"...Charles Marohn and his colleagues at the Minnesota-based nonprofit Strong Towns have made a very compelling case that suburban sprawl is basically a Ponzi scheme, in which municipalities expand infrastructure hoping to attract new taxpayers that can pay off the mounting costs associated with the last infrastructure expansion, over and over." Building resilient cities and towns with fiscal conservatism. [more inside]
In 2008 the late Robert Fitch, author of "The Assassination of New York", was asked to foretell an Obama presidency before the Harlem Tenants Association:
If we examine more carefully the interests that Obama represents; if we look at his core financial supporters; as well as his inmost circle of advisors, we’ll see that they represent the primary activists in the demolition movement and the primary real estate beneficiaries of this transformation of public housing projects into condos and townhouses: the profitable creep of the Central Business District and elite residential neighborhoods southward; and the shifting of the pile of human misery about three miles further into the South Side and the south suburbs... Obama’s political base comes primarily from Chicago FIRE—the finance, insurance and real estate industry. And the wealthiest families—the Pritzkers, the Crowns and the Levins.
In The Geographic Flow of Music (arxiv), researchers Conrad Lee and Pádraig Cunningham propose a method to use data from the last.fm API to track the world's listening habits by location and time, showing where shifts in musical tastes have originated and subsequently migrated. Results show music trends originating in smaller cities and flowing outward in unexpected ways, contradicting some assumptions in social science about larger cities being more efficient engines of (cultural) invention.
Tom Vanderbilt on walking in America, in four parts: The Crisis in American Walking, Sidewalk Science, What's Your Walk Score?, and Learning to Walk. (Previously on jaywalking and on cities for people.)
"No one likes a stereotype, unless it’s about someone else — then it’s hilarious. Los Angeles? Celebrity-obsessed lipo-junkies. Portland? Hipster snobs. Boston? Sports fanatics who think that a win for the Sox somehow makes them winners, too. There’s nothing really wrong with these stereotypes — in fact, they give each city a unique cultural identity. How true they are is another matter."[more inside]
Astana, the new capital of Kazakhstan, is brash and grandiose—and wildly attractive to young strivers seeking success. [more inside]
How the Dutch got their cycle paths (Youtube). How Paris decided to become a bicycle friendly city. How Copenhagen became a cycling city (PDF). How San Francisco became a cycling city. How London tried (and failed) to become a cycling city. How Sevilla, Spain is becoming a world-class bicycling city (more: Seville's lesson and Seville's remarkable transformation). How Ciclovia came to Bogotá (Streetfilms). How Portland plans to become the first world-class bike city in America; how expanding Portland's inexpensive bicycle network led to an exponentially expanding amount of bicycling (Streetfilms). How Janette Sadik-Khan is transforming New York City streets (Streetfilms). [more inside]
"Every week for the forseeable future, . . ., more than a million people are being added to our cities." Geoffrey West applies the paradigms of physics to cities, businesses, biological and social sciences. Extra. Previously.
Evolution Right Under Our Noses. "A small but growing number of field biologists study urban evolution — the biological changes that cities bring to the wildlife that inhabits them." [Via]
Danish architect Jan Gehl on making cities safe for people, the art and science of designing good cities for walking, and how to plan good cities for bicycling.
Forum for the Future, a UK-based non-profit, has produced a series of short videos depicting possible future scenarios for sustainable urban mobility. Titled "Megacities on the move," the series explores "how we will live and travel in the cities of 2040". The four scenarios are (links to Vimeo): Planned-opolis , Communi-city, Renew-abad, and Sprawl-ville. [more inside]
The Growth Ponzi Scheme, a series of five blog posts on the financial underpinnings (or lack thereof) of the American post-war development pattern. 1: The Mechanisms of Growth - Trading near-term cash for long-term obligations. 2: Case studies that show how our places do not create, but destroy, our wealth. 3: The Ponzi scheme revealed - How new development is used to pay for old development. 4: How we've sustained the unsustainable by going "all in" on the suburban pattern of development. 5: Responses that are rational and responses that are irrational.
Safe Ground is an organization of Sacramento's homeless population to claim a secure location in order to live decently. While resistance to tent cities (previously, 2, 3) has largely been due to political expediency (criminalizing homelessness is easier than ending it), a spot on Oprah brought media attention to the plight of the homeless and made it more difficult for police to bully them from place to place with the threat of jail. In response to this, Costa Mantis(of He Knows You're Alone fame [uncredited on the wiki]) started filming the personal stories of the homeless along the American River in Sacramento. This led to Searching for Safe Ground, a miniseries concerning the struggle of Sacramento's homeless for a place to exist. Incidentally, a federal jury ruled tonight that the city of Sacramento has been violating homeless people's constitutional rights by moving them from public property and confiscating their property. Stay tuned.
