Affairs

Urbanism

Town criers— Global

Preface

What’s the future of the city? Eleven writers – urbanists, authors, academics, architects and Monocle editors – look at the battles and pleasures of metropolitan living. From the empty highways of Detroit to the sewers of London, an Istanbul street to Ancient Greece, it’s a survey of urban hope and possibility.

Architecture, Culture, Infrastructure, Travel

Dr Shi Nan

Secretary general, Urban Planning Society of China

Beijing

Which cities are setting the benchmarks for quality of life? Cities such as Paris, London, New York – the big apples – are models for us in China, but I think some of the smaller, more liveable cities have great quality of life. In particular some of the mid-sized German cities such as Dahme, which manage to combine tradition and modernity.

Is there a mayor you admire?
There are two former mayors I admire – London’s Ken Livingstone for the way he dealt with the transport issue and introduction of the congestion charge. China faces the same issues and I was interested to see how it was addressed in London. And Rudy Giuliani, who took very active steps to solve social problems with the zero tolerance policy.

What are the most important challenges facing cities?
The speed of urbanisation. In China: 13 million people a year move permanently to the cities and another 20 million migrate seasonally from country to city. This poses real challenges for education, health and so on. Our cities aren’t ready for such numbers and are struggling with the pace of change.

How will the global recession impact the development of our cities?
Cities will change, new models are needed that think about both economic growth and natural resources.

Paul Murrain

Senior lecturer, Joint Centre for Urban Design

Oxford

Which cities are setting the benchmarks for quality of life?
Cities which respect their traditional fabric. Freiburg in Germany, for example, has done many things about walkability, public transport and ecology.

And where’s falling behind?
Some parts of Tel Aviv are great, but others are not, and if there’s one terrible thing about Tel Aviv it is the car.

Who are the urban visionaries?
The Prince of Wales – because he understands the essential humanity of places.

Is there a mayor you admire?
Joseph Riley from Charleston, South Carolina. He understands why his city is such a stunning place, and he’s a great advocate of his city.

Do we need to bring back craft and manufacturing to our cities?
Definitely. The assumption manufacturing is noisy and polluting is no longer true. We’re not in the 19th century. There are so many things now which are compatible to the middle of the cities. Cities are not only about banking.

Dianne Watts

Mayor of Surrey

British Columbia

Which cities are setting the benchmarks for quality of life?
I take a hard look at the innovative things Portland is doing with transport. Also Calgary has good programmes around homelessness.

And where’s falling behind?
Surrey is one, because we have had such a fast rate of growth that the infrastructure has not kept up and that has significantly challenged us.

Is there a mayor you admire?
The mayor of Mississauga, Ontario: Hazel McCallion. She is 88 and she has just been an amazing mayor for that city for 30-plus years. It’s not about the length of time, it’s the way she has handled her city: she is always at the front and centre of the issues, she is very outspoken, a take-charge kind of person.

How will the global recession impact the development of our cities?
We’re quite fortunate in Surrey because we’ve got a young population, fast-growing with 1,000 people a month coming in. So it hasn’t hit us so hard.

Which cities are beacons for environmental progress?
I would look at Seattle: they’ve been on the leading edge of environmental and green issues for some time.

What’s your favourite diversion or pleasure in the city where you live?
Taking a walk on the beach. We’ve got a lot of natural areas, urban forests and natural beaches.

Carol Coletta

President and CEO of CEOs for Cities

Chicago

Which cities are setting the benchmarks for quality of life?
I think Chicago is doing a remarkable job in embracing sustainability. It has a great transport network, there’s an emphasis on cycling, a green-roof programme and rain barrels to capture and re-use rainwater.

And where’s falling behind?
In the US, I would say places such as Phoenix and Las Vegas. They have large numbers of citizens facing foreclosure and their city model is not sustainable.

Who are the urban visionaries?
I appreciate people who are able to take something that is perceived as a liability and make an asset of it – people such as Terry Schwarz in Cleveland (see page 77) who has developed detailed plans for reclaiming vacant land and converting it into a sustainable asset for food production, urban forestry and water reclamation.

