August 12, 2012 | permalink
Smart Urban Stage (a Website sponsored by Smart car) recently asked me to contribute a question for its “Future of the City” series. I asked:
“How can technology make more efficient use of the buildings and resources we already have? The typical office is two-thirds empty during business hours, for instance, while most cities contain thousands of empty roofs, vacant lots, and fallow gardens. Rather than build new subdivisions or sustainable skyscrapers, how can we reuse, reorganize, share, and extend the lifespans of our homes, land, and possessions? What do we need — communities, trust, real-time information? — and can online tools create offline opportunities?”
The British collaborative consumption site Landshare replied:
It’s often the simple ideas that are the most effective. There is a term called ‘collaborative consumption’ which is layman’s terms means ‘sharing through technology’. It’s a movement born of the internet that allows people to recycle, reuse and distribute. Amongst the ideas in this collective include sharing power tools, bikes, parking spots, clothes, taxies and now gardens and urban spaces.
Landshare came about because of several reasons. In UK cities there is a huge demand to grow you own vegetables and become more self-sufficient. However the amount of allotments available in big cities has dramatically reduced over the past 50 years. Waiting lists for allotments has increased to 10 years in some parts of the country. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall was filming a series of River Cottage in 2008 when he helped renovate some derelict land and share it with a neighbourhood for them to grow their own veg. Soon after he realised that this kind of project could work nationally and Landshare was born in 2009.
You can read the entire thing here.
May 08, 2012 | permalink
For the last few years, the economist Paul Romer has been traveling the world making the case for building “charter cities,” i.e. cities built from scratch across the developing world in an effort to create jobs and wealth while replacing aid with trade. In theory, the idea is powerful and intriguing — as Jane Jacobs once said, “cities don’t attract the middle class, they create it,” and so creating high-functioning cities might be one way to solve poverty when the world’s urban population is expected to double. But for various reasons (including charges of neo-colonialism), only one nation has taken him up on it — Honduras.
In February, I flew to Honduras to learn what I could about its implementation of Romer’s concept (known colloquially as REDs), and about his new partners in a government that came to power after a coup removed the country’s democratically-elected president in 2009. My story is now live at Next American City, although be warned: it’s behind a paywall.
(In the interest of full disclosure, I am a visiting scholar at NYU’s Rudin Center of Transportation Policy and Management; Romer’s Urbanization Project sits within NYU Stern and Solly Angel teaches at NYU Wagner. Also, Paul blurbed my book.)
To whet your appetite, here’s an excerpt from the piece describing Romer’s faith that rules and institutions create successful cities, not architecture or urban planning (and he may be right):
Imagining the future is one thing; designing cities for as many as 10 million inhabitants (in a country of only 7.5 million) is an altogether different exercise — especially if you doubt that urban form and planning make any difference in their success.
“Do you know of the South Pacific cargo cults?” Romer asked me last October. He was referring to the tribes who had ritually restored World War II landing strips in hopes the U.S. Army would return, bringing C rations with them. For 70 years, they’d mistaken circumstance for causality. “I think architects may be running their own cargo cult,” he said. Their obsession with form had blinded them to the true importance of rules. Look at the Army: “It went from one of the most segregated institutions to the most integrated” gradually in the decades following the Vietnam War. “The buildings didn’t change.”
“It’s important that buildings don’t catch fire or fall down when there’s an earthquake,” he added, affirming the necessity of building codes. “Otherwise, I don’t think it matters all that much.”
Romer had made a similar point a few years earlier in a debate with Yale University economist Chris Blattman, who had compared charter cities to the infamous high-rise public housing projects of Chicago’s Cabrini-Green. Romer replied that high-rises had worked “remarkably well” in sheltering the poor of Hong Kong and Singapore. “The key difference between these cases lay not in the hardware or architecture but rather in the supporting rules, particularly those related to crime,” he wrote. Architectural historian Katharine G. Bristol made a similar case in her 1991 essay ““The Pruitt-Igoe Myth” arguing modern architecture hadn’t failed the residents of infamous St. Louis projects —institutions had.
Still, plans must be made, not just for Honduras but for the potentially dozens of charter cities Romer hopes to inspire around the world. His guru in these matters is Shlomo “Solly” Angel, who teaches planning at NYU and Princeton and was his first recruit for the Urbanization Project. Angel saw the developing world’s urban explosion first-hand during a 30-year career as an advisor to the United Nations and the World Bank in Bangkok, Nairobi and across Latin America, including Honduras. Most recently, he’s turned to geographic information systems and satellite photography to document the astounding pace of urban expansion.
Angel’s working theory of instant urbanism can be reduced to two principles, each of which is controversial. The first is that outward expansion is inevitable and must be accommodated, and the second is that the mistake most planners make is to plan too much, not too little. “What I try to do is the opposite of what these other guys are trying to do,” he told me recently in his SoHo loft. “They’re trying to specify more and more and more. I’m saying: ‘What is the minimum amount that I could specify?’ And after that, I say I don’t care.”