Moving Beyond the Automobile is a series of ten short videos by Streetfilms that highlights new directions in urban transportation. It shows how cities in the U.S. are encouraging a shift away from car dependency and making it easier and more pleasant to get around by other means. [more inside]
China is planning to merge the nine cities around the Pearl River Delta, producing the worlds largest city.
In the 1960's, 70's and 80's, urban decay and high crime rates caused retail chain supermarkets to flee New York City. (google books link) Korean immigrants filled the gap with corner grocery stores. For nearly two decades they were ubiquitous -- symbols of the group's ongoing quest to achieve the American Dream. But 30 years later, Where Did The Korean Greengrocers Go? [more inside]
The Daily Beast attempts to identify America's Smartest Cities. Rather more seriously, Nature ponders the Best Cities for Science worldwide, as part of its special on Science and the City. (The podcast segment on cities is a nice overview.)
Worldchanging Bright Green Future City - Alex Steffen sits down with the mayors of Portland and Seattle to talk about
which is better the 'future city' and the confluence of urbanization, social justice and environmental change, not to mention political pushback amid high unemployment and cultural inertia.
How segregated is your city? Eric Fischer maps the top 40 US cities by race, using 2000 census data. Each color-coded dot represents 25 people: Red is White, Blue is Black, Green is Asian, and Orange is Hispanic. The maps are oddly pretty, and revealing. Compare, for example, Detroit and San Antonio. via [more inside]
europe-cities is a beautifully organized, practical site for information about traveling to cities in Europe. All the information is in one place: info about specific cities, cuisine, history, overview information, weather, a variety of cultural interests from English Christmas Markets to Hungarian culture. And, best of all, finding the cheapest/best places to stay. [more inside]
Beyond City Limits: The age of nations is over. The new urban age has begun. "The 21st century will not be dominated by America or China, Brazil or India, but by the city. In an age that appears increasingly unmanageable, cities rather than states are becoming the islands of governance on which the future world order will be built. This new world is not -- and will not be -- one global village, so much as a network of different ones."
Locals vs. Tourists: Eric Fischer maps Flickr pictures taken by city locals (in blue) against those taken by tourists (in red).
"Eighty-seven percent of all trips are made by personal vehicle and 99 percent of those trips arrive at a free parking space." But that free parking comes at a high cost according to Donald Shoup's research. He advocates for charging the right price for on-street parking and for removing off-street parking requirements. Shoup's ideas are coming to the streets in San Francisco's new demand-responsive parking system. Loyal Shoupistas work to spread and implement his ideas.
8bit Cities: Amsterdam - Austin - Berlin - Detroit - London - New York - Paris - San Francisco - Seattle - Washington, D.C.
A new project called CitID is attempting to collect logos and/or typefaces representing every city in the world. So far, they have over 150 submissions, including Berlin, Kiev, Portland, Bogota, Tokyo, and Cape Town. [more inside]
The Politically Incorrect Guide to Ending Poverty In the 1990s, Paul Romer revolutionized economics. In the Aughts, he became rich as a software entrepreneur. Now he's trying to help the poorest countries grow rich—by convincing them to establish foreign-run "charter cities" within their borders. Romer's idea is unconventional, even neo-colonial—the best analogy is Britain's historic lease of Hong Kong. And against all odds, he just might make it happen. (via cc) [more inside]
Infographic: Food spending in the biggest U.S. cities. Austin, TX is living large. Detroit, MI must be losing weight.
19.20.21. is a planned five-year project to understand the effects of the rising global population of humanity becoming increasingly urbanized: 19 cities in the world with 20 million people in the 21st century. The Flash-based introduction includes historical trends and geographic factors.