What are the most important challenges facing cities?
In the US, the issue is making density appealing. The American dream is the opposite of density – a big house on a big block. We must redefine the American dream to get people to recognise that living close to each other gains them more than it loses: better transport and amenities, and improved sustainability.

Klaus Wowereit

Mayor

Berlin

Who are the urban visionaries?
Local politicians in Third World countries who struggle daily with the problems posed by rapidly growing cities.

Is there a mayor you admire?
My predecessor in office, Willy Brandt, who later became foreign minister and chancellor of Germany.

What are the most important challenges facing cities?
Demographic change. Ageing populations call for a different infrastructure and new thinking when it comes to city planning.

How will the global recession impact the development of our cities?
I can say for my city that our stimulus package will lead to more energy-efficient public buildings and will enhance the infrastructure overall. But unemployment costs are of course hitting the city treasury.

Which cities are beacons for environmental progress?
Cities that rely heavily on public transport, that strengthen traffic by bike, that curb traffic emissions in the inner city. Those with inner cities that are alive, thus avoiding traffic to and from bedroom communities.

Paul Bevan

Secretary general of Eurocities, the networking association for major European cities

Brussels

Which cities are setting the benchmarks for quality of life?
I don’t think it’s fair to choose one city over another. Some cities have great natural assets, others have cultural assets. London has transformed itself since it’s had its own mayor; Barcelona too is a great city. A lot of success is about good leadership.

What are the most important challenges facing cities?
Europe is diverse and immigrants from all over the world come to live in our cities. The challenge is to manage that process, create cultural and social integration and capitalise on people’s potential.

Do we need to bring back craft and manufacturing to our cities?
There’s no clear destiny for cities, it’s a continuing history; perhaps we’ll see the current period as the banking epoch. But I think the SME sector [small and medium-sized enterprises] will be increasingly important. In the past people have been dazzled by the big players without realising the substantial assets of SMEs.

Which cities are beacons for environmental progress? Freiberg in Germany, which uses 80 per cent renewable energy.

If you could move to another city where would you go?
I live in Brussels and I like its international quality. But if I had to move Barcelona would be tempting.

Gerard Reinmuth

Architect and co-founder of think-tank Terroir

Sydney/Copenhagen

Which cities are setting the benchmarks for quality of life?
Copenhagen.

And where’s falling behind?
Sydney.

Who are the urban visionaries?
There are a lot of visionaries but few who are really changing our cities. Those who do are often less visible working behind the scenes in government, implementing good policy. Often, these people may not even be in a city portfolio but are making decisions, which in turn impact on the city.

Is there a mayor you admire?
No.

What are the most important challenges facing cities?
The realisation [of good ideas]. Also politics – cities are an absolute reflection of the politics that underpin them. You can learn a lot about the politics of the city by looking at its buildings and the way it has developed. If you don’t like a city, get into politics.

How will the global recession impact the development of our cities?
Hopefully, positively. The doctrine of infinite expansion will hopefully be replaced by a culture of thinking more precisely and effectively about city development. The most sustainable thing you can do is build less.

Which cities are beacons for environmental progress?
Most of the cities in Scandinavia would seem to fit this description.

If you could move to another city, where would you go?
Copenhagen or Hamburg.

Tom Murcott

Chief marketing officer, Gale International

New York

Which cities are setting the benchmarks for quality of life?
I think New York has a lot to offer. It has strong management, a great transport system and everything you need to get to within a 10-minute radius.

And where’s falling behind?
China really needs to catch up. It faces issues of very rapid urban growth and skewed population density – more and more people are moving from the country to the city. That poses environmental and economic challenges.

Who are the urban visionaries?
I respect those that strive to look beyond their term and aren’t just working for political gain; Mayor Ahn Sang-soo [of Incheon, South Korea] is a good example.

What are the most important challenges facing cities?
One of the biggest challenges is re-engineering a greener way of life in what is often a very antiquated infrastructure. That is both expensive and difficult to do.

Which cities are beacons for environmental progress?
There aren’t many. Masdar – the new city in Abu Dhabi – has a whole green aspect to it. Songdo – a city being built in Korea – has sustainability built into it around water, energy and transport.

