A Vision for the Human City: five guiding principles / by Deland Chan



A human city consists of physical and social infrastructure; it is neither one without the other, but two parts of a whole that are mutually supportive and reinforcing. It consists of functional infrastructure that fulfill basic human needs for shelter, food, and livelihood, while also enabling the fulfillment of higher order needs such as belonging, esteem, and sense of purpose.

A human city achieves a balance between the Four Pillars of Sustainability. It provides environmental protection to ensure that natural resources can be enjoyed for future generations to come. It supports economic vitality by providing healthy levels of production and growth to ensure material comfort in both formal and informal structures. It strives for social equity in which all members of society have access to fulfill their basic needs, as well as their aspirations for self-actualization and achievement. Lastly, the human city nurtures cultural continuity and reminds us that we all come from somewhere, that we each embody a legacy of language, preferences, and values that make us who we are.

How does one achieve the human city? It is both a humanistic and technological undertaking with an unfinished ending as long as we continue to write the story of human history. The human city is not a problem to solve or an outcome that can be achieved through objective science alone. It is not built and left alone; it is kept alive and maintained by the collective contributions of people who live there.

The timeline for the human city extends beyond a single election cycle, a developer request for proposal, or a thirty-year planning document. The human city is expected to outlast any generation; it embodies the art form of building places that will exist for as long as we expect to inhabit the earth.

We offer a vision for the human city through five guiding principles.