Australia publishes cities report & launches Liveable Cities program

From LandReader by Damian Holmes information on a new very accessible manual on Livable Cities:

The Australian Government has recently published the “State of Australian Cities 2011″ report (PDF Link) that gives “a better understanding of how our cities work, the report also identifies the specific initiatives of local councils and state planning authorities which are proving effective at promoting more productive, sustainable and liveable urban communities.”

At the same time the government also launched the Liveable Cities program allocates $AUD20.0 million over two years for “improved alignment of urban planning and design with the National Urban Policy and COAG principles, resulting in lasting partnerships between and within levels of government, and between governments, not-for-profit organisations and private interests. Projects will provide lessons in achieving good planning outcomes that can be transferred and applied across Australia’s cities”. The funding is limited to 50% of the total project cost making sure that the organisations involved also contribute to projects.

Scientific American _ Cities Special Issue

The special issue of Scientific American  has a vast range of topical articles on the issues of cities and how they could become “better” and “smarter” both laconic buzz words of media  and big business fixation, most of the content is on line as well as much that is not in the newsstand version – well worth perusing both the online and paper versions.

View the online edition

Drive a lot? Housing density may not be to blame (via Per Square Mile)

Almost certainly the idea that simply increasing density will reduce car usage again brings forth the mistaken idea that simple short term solutions can mitigate complex long term effects and is a result of the common planning fallacy that common location implies community – while this has been shown not to have even been true in the rural villages of past ages, we cling to these design simplicities rather than engaging with the complexity of the real city.

Drive a lot? Housing density may not be to blame Pushing high density living may seem like a good way to get people out of their cars—saving them money, curbing emissions, and reducing oil dependence—but densification may not be a silver bullet, according to one recent study. The authors dug into the National Household Transportation Survey to examine per household vehicle ownership rates, vehicle miles traveled (VMT), and fuel consumption. While the results are by no means comprehensive or con … Read More

via Per Square Mile

This is your brain in the city (via Per Square Mile)

You always knew when you needed a break from the city – here the start of the scientific proof…. enjoy the weekend in the country – if you grew up in the city like many of us – it may not be enough!

This is your brain in the city For a kid who spent much of his childhood outdoors—alternately splitting time between the wooded park down the street, my friends’ backyards, and a patch of countryside my parent’s tended—I have been spending a lot of time in rather large cities as an adult. Ever since I left college, I’ve lived in cities that count their residents in hundreds of thousands and metro areas that count in the millions. It’s gotten me to wondering, what effect are th … Read More

via Per Square Mile

Designing the Post-Political City and the Insurgent Polis’: A Recorded Presentation by Erik Swyngedouw

From [polis} a  dissertation on alternatives to top-down design with the limited purpose of serving vested financial and political influences for the benefit of its population – this is particularly relevant to our situation here in Cape Town with the current emphasis on Central Improvement Districts, IRT systems which serve more affluent suburbs rather than the urban poor stuck in ghettos on the periphery and Soccer World Cup stadiums that are now white elephants and a financial noose around the cities neck while the profits accrue in the hands of vested international interests – is there a way to resist this is the focus of a recorded presentation by Eric Swyngedouw on “Designing the Post-Political City and the Insurgent Polis.” Swyngedouw is a professor of geography at the University of Manchester School of Environment and Development.

Swyngedouw points to a climate of global consensus that has become pervasive over the past twenty years, effectively suppressing dissent and excluding most people from governance. He explains this consensus as limited to a select group (e.g., elite politicians, business leaders, NGOs, experts from a variety of fields) and perpetuated through “empty signifiers” like the sustainable/creative/world-class city. He argues that this consensus serves a “post-political” neoliberal order in which governments fail to address citizens’ most basic needs in order to subsidize the financial sector and take on grandiose projects designed to attract global capital. He adds that the flipside of management through limited consensus is rebellion on the part of the excluded, which he views as insurgent architecture and planning that claims a place in the order of things. Swyngedouw calls for open institutional channels for enacting dissent, fostering a democratic politics based on equal opportunity for all in shaping the decisions that affect our lives. He envisions the city as “insurgent polis” — a new agora where democratic politics can take place, where anyone can make a case for changing the existing framework

Listen to the presentation and read more on [polis]

Book Review: Small Scale: Creative Solutions for Better City Living

Posted by Min Li Chan on polis
Keith Moskow and Robert Linn
Princeton Architectural Press (2010)
Fellow Polis blogger, Melissa Garcia Lamarca, and I recently hunkered down with Moskow and Linn’s sojourn into small-scale urban interventions by architects for “making life better for city dwellers” around the world (as the authors describe in the book’s introduction). Paul Goldberger, in his recent New Yorker piece on Frank Gehry’s new residential tower at 8 Spruce Street in Brooklyn, observed that:

For the past half century, there have been two ways to build an apartment building in New York: an architect’s way or a developer’s way.

