The Future of Boston in the Age of the City

As theorists predict we are entering the age of the city, Boston Globe architecture critic Robert Campbell reflects on what this shift will mean and how Boston's landscape will change as a result.

"Cities have two qualities: They're densely populated, and they mix a lot of different kinds of people and activities close together. As a result, you're not in a car all the time, burning carbon to get from place to place. You're in touch with your neighbors. Your apartment can be heated or cooled more efficiently than your cousin's home in the suburbs. (We're not yet a leader in the energy race. The Swedish city of Gothenburg, with a climate as harsh as Boston's, now heats itself entirely with recycled garbage.)

Author Richard Florida writes that the successful cities of the future will be the ones that can attract what he calls "the creative class." Boston is more richly endowed with great universities than any other US metropolitan area, and it's blessed with dozens of compact, livable neighborhoods, from Somerville in the north to Dorchester in the south. If we can't attract and retain a creative class, nobody can.

Cities have another quality, too. They introduce different kinds of people to one another. The great urbanist Jane Jacobs defined a city as "the place where we meet strangers." In a world torn by ethnic strife, that is another of the city's gifts to civilization.

A half century of suburban sprawl is drawing to a close. A new age of the city is dawning."

Full Story: Into the future

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