How Cities Have Taken The World

Reply Sun 9 Mar, 2008 03:25 am
A report in today's The Observer


Cities on the edge of chaos

It is one of the most seismic changes the world has ever seen. Across the globe there is an unstoppable march to the cities, powered by new economic realities. But what kind of lives are we creating? And will citizens - and cities - cope with the fierce pressures of this new urban age? Deyan Sudjic, director of the Design Museum and author of a major new report, asks if the city of the future will be a vision of hell or a force for civilised living?

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Walter Hinteler
Reply Sun 9 Mar, 2008 03:25 am
A really interesting report, IMHO, worth reading completely.

Cities bring out a lurking paranoia in some people. They see this explosive growth as a tide of slums engulfing the world. Certainly there is plenty to be worried about.

But for all their agonies, cities must also be counted as a positive force. They are an engine of growth, a machine for putting the rural poor onto the first rung of urban prosperity and freedom. Look at London, a city that existed for several centuries before anything approximating England had been thought of. It has a far stronger sense of itself and its identity than Britain as a whole or England. It has grown, layer on layer, for 2,000 years, sustaining generation after generation of newcomers.

Source for grahics: The Observer, 09.03.08, pages Review, 6-9.

We do not belong to a generation that has the shared faith that the pioneer architectural modernists had when they chartered a liner to cruise the Mediterranean and drew up their vision of what the modern city ought to be, the Charter of Athens (1933). They divided their ideal city into functional zones, shaped by slabs arranged to maximise the sunlight falling on the ground between them.

Theirs was a generation that was freed from the luxury of self-doubt. Ours is not and that is why we struggle now when we try to think what cities should be. We have seen too many soured urban utopias that were invented by the architects on that liner, and propagated by a political system that measured success in the number of new buildings that it could deliver each month.

Cities are made by an extraordinary mixture of do-gooders and bloody-minded obsessives, of cynical political operators and speculators. They are shaped by the unintended consequences of the greedy and the self-interested, the dedicated and the occasional visionary. The cities that work best are those that keep their options open, that allow the possibility of change.

A successful city has room for more than the obvious ideas about city life, because, in the end, a city is about the unexpected, it's about a life shared with strangers and open to new ideas. An unsuccessful city has closed its mind to the future.
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Reply Sun 9 Mar, 2008 07:04 am
Posted this on the did you know thread the other day seems to fit here as well.

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Reply Sun 9 Mar, 2008 07:18 am
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