May 08, 2012 | permalink
In Aerotropolis, I describe what might be called the “Dubai Effect,” i.e. the emirate’s overbuilding during the boom for a transient population of millions who inhabit the city only a few fleeting moments at a time. Rem Koolhaas realized it first:
The architect Rem Koolhaas barely came to grips with this while designing Waterfront City, Nakheel’s abandoned city within a city within a city (and the collateral on Dubai World’s debt). “There is a weird alternation between density and emptiness,” he confessed. “You rarely feel you are designing for people who are actually there but for communities that have yet to be assembled.” He learned that its “density is virtual. Almost everybody who lives in Dubai also lives somewhere else . . . The actual inhabitation of the city is a fraction of its maximum capacity.”
Now the trend toward “absenteeism” has gone global:
“The more money you have, the more rootless you become because everything is possible,” says Jeremy Davidson, a property consultant who specialises in properties that cost £10m or more in the most sought-after postcodes in London.
“I have clients who wake up in the morning and say, ‘Let’s go to Venice for lunch.’ If you’ve got that sort of money the world becomes a very small place. They tend to have a diminished sense of place, of where their roots are,” he says.
This increasingly global lifestyle has led to the stateless super-rich buying a larger portion of the world’s most expensive homes as they look to park their wealth in perceived havens. On average they own four to five properties, usually consisting of two in their country of principal residence, one in a “global city” such as London, Paris or New York, and a holiday home in a hot climate – or one in the Alps.
May 06, 2012 | permalink
This week’s episode of Wisconsin Public Radio’s “To The Best Of Our Knowledge” is devoted to airports, featuring Alain de Botton (A Week at the Airport), Christopher Schaberg (The Textual Life of Airports), Brian Eno’s “Music for Airports,“and myself, talking about Aerotropolis. You can listen to or download my ten-minute segment here, and the transcript follows:
Jim Fleming: Did you know that Memphis, Tennessee bills itself as “America’s Aerotropolis”? Chances are, you’ve never even heard the word “aerotropolis,” but it"s a word that Greg Lindsay is very familiar with. He’s the co-author, along with John Kasarda, of the book. “Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.” Greg Lindsay tells Steve Paulson what exactly an aerotropolis is.
Greg Lindsay: An aerotropolis, as conceived by my co-author, John Kasarda, who sort of popularized the phrase, is literally a city built around an airport, usually by intention. He discovered the word in China where they’ve been building dozens of these, but it’s basically as he imagines it, a city built around the terminals and around the airfield, starting with sort of cargo rings and expanding out into offices and beyond, but in practice as I like to think of it, you know there are many cities that could qualify for the label “aerotropolis.” It’s any city which uses its airport and air travel to connect itself to communities on the other side of the world more closely than the cities in its own region. I look to places like Dubai, which is really sort of in the middle of nowhere unless you air travel, in which case it’s in the center of the world.
April 28, 2012 | permalink
Philosophers, emperors, and artists have long succumbed to the pull of urban magnetism. Plato wrote of Atlantis; Petersburg rose from swamplands at the word of a czar; L. Frank Baum pictured an Emerald City; and William Gibson imagined a Sprawl. As our cities transform so too do our dreams and fears for their future. But with the World Health Organization’s estimate that by mid-century the global urban population will double to 6.4 billion, these dreams take on a sense of urgency.
By 2030, six out of every ten people will live in a city, and the most pressing global challenges will increasingly play out in urban locations. With this growth comes a host of challenges: pollution, lack of access to clean water, snarling traffic, congested metro stations, and tons of garbage. Given this, it is clear that the growth of cities cannot be left unplanned. How, by whom, and to what end this planning should be done, however, is far from clear.
It is with these and other questions in mind, the Journal of International Affairs, with the help of the World Policy Institute, and Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs held a thought leadership forum on the future of the city on April 23rd. Columbia University Professor Ester R. Fuchs moderated an eclectically staffed panel of seven speakers. Yale University professor Alexander Garvin and Jeffrey Inaba, founding director of C-lab—a think tank at Columbia University’s Graduate School of Architecture—brought urban design perspectives to the discussion. Famed Columbia sociology professor Saskia Sassen; Greg Lindsay, author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next; Kavitha Rajagopalan, author of Muslims of Metropolis and a World Policy Institute fellow; Carne Ross, the founder and executive director of Independent Diploma, a nonprofit diplomatic advisory group; and Jesse M. Keenen, the research director at the Center for Urban Real Estate, rounded out the group.
