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Old 06-21-2007, 01:01 AM   #1
vanshnookenraggen
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21st Century Cities

Forbes Magazine online has a great report on cities in the 21st Century.

http://www.forbes.com/2007/06/11/fut...ties_land.html


I thought the article on sprawl was interesting and the point it made about how sprawl has always existed and people have always complained about it is something that really puts sprawl into some context. I read a book once about the suburban development of Roxbury and Dorchester (now the inner city) and even though it was written in 1950 looking back, it could have been written today because all the arguments and complaints are exactly the same.
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Old 06-21-2007, 01:33 AM   #2
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^ The article on the ghost cities of the future is interesting as well.

The sprawl piece makes a boldly...complicated stand on the issue. Yet, though I applaud its originality, I can hardly accede to its conclusions:

1. Yes, the rowhouse belts around London - not to mention Dorchester and Roxbury - were once considered sprawl. The fact that we consider them urban today is a testament to just how low-density our suburban built environment has become. In The Death and Life of Great American Cities, Jane Jacobs dismissed all of Boston south of what is today Melena Cass Boulevard as a vast "grey zone" that was neither dense enough to support the sort of walkable, self-contained, "eyes on the street" safe neighborhood she idealized - nor a very bucolic retreat. Her preferences seem to have caught on; today, growth is taking place in suburbs of far lesser densities, or in city centres with far greater concentrations of people. The original inner suburbs - at least, the ones that haven't retained their affluence - are dying - in Detroit, in Philadelphia, in DC, in the far outer boroughs of New York, here. Socioeconomic ills and low densities have continued to breed crime in these precincts, and the problem is set to be exported to the 1950s bungalow belts as gentrification pushes poverty further out.

2. The article makes a number of flawed claims about the connection (or lack thereof) between density and the environment. Nearly every claim for the environmental benefit of densification is dismissed because, in the author's opinion, it would be counterbalanced by the economic and material gains of the world's poorest. Frankly, the realization of the author's Kantian pipe dream of relative economic parity is not going to come about any time soon. The vast majority of carbon emissions and the like do and will continue to come from the developed West, and are more likely to be reduced by densification than Africa is likely to achieve the same standard of living.

As for forswearing polluting appliances over cars, I should think it equally unlikely. There's a reason Europeans (and many Americans) are fine with taking the train to work, but not reverting to the icebox. In the absence of the pertinent reality of such a claim, particularly when dealing with actual issues in urban design, it becomes reduced to absurdity. Yes, theoretically, we could all move to acre lots while surrendering our hair driers, and this might have a more rapid and substantial impact on global warming than reversing sprawl. But it's only that - theory. And the problems with sprawl are not only real; they're demonstrably assailable.
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Old 06-21-2007, 12:34 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by czsz
Jane Jacobs dismissed all of Boston south of what is today Melena Cass Boulevard as a vast "grey zone" that was neither dense enough to support the sort of walkable, self-contained, "eyes on the street" safe neighborhood she idealized - nor a very bucolic retreat.
I wonder if she ever visited Jamaica Plain, which is quite walkable and has elements of both "bucolic retreat" and high density, within blocks of each other.

Quote:
The original inner suburbs - at least, the ones that haven't retained their affluence - are dying - in Detroit, in Philadelphia, in DC, in the far outer boroughs of New York, here
These 'original inner suburbs' include places like Somerville, Medford, Arlington, JP, Roslindale, Quincy -- all of which seem to be doing reasonably well.
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Old 06-22-2007, 02:41 PM   #4
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The article about megacities made me wonder...what, if there is one, is the optimal density for an urban area?
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