Uneven Terrain is a series of short documentaries about urban exploration, about 10-15 minutes long each. There are six so far, about monumental ruins in New York, Centralia, the Pennsylvania town where an underground coalseam has been on fire since the 1960s, abandoned missile silos in the US and how they're being turned into homes, oil drilling in Los Angeles, the Teufelberg listening station and the abandoned bunkers under Tempelhof Airport in Berlin and pirate radio in London and on the old Redsand sea forts. Each short doc has a different presenter. All have accompanying photo galleries. [These are produced for the bootmaker Palladium, but it's pretty low-key]
LONDON, the Metropolis and Glory of the Kingdom, was anciently the Seat of the British Empire; and since, stiled commonly, the Royal Chamber of our Kings. The Kings Chamber, the Heart of the Commonwealth, and a Short Draught of the whole Kingdom: As it was once described by Sir Edward Coke, sometime Recorder of this City. It may boast it self to be the largest in Extent, and the fairest built, the most Populous, and best inhabited (and that by a Civil, Rich and Sober People) of any in the World. And for a general Trade throughout the Universe, all other must give her the Precedence. [more inside]
Virtual hacking is cool but place hacking makes it core again, brachiating across scaffolding to get the shot on your Digital SLR that maximizes your flickr stats, raking in the google adsense cash and conforming to a zerowork ethos if we get pro at it. Sleep in ruins, sell your photos of disgusting shit to tourists. Rinse off in a petrol station sink and repeat. We are the nerds that finally walked away from their computers and we are behind that scaffolding covering the building you ignore everyday when you walk by it going to work, we just loved on that place like no one has in 20 years. We are psychotopological terrorists and we will shove that masterlock up your ass.A "reformed archaeologist" talks about exploration of urban ruins. Modern urban ruins.
The New York City Open Accessible Space Information System Cooperative (OASIS) is an online, interactive mapping and data analysis application that gives an incredibly detailed view of New York City's open spaces and how they are used. The map enables overlays of information like: transit; parks, playgrounds and open space; zoning and landmarks; current and historical land use; social services; demographics; and environmental characteristics.(via The Ministry of Type, who like OASIS mainly for its pretty map possibilities.) [more inside]
The first human settlements... before the bronze age, before the iron age and even probably before the stone age, didn’t happen because people liked each other’s company. "As the old saying goes, there's safety in numbers... and fortifications. "If you have any doubt about how wood, stone and later even steel walls helped shape human civilization, all you need to do is take a close look at most of our cities, especially the older ones."
Paul Romer: A Theory of History, with an Application - "His economic theory of history explains phenomena such as the constant improvement of the human standard of living by looking primarily at just two forms of innovative ideas: technology and rules." (previously, via) [more inside]
Prelude to Federation - Like a neocolonial SEZ (or TAZ) Paul Romer, not to be confused with David, posits "less developed countries contract with capitalist nations to set up Hong Kong's for them... that we rethink sovereignty (respect borders, but maybe import administrative control); rethink citizenship (support residency, but maybe import voice in political affairs); and rethink scale (instead of focusing on nations, focus on cities—on city states like Hong Kong and Singapore)." cf. neocameralism [1, 2, 3] [more inside]
(pdf) states that if you tabulate the biggest cities in a given country and rank them according to their populations, the largest city is always about twice as big as the second largest, and three times as big as the third largest, and so on. In other words, the population of a city is, to a good approximation, inversely proportional to its rank." [more inside]
Thinking of relocating in these troubled economic times? You might want to consider checking out Forbes' list of The Most Overpriced Cities in America. The Top 5: Los Angeles, Chicago, Miami, New York, and... Providence?
Recent research has found that living in a city may be bad for your brain. Compared with natural settings, cities over-stimulate us and impair our memory and cognitive functions.
"The last eight years, in terms of engagement, [Washington] D.C. has just been a photo op for the president, or a foil," says Tommy Wells, a social worker turned D.C. Council member. [more inside]
Soviet Music "You are browsing a resource which is devoted first of all to the history and culture of the Soviet Union, the country which the West for a long time usually named as "The Empire of Evil", the country to which some people in the West perceive as "something big and snowy". I offer you to try to look outside the frames of usual stereotypes, to try to understand life of a unique country, with its interesting history, beautiful culture and miraculous relations between people. The music submitted on this site - is an evident sample of a totally new culture, which completely differs from all that, with what Hollywood and MTV supply us so much. This culture, being free from the cult of money, platitude, violence and sex, was urged to not indulge low bents of a human soul but to help the person to become culturally enriched and to grow above himself." [more inside]
Swimming Cities of Switchback Sea is an exhibit by Swoon composed of seven floating sculptures made from discarded materials. Following a performance tour down the Hudson River, it is docked at Deitch Studios in NYC until October 18th.
Visualizing Early Washington. A project at the Imaging Research Center of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County has reconstructed the original landscape of Washington DC before its radical transformation into a modern capital city. [more inside]