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Everybody’s thinking (and writing) about cities

August 8th, 2011 · 23 Comments

The New Yorker has a good round-up review of the latest spurt of books about cities, a popular topic these days as more and more writers weight on how cities should work in the future, are working now, didn’t work in the past and so on.

One of the constant themes I’m struck by when people write about the modern city is the way the majority of them bemoan the terrible modernist planning ideas that led to social-housing high rises, the dominance of the car-filled road, the destruction of integrated neighbourhoods and the like.

Everyone seems to see the flawed thinking of the past that led to creating new additions to cities that were flawed and anti-human. But I’ve yet to read anyone who has been able to spot the possible herd-thinking fallacies of today’s planners as they constantly talk about how to create walkable neighbourhoods where people can “live, shop, play and work.”

Although the thinking about urban planning has undoubtedly improved as it’s taken a different direction since the 30s, 40s an 50s, I can’t believe that there isn’t SOMETHING about today’s planning beliefs that will come to be seen as a fatal mistake by future generations: the dedicated belief in the workability of mixed-use projects? the drive to preserve industrial land against all odds? the focus on trying to recreate the feel of villages or urban downtowns in suburban developments?

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