Shrinking cities are a focus of growing concern. Globalisation has increased the vulnerability of cities to sudden adverse changes in their economic base. Austerity policies augment the problems. Loss of a key economic activity, can be followed by net out-migration of economically active age groups, falling tax revenues, an aging population but declining public services, “excessive” infrastructure that is expensive to maintain, empty property and gap sites. What strategies are being pursued in different parts of the world to address these challenges?
Mumbai has been a powerful driver of economic growth in India over the past couple of decades. It is a mega-city with an estimated population of over 20 million. Much of the growth has taken place despite rather than because of planning. A spate of building collapses in recent weeks has prompted new debates about how to regulate development in this boom town. Provision of affordable housing has not kept pace with housing need, resulting in illegal housing development on a massive scale. However, it is not only houses that are falling down. People are risking their lives in poorly constructed workplaces as they try to earn a living.
This piece was first published in Planning 21 July 1989 and is reproduced by kind permission of Haymarket Publications. Because it ran over 2 pages it has to be reproduced here as two separate items
The "Diary" tells of a week spent in meetings with planners in what was then Czechoslovakia. It was written just a few months before the Velvet Revolution in November 1989 which swept away the communist regime. The diary provides a first hand account of the tribulations of day to day life at the time which undermined the regime. It also shows how planners were working in the strange period of reform under perestroika led by Gorbachov and pressed on a reluctant Czechoslovak administration.
This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 17 July 2012.
The next generation is going to witness a staggering amount of new urban development as the world’s economic centre of gravity shifts towards Asia. Cities in both developed and rapidly urbanising countries need professional planning if they are to prosper. Companies serving consumer markets should grasp the significance of the growing urban middle class and its diversity. Urban analysis is increasingly necessary for business success. These are the main messages from a dramatic new report from the McKinsey Global Institute (MGI).
Věra Chytilová's film Panelstory is essential viewing for planners and housing professionals. Made in what was then Czechoslovakia in 1979, it shows residents (not) adjusting to life in a new high rise estate. While the prefabricated panels are swung by huge cranes through space against a blue sky, on the ground women struggle to push prams and buggies through the mud on their way to join the queue at the clinic.
This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 28 January 2012.
I went to the cinema last night to watch a new film from China. I recommend “Mr Tree” as a film that gives you a flavour of the great transition that China is going through as people move to the cities. It shows some of the processes of change and their impacts on villages in the countryside. It will prompt planners, environmentalists and those involved in economic development to debate the costs and benefits of an annual growth rate of 8% per annum growth rate, and to ask could similar gains be achieved without some of the less desirable side effects?
This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 28 November 2011.
Nowa Huta was a showcase development by the communist government in Poland in the 1950s. Today, on a bright, cold central European winter afternoon, I took the bus from the old town of Krakow, and rode out to see the place that in 1949 promised poor people “a better future”. In this homage to socialist realist town planning and architecture I was also retracing my own past. In 1970, during my first year teaching in the Department of Town and Country Planning at Heriot-Watt University/Edinburgh College of Art, I came here on a study visit with my students.
This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 14 November 2011.
The palm trees sway in the breeze. Under a blue sky, the waves lap the beach of a sandy cove. The nearby mangrove forests are home to an amazing diversity of wildlife. How will Brunei, this tropical paradise, cope with the development pressures coming its way over the next 40 years? What does it tell us about planning in small countries?
This blog was first posted on the Planning Resource website on 14 June 2011.
After spending a month in the USA (the reason for the lack of recent blogs) I have really begun to grasp the scale of the housing market crisis there. The sub-prime US mortgage market triggered the global economic crisis in 2007-8. Now the weakness of the housing market is slowing the US recovery, and making front page news day by day. As housing became a commodity and an investment opportunity, rather than a place to live, so speculation led to over-production and predictable bust. Foreclosures have soared, homebuilding has stopped and many homes now lie empty.