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.
So what about projects such as Neom planned for development in the Saudi Arabian desert? In 1966 Walt Disney lay dying in his hospital bed dreaming of the city of the future. He used the ceiling tile grid to plan out the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow or EPCOT. It would have a 50-acre domed business park, underground transportation, automated garbage collection, and carefully delineated zones to work, live, shop, and play.
In Disney’s planned and controlled community of 20,000, everyone worked. There would be no retirees. Disney would manage the city and citizens would forego democratic rule and the right to own property in exchange for the opportunity to live in a slum-free and crime-free city. Walt believed that Disney-defined “Nuclear Family Values”, modest rents, small town nostalgia, and technological innovation would add to the attractiveness of this community that would be delivered fully-formed.
Disney Corporation extracted almost every concession it needed from the Florida legislature to start its construction near Orlando. But, Walt had died of lung cancer and the corporate drive just wasn’t there. So instead, we have the Epcot theme park. The corporation did develop the community of Celebration, now built on part of the land purchased for the planned EPCOT community. However, Celebration is just another North-American, middle-class suburb. It lacks local employment, diversity, and affordability. Car-centric Celebration has few if any, walkable retail or service outlets.
Did the idea of fully formed cities die with Walt Disney? Well, no! Forty-plus countries now have 120-city sized projects in some stage of planning or development. The movers behind these mega-projects plan to build them on un-inhabited sites. So, no messy infrastructure problems and more importantly, no messy people problems. Only planned perfection – the technocrat’s Nirvana. The belief – build the right environment, the “desired class” of people and industry can be plugged in. No messy industries, cities that attract only a “certain class” of people.
However, buildings do not make a city. People make cities – cities and towns evolve. Next up, the Argent LLP approach to its Kings Cross Development, London.
This headline comes from Dezeen: “Architecture studios “benefiting” from alleged human rights violations at Neom“. The violations include forced evictions and violently crushing tribal protests. Project critics Shadli al-Huwaiti, Ibrahim al-Huwaiti and Ataullah al-Huwaiti, have received death sentences. A planned smart city in Saudi – if it gets built, residents can look forward to high levels of surveillance and restrictions on freedom of expression. What creative would even think of living there for one nano-second?
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, […]