Looking at Our Cities Differently: Interweaving our Green and Farms into the Urban Fabric

Working with our edges in City Building


One thing I have been critical of with Auckland and it’s planning is this fetish towards mono-centric planning. That is all focus on the City Centre and if we are lucky the Metropolitan Centres and industrial complexes might get a reckon.

However, the Auckland Plan 2050 (currently before Councillors for analysis (feedback was asked for earlier this year)) started to break this trend with a focus on Nodes.

The Nodes and Satellites
Auckland Plan 2050
Source: Auckland Council


Example of an AP2050 Node – Manukau
Source: Auckland Council


Overseas there has been a look at breaking down the mono-centric model although it was not used as an excuse for unfettered sprawl.

From the Daily Democrat:

In urban planning, new UC Davis study recommends looking to the edges not the core

UC DAVIS-COURTESYTraditional urban planning favors “concentric” layouts with a downtown core surrounded by suburbs and farmland (right). But Catherine Brinkley argues instead that cities should plan for “rugosity” (left) with more interfaces between functions.
Source: http://www.dailydemocrat.com/article/NI/20180426/NEWS/180429859

Catherine Brinkley is a professor of human and community development and human ecology at UC Davis. So it’s interesting that in a recent published paper, she advocates that cities should work more like coral reefs — supporting a diversity of niches and uses for sustained vigor and resilience. In ecology and medical sciences, the term for a physical form with such topographic complexity is rugosity.

Traditional urban planning favors “concentric” layouts with a downtown core surrounded by suburbs and farmland (right). But Catherine Brinkley argues instead that cities should plan for “rugosity” (left) with more interfaces between functions.

For two centuries, the guiding theory in urban development has held that cities need a dense central core with the low-density suburbs and farmlands circling around that center. This design is referred to as concentric.

Brinkley challenges that status quo in her article — “High rugosity cities: The geographic, economic and regulator pathology of America’s most non-concentric urban areas” The article was published in Land Use Policy this winter.

“Higher urban rugosity can be achieved by maximizing the urban interface through implementation of greenbelts, green wedges, and wildlife habitat corridors,” she said in the article.

Brinkley cites examples such as Portland, Oregon; Copenhagen, Denmark; and to some extent, San Francisco. Even though San Francisco is a very compact city, it has Golden Gate Park in the middle. It breaks up urban space with green space, she said.

In her study, Brinkley looked at 483 urban areas in the United States that also had farmland and green space around them. Several of the places studied are dominated by large state or national parks, lakes, and water ways.


Brinkley maintains that building cities that interweave farms and greenways could accommodate more population growth, with high density housing and office space on public transit routes. This would put higher density development near the desirable urban edge where housing can offer a premium.

Farmland can also be better integrated, she said.

“Developers are now building housing around farmlands the way we used to build around golf courses,” she said. Farms closer to cities generate more profit per acre because they have greater opportunities for direct marketing sales to their neighbors, she added.

Brinkley sees her research as extending the concept of “mixed-use” development from the neighborhood to a regional scale. There is also evidence that interweaving urban use and farmlands could help decrease the urban heat island effect and improve stormwater runoff management, Brinkley said. A heat island refers to a metropolitan area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural areas due to human activities and lack of vegetation.

“In sum,” she says in her article, “these findings push the boundaries of modern planning to reconsider the periphery as important in shaping total landscape development.”


Source: http://www.dailydemocrat.com/article/NI/20180426/NEWS/180429859


Building around our farms or rather elite soils in Pukekohe rather than over them (as we did with Mangere and Otara) could be the way of saving our most precious resources (and is being hotly debated at the moment).

The high rugosity model could also give us better Green Utility in our Greenfield areas than we currently plan for (and at a lower cost too).


Yes I am trying this with Cities Skylines with San Layton City trying a Satellite/Green Belt approach connected by rapid transit and heavy rail. So will be interesting to see how this goes.


I have included an urban farm in this urban development. It is the cylinder tower in the middle of the urban area


Could the model work for Auckland and the Waikato?

I say we should try rather than carry on as we were – which is not serving us well.