Press Release 2012
U.S. Expert Urges “Smart Growth” for Lao Cities
Aug. 1, 2012
Renowned architect and urban planner Mr. Senen M.A. Antonio visited Laos to discuss the issues of sprawl and sustainable urban development from July 30 - Aug. 2 on a trip sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Works and Transport (MPWT).
Mr. Antonio is a partner at the prestigious Miami, Fla.-based design firm Duany, Plater-Zyberk & Company. Much of his work is focused on exploring and overcoming the array of linked problems that stem from car-centric development, also known as “sprawl.”
Mr. Antonio discussed how sprawl has negatively affected many communities in the U.S., and offered alternative models of growth that Vientiane could follow to avoid these problems, during a lecture and roundtable discussion at the MPWT on July 31 attended by senior officials from all sections and departments in the ministry. The event was presided over by Dr. Santisouk Simmalavong, Chief of Cabinet for the MPWT. Also in attendance was Mr. Khamthavy Thaiphachanh, Director General of the Department of Housing and Urban Planning.
In his remarks, Dr. Santisouk praised the exchange of knowledge and expertise that would occur during Mr. Antonio’s visit, and predicted it would mark the beginning of enhanced cooperation between the U.S. and Lao PDR on infrastructure development issues.
During his presentation, Mr. Antonio congratulated the MPWT on efforts to ensure sustainable, manageable growth for Laos’ rapidly expanding urban centers. He urged that development plans be focused on pedestrians, rather than cars, and include strong public transportation elements, compact building designs, and connected street networks. To back up his case against car-focused development, Mr. Antonio presented some sobering statistics about the environmental effects of increased car use, including a nearly 1000% increase in the amount of green house gas emissions from cars in Laos over the past 20 years.
Other topics of discussion included how to encourage investment outside the urban core, and the advantages of replacing land use coding with form-based coding.
In addition to his presentation at the MPWT, Mr. Antonio spoke to faculty and students at the National University of Laos’ Faculty of Architecture on Aug. 1. That same evening he also delivered a free, public lecture at Monument Books in downtown Vientiane. On Aug. 2 Mr. Antonio traveled to Luang Prabang to give a presentation at the World Heritage Department and learn more about efforts to preserve and protect the historic city whil still encouraging tourism-based development.