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?
Co-working space came to mean the notorious We Work model. When I had been asked to opine on co-working I tried to steer the conversation away from the Adam Neumann / Softbank flimflam growth model. Instead, I suggested that property owners look at usage and users. While I doubted We Work’s ability to survive I […]
Before I fall completely into the trap of opposition politics, I have decided to take a break from never-ending criticism and to start suggesting solutions to the affordable housing conundrum. Do I have a plan? No, more a collection of ideas To start with, I think there are three key issues: Home ownership is not […]
I know! I am going to sound like a grumpy old man. Maybe that is because I am. I have been scratching my head in wonderment at the Taylor Swift phenomena. Is she an Incredible song writer, composer, and performer? I really don’t know! A discussion for another time? But probably not. At my age […]
Don’t build it! At least, Not In My Back Yard ! I acted as an advisor in the sale of a beautifully natural, 14-acre urban waterfront estate. Existing zoning allowed for the development of 30 to 35 single-family homes, which after road dedication would leave very little green space. I did not think that was […]
We were visiting Glasgow (literally that Dear Green Place in Gaelic) to see where my father was born, grew up, and went to University. Fortunately for me, my cousin John from Australia had just visited and had met with historians, Bruce Downie and Norry Wilson. So, we too arranged to meet them in the Govanhill […]
Vienna on top again. This week both Monocle Magazine and The Economist unveiled their quality of life / most liveable city indexes. There are differences in the way each publication sets its index. So it is even more impressive that once again, Vienna tops both lists. I am a bit lazy today so rather than […]