chapter  6
19 Pages

Principles of intervention

The above passage appears in the section of the Hippocratic corpus entitled, On Airs, Waters, and Places. Although the text is mainly concerned with medicinal matters, it also was one of the first to explicitly link health and well-being with the nature of cities, specifically highlighting how wider environmental factors, such as its relationship with the natural world and the local climate, can affect the quality of life of urban dwellers. Whilst we now know that many of these early observations were incorrect, the principle driving the text is enduring: the fundamental desire to intervene and improve how we live. Considering the wide importance of the city from economic, cultural and social perspectives, it is logical that we should aim to follow in the footsteps of Hippocrates by generating knowledge and adapting urban form in order to maximize environmental benefits and minimize risks. But how should we do this? It is clear that cities will experience differing constraints and opportunities; consequently no single strategy could be applicable for all areas. An understanding of risk, as outlined in the previous chapter, may prove beneficial, but there is a need to develop guiding principles for intervention that can be applicable regardless of context.