Centre for Liveable Cities, Urban Solutions, July 2018
Underlying the extraordinary complexity and diversity of cities is an approximate simplicity. As a city increases in size, all of its various socioeconomic metrics scale in the same way no matter where you are on the planet. Through analysing data from thousands of cities in different countries, I found that when the size of a city doubles, there is an approximate 15% increase in its socioeconomic outcomes—from income, wealth and number of patents, to crime rate and number of flu cases. This scaling law is valid across the globe, although cities have evolved independently.
To watch Geoffrey West’s 2011 TED Talk click here.
Andrew Tuck, The Urbanist, Monocle, 15 December 2016
And really, Jane was the first time where I’d read a critique of cities and it really spoke to me, really resonated, it was incredibly human. It talked about mistakes and failure, it talked about things being imperfect, about things being informal, about the spontaneity, the ballet and dance of life that happens on our city streets.
Technically, Robert Caro’s book The Power Broker is a biography of urban planner Robert Moses, but that description feels laughably inadequate on multiple counts. For more than four decades, this particular urban planner was the most powerful man in New York, an unelected emperor who dominated the mayors and governors who were supposedly in charge, and who physically reshaped the city through sheer force of will. Caro’s enormous book, meanwhile, is less a life story than an epic, meticulously detailed study of power in general: how it’s acquired, how it’s used to change history, how it ultimately corrupts those who get it.
In accordance with modernist ideals of progress (which encouraged the annihilation of tradition), The Radiant City was to emerge from a tabula rasa: it was to be built on nothing less than the grounds of demolished vernacular European cities. The new city would contain prefabricated and identical high-density skyscrapers, spread across a vast green area and arranged in a Cartesian grid, allowing the city to function as a “living machine.” Le Corbusier explains: “The city of today is a dying thing because its planning is not in the proportion of geometrical one fourth. The result of a true geometrical lay-out is repetition, The result of repetition is a standard. The perfect form.”
Danish architect Jan Gehl is improving quality of life in cities across the globe, taking the focus away from the car and putting it back on people, with pedestrianised streets and improved cycling infrastructure. Calling itself “consultants in urban quality”, Gehl Architects works to return a human scale to public spaces.
One major finding began to shine through, and I’ll now share it with you. ‘People tend sit where there are places to sit.’ This may not strike you as an intellectual bombshell, but this simple lesson is one that very few cities have ever heeded – they’re tough places to sit in.
This documentary is not available on line at this time of writing, but if you can get hold if it, it is a great watch.