April 24, 2012 | permalink
Salon’s Will Doig was kind enough to quote me at length in the introductory piece to his series on smart cities, “Your Next Mayor: A Computer.” You can and should read the entire thing here, but this paragraph gives you an idea of several threads I’ve been thinking a lot about lately, and gave a talk about earlier this month at Intel Labs:
Lindsay sees a day when the smart city has become so sentient that we can choose to have our phones make us aware of people in our immediate vicinity who would be advantageous for us to meet. A smart city could eliminate unused office space with a system that allows us to seamlessly share occupancy with strangers whose paths we never actually cross. In the future, we may even marvel that there was a time when cars sat unused 95 percent of the day.
April 14, 2012 | permalink
Last month, I was invited to be the opening speaker of “The City Off The Hill,” the annual conference sponsored by Brown University’s Urban Studies Program. I framed our MoMA project “The Garden in the Machine” as a story (“an urban fairy tale, you could say”) re-imagining what the suburbs could be — vibrant arrival cities for the next wave of immigration. The video is above; I appear around the 3:15 mark.
March 27, 2012 | permalink
This spring, the Institute for the Future’s Anthony Townsend and I are hosting a series of events at Columbia University’s Studio-X Tribeca space called “X Cities” casting a much-needed critical eye on “smart city” hype.
They’re X Cities because X marks the spot at which information technology and mega-urbanization converge. In this first session, we made respective cases for the top-down, intelligent design of “smart cities” versus the bottom-up evolution of crowd-sourced “civic laboratories.” Is information technology a real tool for city-building? And, if so, what is its bright and/or scary future?
The next session on April 10th features IBM’s Guru Banavar, the CTO of its Smarter Cities Initiative and the architect of Rio’s Operations Center.
February 20, 2012 | permalink
Last Friday, as part of the schedule of events around the opening of Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream, the Museum of Modern Art hosted a symposium titled “Public Dreams and Private Needs” in which each of the five teams’ leaders were invited to speak about issues related to their project. Jeanne Gang chose to talk about “Ecology, Social Justice, and Community Involvement” with Chicago journalist Kari Lydersen, who has covered many of the same issues. Video from Jeanne’s presentation is below; I make the first of several cameos around the 20:00 mark to discuss the financial models related to our project.
February 09, 2012 | permalink
This summer, I had the honor and privilege of working with the architects, artists, and urban planners Jeanne Gang, Roberta Feldman, Theaster Gates, Kate Orff, and Rafi Segal along with dozens of others (most notably Jeana Ripple and Katrina Stoll) on an exhibition for New York’s Museum of Modern Art titled Foreclosed: Rehousing the American Dream, which re-imagines the future of American public housing and suburbia. Friday’s New York Times contains an op-ed written by me and Jeanne encapulating our team’s findings and prescriptions for suburbs like Cicero, Illinois (the site of our project), which have become the destination of choice for immigrants — opening the door to whole new set of problems which have been ignored in the post-bubble housing debate.
The exhibit itself opens on February 15th in the museum’s Architecture and Design galleries. If you’d like to learn more about our project and the exhibit, MoMA is hosting a public symposium on Friday, Feb. 17 featuring each of the five teams’ leaders in conversation about their projects. Jeanne is scheduled to speak about ours at 2:30 PM; tickets and more information are available here. The op-ed itself begins this way:
RECENT efforts to fix the housing market — including Thursday’s $26 billion settlement with five of the nation’s biggest banks — have focused purely on the financial aspects of the slump. A permanent solution, however, must go further than money to address issues that have been at the core of the crisis but have been wholly ignored: design and urban planning.
Too often during the bubble, banks and builders shunned thoughtful architecture and urban design in favor of cookie-cutter houses that could be easily repackaged as derivatives to be flipped, while architects snubbed housing to pursue more prestigious projects.
But better design is precisely what suburban America needs, particularly when it comes to rethinking the basic residential categories that define it, but can no longer accommodate the realities of domestic life. Designers and policy makers need to see the single-family house as a design dilemma whose elements — architecture, finance and residents’ desires — are inextricably linked.
The rest of the article is available at The New York Times.
Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, and speaker. He is a contributing writer for Fast Company and an author of the international bestseller Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next. He is also a visiting scholar at New York University’s Rudin Center for Transportation Policy & Management, a fellow of the World Policy Institute, and a research affiliate of the New England Complex Systems Institute (NECSI).
The New York Times | April 2013
Fast Company | March 2013
Fast Company | March 2013
Fast Company | December 2012/January 2013
WSJ | November 2012
Fast Company | June 2012
Next American City | May 2012
The New York Times | Feburary 2012
Departures | October 2011
Travel + Leisure | October 2011
The New York Times | September 2011
World Policy Journal | Fall 2011
Advertising Age | September 2011
Open Skies | July 2011
WSJ | May 2011
WSJ | February 2011
The New York Times | February 2011
Advertising Age | November 2010
Fast Company | December/January 2010
Fast Company | November 2010
May 03, 2013
May 01, 2013
April 18, 2013
April 05, 2013