Justice and Efficiency in City Design

“While efficiency deals with how costs and benefits for any one group are distributed among the several types of value, justice is the way in which benefits and costs of any one kind are distributed between persons.”  Good City Form (p. 225)

In his theory of Good City Form, Lynch defines the two meta-criteria of Efficiency and Justice, qualities he states are “appended to any list of good things” (p. 118). For Lynch, efficiency refers to the cost required to maintain any built environment, and justice refers to the allocation of these resources and decision-making powers amongst people. By placing these two concepts as meta, or above and a priori, his five basic dimensions of good city form—vitality, sense, fit, access, and control—he asserts that these two are inter-related, and beyond their narrow common definitions, such as economic efficiency or justice being served.

In DUSP, the work of Brent D. Ryan, Terry Szold, and Eran Ben-Joseph all grapple with these two overarching meta-criteria of the good city. Ryan’s research and practice is concerned with how urban design can improve cities characterized by economic failure, building abandonment, and falling populations, and recover the optimism in both critical design and interventionist state policy that vanished with the end of Modernism.[1] Szold has close to 30 years of experience in land use, strategic, and comprehensive planning, and her research concerns Smart Growth, regulation, and accessibility in the built environment.[2] Ben-Joseph’s research and teaching areas include urban and physical design, standards and regulations, sustainable site planning technologies and urban retrofitting. He is currently investigating how urban form intersects with health, the aging population, and ecological models of development.[3]

[1] Text from http://cdd.mit.edu/people/cdd-faculty/brent-d-ryan/ & http://dusp.mit.edu/faculty/brent-d-ryan (accessed 4.21.13)

[2] Text from http://dusp.mit.edu/faculty/terry-szold (accessed 4.21.13)

[3] Text from http://dusp.mit.edu/site-administrator/eran-ben-joseph (accessed 4.21.13)

Past Winners:

Vancouver Planning Department (2007)

Allan Heskin (1990s)

Eric Wolf (1989)

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