The Science of Sustainable Cities

ARTICLE / TALK

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.

RECENT POST

The biggest risks facing cities – and some solutions

TALK

Robert Muggah, TED Talk, September 2017

It’s a small opportunity but a golden one: in the next 10 to 20 years, to really start designing in principles of resilience into our cities. There’s not one single way of doing this, but there are a number of ways that are emerging. And I’ve spoken with hundreds of urban planners, development specialists, architects and civic activists, and a number of recurring principles keep coming out. I just want to pass on six.

First: cities need a plan and a strategy to implement it. I mean, it sounds crazy, but the vast majority of world cities don’t actually have a plan or a vision. 

Second: you’ve got to go green. Cities are already leading global decarbonization efforts.

Third: invest in integrated and multi-use solutions. The most successful cities are those that are going to invest in solutions that don’t solve just one problem, but that solve multiple problems.

Next, fourth: build densely but also sustainably. The death of all cities is the sprawl. Cities need to know how to build resiliently, but also in a way that’s inclusive.

Fifth: steal. The smartest cities are nicking, pilfering, stealing, left, right and center. They don’t have time to waste.

And finally: work in global coalitions. You know, there are more than 200 inner-city coalitions in the world today. There are more city coalitions than there are coalitions for nation-states.


To learn more about Robert Muggah, his work on evidence based urban policy and data visualisations, visit the Igarapé Institute here and SecDev here.

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This scale and speed of urbanisation has never ever happened before, this is the first time.

Geeta Mehta, urbanist

At this moment you are going to shape the cities for generations to come. People need to realise this is an opportunity that will never come again. 

Charles Correa
architect

What is Urban Resilience?

INFOGRAPHIC

100 Resilient Cities

Why do we focus on cities? First, the world is rapidly urbanizing—by 2050, 75% of the world’s population will live in cities. Second, global pressures that play out at a city scale − such as climate change, disease pandemics, economic fluctuations, and terrorism − pose new challenges and uncertainty. Sudden shocks or accumulating stresses in cities can cause significant damage and disruption; in 2011, the cost of natural disasters was estimated at over $380 billion. Because city systems are interconnected, breakdowns can lead to multiple or sequential failure. At worst, this can result in social breakdown, physical collapse, or economic decline.


For more from 100 Resilient Cities, click here.

What makes a city tick? Designing the ‘urban DMA’

ARTICLE

Kim Dovey & Elek Pafka, The Conversation, November 2, 2016

When we talk about “urban DMA”, we’re talking about the density of a city’s buildings, the way people and activities are mixed together, and the access, or transport networks that we use to navigate through them.


For more from The Conversation on cities, click here.

This is humankind’s ‘great urbanisation’. We must do it right, or the planet will pay.

ARTICLE

Dimitri Zenghelis and Nicholas Stern, The Guardian, 8 November 2016

The world will never again build cities as rapidly as it does this century. If we are serious about limiting global warming, tackling air pollution and promoting innovative, resource-efficient growth, there is a narrow window of opportunity.


For more from Guardian Cities, click here.

Ten things you need to know about the New Urban Agenda

ARTICLE

Lucinda Hartley, Landscape Australia, 24 Oct 2016

The New Urban Agenda represents a paradigm shift in global thinking, recognising what professionals have perhaps understood for some time: that our future is urban. From gender-equity to youth-empowerment, participatory planning to inclusive public space, The New Urban Agenda sets a high benchmark for the type of urban development we should strive for and a global accountability framework for achieving it. Its catch-cry to “leave no one behind” commits to reducing urban inequality. This is a challenge that we can take up and apply to every city and neighbourhood.


For UN Habitat‘s New Urban Agenda whiteboard video click here.

The rise and fall of great world cities: 5,700 years of urbanisation – mapped

SHORT FILM

Kanishk Tharoor, The Guardian, 27 June 2016

The Guardian, 27 June 2016

Recent research, published in the journal Scientific Data, transcribed and geocoded nearly 6,000 years of data (from 3700BC to AD2000). The report produced a gargantuan resource for scholars hoping to better understand how and why cities rise and fall – and allowed blogger Max Galka to produce a striking visualisation on his site Metrocosm.


For more from Guardian Cities, click here.

Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize 2016 Laureate: Medellín

SHORT FILM

Lee Kwan Yew World City Prize, 2016

We live in a time when billions of people are moving into cities. Many of these cities, especially the new mega cities, are very dangerous and disorganised. Many of them are getting worse, and many of them are are looking for role models of cities which have transformed themselves, and no city has done as great a job as Medellín has.


For more about the Lee Kuan Yew World City Prize, click here.

Mapping the ‘Urban Fingerprints’ of Cities

ARTICLE

Linda Poon, City Lab, Sep 11, 2015

The most valuable visual information that these maps convey is the density of a particular area. Planned right, a dense city can be a positive environment for productivity. Griffiths explains that the clustering effect creates “agglomeration economies.” “If you cluster a whole lot of people close to each other, with skills that aren’t necessarily the same,” he says, “you get opportunities for new creations.”

How to protect fast growing cities from failing

TALK

Robert Muggah, TED Talk, October 2014

So urban geographers and demographers, they tell us that it’s not necessarily the size or even the density of cities that predicts violence, no. Tokyo, with 35 million people, is one of the largest, and some might say safest, urban metropolises in the world. No, it’s the speed of urbanization that matters. I call this turbo-urbanization, and it’s one of the key drivers of fragility.

When you think about the incredible expansion of these cities, and you think about turbo-urbanization, think about Karachi. Karachi was about 500,000 people in 1947, a hustling, bustling city. Today, it’s 21 million people, and apart from accounting for three quarters of Pakistan’s GDP, it’s also one of the most violent cities in South Asia. Dhaka, Lagos, Kinshasa, these cities are now 40 times larger than they were in the 1950s.


To learn more about Robert Muggah, his work on evidence based urban policy and data visualisations, visit the Igarapé Institute here and SecDev here.

The Human Scale

FILM

Andreas Dalsgaard, Final Cut for Real, 2013

I guess there is this very difficult tradition, which comes from the way we teach architecture and planning, the idea that one person can solve everything. And we even have this term ‘The Masterplan’, like ‘I’m going to do The Masterplan’, which will answer all questions. And of course we know it’s impossible, cities are unbelievably complex, so even the idea of a masterplan is really crazy.  All we can do is make a kind of a framework, we came make a very robust framework which allows life to take place.