City building is a messy business. Most started as a collection of self-sufficient neighbourhoods or villages. Mobility was limited so people lived, worked, farmed, and entertained themselves in compact, densely-populated, self-sufficient neighbourhoods. Everything was accessible by foot.
I always think of London, England when I consider cities as a collection of neighbourhoods. Two thousand years ago it was just another outpost of the Roman empire and a backwater trading port. It took 1800 years for its population to grow to one million people. In the 1800s the population increased five fold, and now over nine million people live in London, a city of just over 1600 square kilometres.
In the growth process, London has gobbled up thousands of villages, hamlets, and settlements. Bloomsbury, Notting Hill, Islington, Hampstead, Poplar, and Spitalfields have all been woven into the cosmopolitan fabric that is modern London. Many other villages such as Barnes, Primrose Hill, and East Dulwich retain some of their rural charm and original character.
London’s many urban villages and its 1600 square kilometres are connected by efficient public transit all managed by Transport for London (“TfL”). The underground or “Tube” has eleven lines, over 400 kilometres of track, and 270 stations. There are over 9300 buses servicing 675 routes. The TfL also manages the London Overground rail system, Docklands Light Rail, a Tram system, and active transportation networks. The transit system is the glue that keeps London connected.
The recent Covid-19 pandemic caused many prognosticators to forecast the demise of the city but London and other cities around the world will continue to grow. Following the most recent comparable event, the great Spanish Flu outbreak of 1918 to 1920, cities continued to flourish. Naples, Italy has suffered numerous plagues and lives with the constant threat of a catastrophic volcanic eruption. Yet, Naples’ metropolitan population has grown by 700,000 people since 1950. The future shape of cities may be unknown but their survival and growth is a certainty. Consider these facts:
There will be challenges but, the challenges are not new. They include providing shelter, sustenance, employment, connectivity, and safety. It will not be easy – city building is a messy business.
Lisbon’s seven hills and waterfront make it visually spectacular. The second oldest capital in Europe, the city has energy. Busy streets and squares, full restaurants, and vibrant night life – the city pulsates. And, the population seems young. All signs of a city on the rise? Earthquake A 1755 earthquake destroyed 85% of the city […]
People living on the street have come to symbolize the global housing crisis but they are only the tip of the iceberg. While the examples of Finland and Houston demonstrate a focussed plan pursued diligently can resolve the housing situation for the chronically homeless, addressing the affordable housing problem is much more complex. Defining Affordability […]
I love to dance. This is not something new for me. I can’t remember when I didn’t like to move to the music. My first memories of watching others dance come from my childhood in Cape Breton where I would watch the adults square dance. Then, there were the step dancers who would often accompany […]
Kings Cross, once a thriving industrial and transport centre in London, was effectively closed off to the public by the end of the 20th century. Then in 1996, the decision was made to move the British terminus for the Channel Tunnel Rail Link from Waterloo to St-Pancras. The landowner saw a re-development opportunity for […]
I have postulated that cities and towns evolve. That towns and villages first grow in areas where the basics to support life were plentiful. Typically, that means good agricultural land and good access to water. Other valuable considerations include safety, and resilience. The bonus – access to trade routes. Walt Disney and the Fully Formed […]
A Visit from Saint Nicholas A Poem by Jonathan Potter – December 2022 ‘Twas the first mask-free Christmas, when all through the stores The vaccinated children were spewing their spores;The shoppers were eagerly starting to riotAs the introverts longed for some quarantine quiet. The public healthcare workers were tracing the pathOf the flu and RSV, […]