In reviewing the genuinely creative, fascinating projects put forth in “Small Scale,” we wondered aloud if the criteria and measures of success used by the authors was too steeped in the architect’s way, leaving us with lingering questions on the projects’ process and true impact, particularly with our respective backgrounds in urban politics/development and technology/ethnography. One may argue that the architect’s way lives too much in the world of Utopian ideas (while the developer’s way is largely pragmatic, functional, at the risk of being overly utilitarian).
Still, the format appears to repudiate that of an architectural coffee table book and warrants thoughtful debate. Thus, we’ve taken a slightly unorthodox approach to this book review by presenting it in the experimental form of a free-flow conversation, conducted via online chat between New York and San Francisco. With fond apologies for any errors of web-speak that are to follow, Continue reading

The Ultimate Country of Cities

A tribute and a reason to pause and consider ones own position in relation to disaster and, civility and society in our own country.. could we in the tip of Africa hope one day to be a society that while divided in many ways act cohesively enough before disaster in every little decision  to one day  master social and civil discourse like this? By Vishaan Chakrabarti in UrbanOmnibus

Tokyo, 2010 | Photos by Vishaan ChakrabartiTokyo, 2010 | Photos by Vishaan Chakrabarti

This, my tenth and final entry for a Country of Cities on Urban Omnibus, is in essence a highly personal love letter to Japan. For over a year, the wonderful readers of the Omnibus have cheered and jeered as I have relentlessly argued that the United States faces a series of deeply connected challenges: economic decline, energy dependence, oil wars, terrorism, xenophobia, protectionism, mounting debt, and spiraling health care costs. These challenges, while vexing when taken together, are surmountable with the silver bullet of the city. The combined growth of the skyscraper and the subway, I continue to posit, is the best path to keep our nation and our developing planet economically, environmentally, and socially sustainable. The recent catastrophe in Japan has shaken me into remembering, however, that the real trailblazers in truly dense urban living have been the Japanese, for which they have largely prospered, and because of which they will overcome the unthinkable triple tragedy they now face. Continue reading

Our Cities Ourselves: The Future of Transportation in Urban Life via cities for people

Andrew Boraine of cities for people posts about a current exhibition in Cape Town:

Our Cities Ourselves: The Future of Transportation in Urban Life showcases the potential transformational role of transportation in ten major cities across the world and illustrates how the dream of a sustainable, equitable and liveable future can be realized when transport is a core foundation.

Ten of the world’s leading architects have shown how integrating urban planning with transport can enable cities to thrive, while also combating climate change and managing population growth, in a global exhibition that originally kicked off in New York in June 2010, and which is now in Cape Town, hosted by the Cape Town Partnership and the Freeworld Design Centre. Continue reading

A Leg Up – How cities are failing their residents – via Metropolis

An article in Metropolis Magazine referred by Encountering Urbanization sets out views of how the world global cities are failing to provide the necessary leverage for the majority of their citizens to benefit from the supposed advantages of dense urban environments and globalization: I have illustrated this with pictures from Charlie Koolhaas’s exhibition of photos  “True Cities” ‘A Photo Essay From London – featured in Domus:

Charlie Koolhaas, True Cities: Lagos, Nigeria

By Joel Kotkin : Metropolis

“Throughout much of history, cities have served as incubators for upward mobility. A great city, wrote René Descartes in the 17th century, was “an inventory of the possible,” a place where people could lift their families out of poverty and create new futures. In his time, Amsterdam was that city, not just for ambitious Dutch peasants and artisans but for people from all over Europe. Today, many of the world’s largest cities, in both the developed and the developing world, are failing to serve this aspirational function.

Though leading urban theorists love to celebrate the most rarified parts of the city economy—Saskia Sassen refers to “urban glamour zones” that thrive in what New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg proudly calls the “luxury city”—they tend to forget about working- and middle-class residents. Unfortunately, these urban ideas appear to be contagious, as they’re being applied to the expanding cities of Asia and other
developing regions. A recent World Bank report argued that large urban concentrations—the denser, the better—are the most prodigious creators of opportunity and wealth. “To spread out economic growth,” the report claimed, is to discourage it.” Continue reading