Monday, October 4, 2010

The Sooty Spectre

Joel Kotkin, writing in Foregn Policy, examines the future of urban development.  Kotkin argues that planners should do more to resist the growing trend of megacities.  On the global scale, he thinks that small cities (like Austin, Tel Aviv, and Monterrey) seem poised to outpace lumbering and inefficient mega-regions.  He concludes:   

The goal of urban planners should not be to fulfill their own grandiose visions of megacities on a hill, but to meet the needs of the people living in them, particularly those people suffering from overcrowding, environmental misery, and social inequality. When it comes to exporting our notions to the rest of the globe, we must be aware of our own susceptibility to fashionable theories in urban design -- because while the West may be able to live with its mistakes, the developing world doesn't enjoy that luxury.

Applying these policies in the U.S. might mean encouraging more urbanism in smaller cities (to make them more efficient, more pleasant places to live) and bolstering local industries.  Places like Asheville, Boise, Morgantown, and Greensboro have found success by integrating some urbanist concepts (walkable downtowns, mixed-use districts) with the American preference for car ownership and large-ish homes. This seems like a decent alternative to packing New York and Chicago with evermore bodies.

Steve Clowney

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