Density: Objective Measure or Critical Tool of the Neoliberal Agenda?
The publication of the planning agenda Towards an Urban Renaissance in 1999 marked a turning point in the approach towards urban development in the UK and specifically towards urban density. Density was attributed with a range of physical, environmental and social implications, or at least potentialities. Most significant of these was the association of high urban densities with more sustainable, socially diverse, compact urban models – a positive affiliation that lead to the introduction of minimum density ratios for new urban developments and the gradual introduction of density ratios as a component of development briefs for new urban housing.
Elaborating a potted history of architects’ use and manipulation of density ratios, I argue that density has been a critical and effective instrument of the neoliberal agenda. In its capacity to operate as both crude economic measure, and at the same time, qualitative descriptor of the urban experience, density has been a key device in rebranding urban living. In this article, I expound the role that architects have had in negotiating this duality, reviving an image of density that has been essential to its operation as a device for facilitating capital growth.
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