How Will Changing Cities React?

<p>Cities are undergoing major changes in terms of demographics and development patterns. How cities will react to these changes remains up in the air.</p>
March 11, 2008, 9am PDT | Nate Berg
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"We have more big cities now than at any time in our history. In 1900, only 16 had a population of one million; now it's more than 400. Not only are there more of them, they are larger than ever. In 1851, London had two million people. It was the largest city in the world by a long way, twice the size of Paris, its nearest rival."

"That version of London would seem like a village now. By the official definition, London has getting on for eight million people, but in practical terms, it's a city of 18 million, straggling most of the way from Ipswich to Bournemouth in an unforgiving tide of business parks and designer outlets, gated housing and logistics depots. There might be fields between them, but they are linked in a single transport system and a single economy. Those villages in Suffolk that are close enough to a railway station to deliver you to Liverpool Street in under 90 minutes are effectively as much a part of London as Croydon or Ealing and they have the house prices to prove it. The other big conurbations - from Birmingham to Manchester and Glasgow, names for cities that spread far beyond the bounds of political city limits - can be understood in the same way."

"The future of the city has suddenly become the only subject in town. It ranges from tough topics such as managing water resources, economic policy, transport planning and law enforcement to what is usually presented as the fluffier end of the scale, such as making public spaces people want to spend time in. It's about racial tolerance and civilised airports, the colour of the buses and the cost of the fares on them. Unless you have some kind of framework to make sense of all that, the city can seem to be about so many diverse things that it is about everything and nothing."

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Published on Sunday, March 9, 2008 in The Guardian
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