The formal characteristics of built environments are generated and governed by a range of
forces. Most significant among these are political and economic forces typically extended
on any settlement from outside. Various authors (Mumford, Lozano, Lange) have
recognised this in the context of large cities but such forces are also imposed upon smaller
settlements. This is in effect a disempowerment of people in local environments and
settlements in requiring that they realise their ways, norms and customs towards centrally
derived criteria. The author strongly believes that external forces risk swamping and even
obliterating the development of diverse local knowledge and their consequent
transformation into local ideologies, technology and built form.
This research is an attempt to form a theoretical understanding of a concept of control as
seen in the local environment system. It defines forces and powers that shape local built
environment. In so doing it tries to identify aspects and facets of this concept and attempts
to establish a model that would explain it. This concept will help in gaining an
understanding of the real forces shaping existing built form.
While recognising the existence of such powers, it is vital that the built environment is seen
as a process and not an end product. To do so is to understand it as a system of
transformation, and to recognise the different configurations of systems and how they
transform the built environment accordingly. Only within the context of systems thinking
can power be understood to operate as an inherent characteristic of any system, where the
internal order of control differs. While the research recognises the existence of different
configurations of local control seen in settlement form, it defines two that exist today
varyingly. Those governed and controlled centrally by the state exemplified by modern
state developments; and those that are organic have a local hierarchical system of decision
making and an internal system of norms, exemplified by vernacular organic built
It is also important to identify what define local control. The study proposes three functions
of local control: local order system; economic activity; and knowledge and technology.
These determine local parties and the powers they have to define the built environment.
Observing these furthers an understanding of the concept and its internal mechanisms.
To observe the theoretical framework of the thesis, a comparative study in two settlements
is conducted: one where the state defines form; the other where built form is locally
defined. The three functions of control are observed in terms of parties and powers, and
through indicators derived during the theoretical discussions. In order to assess the effects
of local control it is applied against sustainability, used as a measurement of quality in the
environment, because of its ability to provide a wide array of parameters and because of its
international acceptance. A list of indicators relating to sustainability are compiled and set
against those of control observing the practical implications. Sustainability becomes a
method to evaluate the effects of local internal control as opposed to central state control. In
formulating and then observing this concept it will be possible to develop better practical
applications and solve recurrent problems. It may also enable decision -makers to readdress
development be altering local control patterns.