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[Beijing Forum 2014] Christopher J. Webster: China to lead in designing high density healthy cities

Peking University, Nov. 9, 2014: “China has a chance to design healthy cities in a way that Europe and America never did,” said Prof. Christopher J. Webster, Dean of Faculty of Architecture, University of Hong Kong (HKU), in his presentation entitled “High Density Healthy Cities by Design: China’s Chance to Take a Lead”.

The presentation was made on Panel VII: “Toward a Harmonious Development and Mutual Prosperity in Metropolitan Areas” at Beijing Forum 2014 on November 8. Scholars from different countries and regions shared their views on the topic.

Prof. Webster delivering his speech

In his speech, Prof. Webster first pointed out that the issue of public health is “knocking on the door” of the city planners’ domain and “we have a very big chance to shape the environment in which we live and to make places more walkable, more green, more healthy”.

In his presentation, Prof. Webster illustrated the core of his research for finding a public health and urban planning science appropriate for the 21st century. He first  introduced the platform for the research, which was based on the cooperation between  his team in HKU and the UK Biobanks. Then he detailed the great results coming out. “We collaborate with the UK Biobanks to rewrite the knowledge base of the relationship between planning and built environment”, said Prof. Webster.

Can we build the cities in accordance with the scientific principles of healthy cities just as we understand the scientific principles of low-carbon cities? This is a question raised at the end of Prof. Webster’s presentation. He thinks it is a challenge confronted by urban planners.

When asked about the chances that China has in planning and building healthy cities, Prof. Webster said, “There’s nowhere else in the world where cities have been designed on the computer and then transferred into built cities within a short period of time. That gives China a unique opportunity to design its cities for the future, a habitat in which people will live for the next hundred years, two hundred years; and to design them on the principles of greater walkability, greater green lands for healthy air and other design principles for healthy cities.” He also pointed out that what he said is not so much applicable to first-tier Chinese cities but second- and third-tier Chinese cities which “are still building on new land and so they have a chance to design more healthy cities.”

Reported by: Tang Jie 
Edited by: Yan Shengnan