An Intergenerational Approach to Urban Futures: Introducing the Concept of Aesthetic Sustainability

In Arto Haapala, Beata Frydrykczak & Mateusz Salwa (eds.), Moving From Landscapes To Cityscapes And Back: Theoretical And Applied Approaches To Human Environments. Łódź, Poland: pp. 111–119 (2020)


The experienced quality of urban environments has not traditionally been at the forefront of understanding how cities evolve through time. Within the humanistic tradition, the temporal dimension of cities has been dealt with through tracing urban or architectural histories or interpreting science-fiction scenarios, for example. However, attempts at understanding the relation between currently existing components of cities and planning based on them, towards the future, has not captured the experience of the temporal layers of cities to a satisfying degree. Contemporary urban environments comprise both lasting and fairly stable elements as well as those that change continuously: change is an inevitable part of urban life. Different aspects of city life evolve with a different tempo: urban nature has its cycles, inhabitants their rhythms, and building materials and styles different lifespans, for example. Recognizing them becomes an especially important issue when future imaginaries are projected onto existing urban structures and when decisions about the details of urban futures are made. This paper aims at bringing environmental and urban aesthetics into the discussion about the possible directions of urban futures. The focus is on introducing the notion of aesthetic sustainability as a tool to better understand how urban futures unfold experientially and how aesthetic values of urban environments develop with time. This concept has some background in the field of design theory, more specifically in sustainable usage and product design, but it has not so far been used in order to study large scale living environments. The concept can prove to be a valuable supporting tool in urban sustainability transformations based on how it captures the experiential side of the physical and temporal dimensions of cities.

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Sanna Lehtinen
Aalto University

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