Rafal Dutkiewicz

Mayor of Wroclaw

Poland

Which cities are setting the benchmarks for quality of life?
I would like to say that it is Wrocław, and I think that at least in our country it is so. I am not, however, a blind idealist. I want Wrocław to flourish and I support its development with all my heart but I know there are certain standards we simply cannot compete with.

And where’s falling behind?
The question should be why some cities cannot cope with improving the quality of life? The reasons may be numerous. Looking at our own backyard, legal procedures are often a great hindrance – procedures that date back to the communist times and are out of place with reality. Oftentimes it is a lack of vision for development, lack of new, broad horizons needed in new times.

Is there another mayor you respect?
I have to mention a group of my friends – mayors grouped in the Polish Metropolises Union that I have been working with for new rights for big cities. It could be a good starting point for development of those cities so that they could attain a European standard. I really value this partnership and cooperation.

Saskia Sassen

Professor of sociology, Columbia University

New York, USA

Which cities are setting the benchmarks for quality of life?
It’s much easier to have a good quality of life when you live in a rich city where the population is also affluent. Portland and Zürich both have a great quality of life and fall into that category.

And where’s falling behind?
The whole US is very much behind. Its infrastructure – roads, bridges – is very third rate; something like 27 per cent of all the bridges in the US are ready to fall down.

What are the most important challenges facing cities?
Environmental issues are concrete and urgent today. More than 800 cities in the US have gone against national law to implement environmental policies. This isn’t some political statement either; urgency drives it, the cities had to act. This is especially true of coastal and desert cities.

Which cities are beacons for environmental progress?
Austin is worth mentioning because it is a small city and not particularly rich and is part of a very regressive state [Texas], but despite all that it is taking steps to green itself and is involving all citizens in the process – awarding contracts to small firms so everyone is involved and everyone benefits.

If you could move to another city where would you go? I have homes in Manhattan and London and they are my two favourite cities, they are wired into my daily life. I wouldn’t want to move.

Kathy Alexander

Chief executive of City of Melbourne

Melbourne, Australia

Which cities are setting the benchmarks for quality of life?
I think Barcelona has long been an important benchmark in terms of liveability. It’s dense but is also set out on a human scale, so it’s not a daunting city.

What are the most important challenges facing cities?
Sustainability. Cities account for 75 per cent of the world’s CO2 emissions. One of our goals in Melbourne is leadership in sustainability. We are planning to retrofit 1,200 office buildings with eco-friendly measures to see if we can build a good business case for it.

How will the global recession impact the development of our cities?
I think it could be awful. People will become more dependent on public services. The social trauma associated with enforced poverty – homelessness and so on – will hit cities hard and we need to be ready with support services.

Which cities are beacons for environmental progress?
Toronto and Vancouver are ones to point out, though a lot of cities are centres of excellence in different areas – some are beacons for water use, others for power saving or inclusiveness.

What’s your favourite diversion or pleasure in the city where you live?
The food. Melbourne has great restaurants, the state grows beautiful wine and it’s still relatively cheap by international standards.

Mohinder Singh

Director of research & planning, Land Transport Authority

Singapore

Which cities are setting the benchmarks for quality of life?
I think Portland, Toronto and Zürich are setting real quality-of-life benchmarks. They’ve made a real attempt to focus on making the city more liveable. In the Asian context it’s difficult to say. Many cities are still developing and face different issues.

What are the most important challenges facing cities?
The key challenge is developing sustainable transport. Given the fact of climate change we can’t follow the western model of anchoring growth to the automobile. There’s huge urbanisation in the developing world and that western model just isn’t sustainable. Creating effective public transport is easiest in the early stages of development; places like Mumbai in India have a real challenge on their hands.

How will the global recession impact the development of our cities?
It’s difficult to say, it could go either way. In some countries – such as China – there’ll be a positive emphasis on infrastructure development as a stimulus to economic development. And in Singapore, for example, infrastructure such as sustainable transport is seen as a long-term investment that should be implemented irrespective of the economy. Other countries may be more tied to private sector finances.

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