area rapidly transformed into a ghost town, deprived of facilities. Other cities such as Birmingham, Leeds and Newcastle face similar crises. Gradually there is a shift in perception and people are beginning to see the advantages of living in the heart of their cities, but local governments face a huge task if they are to successfully regenerate their city centres and draw people back in significant numbers. The ideal is a mix of live – work – leisure all within bicycling and walking distances, knitted together with large green public space.
A well-designed sustainable city will attract people back into its centre. I believe city living lies at the heart of our society, for cities are conceived as meeting places for people, friends or strangers. People make cities end cities make citizens. A sustainable city is compact, polycentric, ecologically aware end based on walking. There should be diverse activities: live, work, leisure. Its people are easily connected. It is well designed, economically strong and well governed. Above all, it promotes social inclusion. With better education and fiscal and legal commitment, all this can be ours. This is no utopian vision: cities that are beautiful, safe end equitable are within our grasp.
Richard Rogers in his Megacities lecture in The Hague (October 15,2001)