Green Corridor Plan (1975): Densification as the future for Ulaanbaatar?

The Green Corridor Plan (1975) illustrated the vision of Ulaanbaatar as a thriving city centre with adequate public spaces that balances the dense high-rise buildings. The incapability of foreseeing the population growth had created a huge obstacle in the organization of land resources which resulted in over-densification of city blocks[1]. As the master plans were implemented with a top-down approach without citizen participation[2], residents of Ulaanbaatar had questions on whether the densification of the city is the suitable outcome of the modernization process.

From a collection of interviews with local and foreign urban planning organizations in Ulaanbaatar by Raven (2017), a consensus was achieved that Ulaanbaatar is “different”[3]and should not copy the urban form of another country. There were disagreements on densification as a way of modernization which foreign parties agreed that densification of the city is an inevitable trajectory in the future while majority of the Mongolian organizations did not advocate the densification mainly due to cultural attributes of their nomadic origins[4]. One of the interviewees who is a Mongolian urban planner has stated:

Why do I have to be squeezed in a small place? Why? For instance, there are metropolitan areas like Seoul or Tokyo. You go to subway, 7 a.m. it’s full of people. And then by 1 a.m., when it’s closed, also full of people. I don’t want such situation here. I have a hard time to walk in those cities when I go there. So I don’t want a similar type of life here in Mongolia. We have enough land. I understand those people because they have small land and many people. But it’s the opposite here.[5]

Given the complex historical background of Ulaanbaatar, it would be certainly difficult to reach a perfect master plan that could satisfy all stakeholders. Multiple organizations from different backgrounds and interests create different ‘culture values’[6] that are distinct and possibly contradictory. It can be observed that densification would be a future trend as illustrated in the Green Corridor Plan but it would be up to the people to moderate its scale and scope of implementation such that it would not override and take away the city’s cultural uniqueness.

 

Fig. 1: Low density ger districts in Ulaanbaatar (1950s) (Source: B. Gunbold. “Mongolian spatial planning.” Lecture, Ministry of Construction and Urban Development, Government of Mongolia. Fukuoka, 2018.)

Fig. 2: Increasing density in the central area of the city (1970s) (Source: Gunbold, B. “Mongolian spatial planning.” Lecture, Ministry of Construction and Urban Development, Government of Mongolia. Fukuoka, 2018.)

[1] Alexander C. Diener and Joshua Hagen, eds., From Socialist to Post-Socialist Cities: Cultural Politics of Architecture, Urban Planning, and Identity in Eurasia.(UK: Routledge, 2015), 100.

[2] Tseregmaa Byambad

orj, “(Re)constructing Planning in Face of Uncertainty: Challenges for Urban Planning in Mongolia,” Department of Environment and Geography, Macquarie University (2011): 4.

[3] Raven Anderson and Michael Hooper, “Competing Organisational Perspectives on Rapid Urbanisation and Its Management: A Case Study of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia,” 39, no. 2 (2017): 199, doi:https://doi.org/10.3828/idpr.2016.30.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, 192.

References:

Anderson, Raven, and Michael Hooper. “Competing Organisational Perspectives on Rapid Urbanisation and Its Management: A Case Study of Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia.” 39, no. 2 (2017). doi:https://doi.org/10.3828/idpr.2016.30

Byambadorj, Tseregmaa. “(Re)constructing Planning in Face of Uncertainty: Challenges for Urban Planning in Mongolia.” Department of Environment and Geography, Macquarie University (2011): 1-10.

Diener, Alexander C., and Joshua Hagen, eds. From Socialist to Post-Socialist Cities: Cultural Politics of Architecture, Urban Planning, and Identity in Eurasia. Association for the Study of Nationalities. UK: Routledge, 2015.

Gunbold, B. “Mongolian spatial planning.” Lecture, Ministry of Construction and Urban Development, Government of Mongolia. Fukuoka, 2018.

2 Comments on “Green Corridor Plan (1975): Densification as the future for Ulaanbaatar?

  1. It is stated in your article that there is an increasing density in the central area of Ulaanbaatar, which makes me wonder the reasons for the government putting resources into the provision of more green and public space, instead of shaping a better infrastructure and traffic network to tie the immense land altogether.

    Especially Ulaanbaatar is a city with adequate land, it is really a challenge for the government to make comprehensive planning of the land and tie the scattered nomads together. Instead of forcing the modern living style onto Ulaanbaatar, is there any other way out to de-densify the modern Ulaanbaatar?

  2. While I agree with Minia that density is an objective aspect which needs to be dealt with, I find it interesting how the mongolian planners seem to make “density” a way to define the “culture” of the people in a city – since they argue that high density is contradicting their nomadic culture.

    While cultural values in cities seems usually to be exhibited or observed in the (width/direction of the) roads and avenues, monumental buildings, the structure of the city, or the economic or demographic features of the city (i.e. industrial or tertiary sector…), perhaps “density” itself can be another way to define the identity of a city (especially so in Hong Kong as well). “Density” as “culture” could also be seen in the extent to which people’s preferences and lifestyles are appropriate for living at high density – for instance how much they are inclined to use public space.

    In this way, there might be a limit to how densely people are willing to live. One might argue that density is a prerequisite for urbanism, and never-ending urban sprawl is not very sustainable; with that limit in mind perhaps there would be a way to find a good level of density both for the citizens and the environment.

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