A Global Look at Urban Planning

Image: Scott Dalton for The New York Times
Richard Burdett pedaling through Bogotá, Colombia, yesterday. He is visiting 18 cities that will be the subject of the architecture exhibition of the Venice Biennale this fall.
Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company

Yesterday's New York Times featured an article on Richard Burdett's upcoming exhibit on cities at the Venice Bienalle. Burdett is adviser to Ken Livingston (mayor of London). From the article:
"Is it possible to make new civic centers, new housing, which make people's lives hell?" he asked, speaking by telephone.

"The answer is yes," he answered. "Flip that around and ask, if that's the case, can you design squares, streets, buildings that can provide the possibility of a more integrated society?"

Mr. Burdett's topic, which five years ago might have been a gently heated discussion among colleagues, is now a global flashpoint. Cities are terrorist targets - New York, London, Madrid. Cities are the staging grounds for riots, Paris most recently. And cities everywhere are magnets for immigration, welcome or not. According to population projections, 75 percent of all people will live in a few dozen cities by 2030...

Mr. Burdett said that his exhibition and its conclusions will be political as well as architectural and the work of a planner.

"I don't think you can talk about issues that matter, in the design of cities, without talking about which political system delivers the better quality of life," he said. "Does democracy work? There are many models of civic intervention."

And in his travels to date, which system seems to be the winner?

"On the 6th of September, I will tell you," he said."

I'd like to have seen Metro Manila on Burdett's list but then we share the plight of Joburg, Caracas, Sao Paolo and the other megacities.

A description from the Vienna Bienalle site:
"The exhibition will tackle the key issues facing cities today: from migration and growth, to mobility and sustainable development. It will examine the role of architects and architecture in constructing democratic and sustainable urban environments, and their links to policymaking, governance and social cohesion. The exhibition will feature cities with a global reach, the majority with populations above five million people. It will paint a narrative of urban experiences from four continents across the globe, including Shanghai, Mumbai and Tokyo in Asia; Mexico City, São Paulo and New York in the Americas; Lagos and Johannesburg in Africa; Beirut and Istanbul in the Mediterranean arc; and European cities including London, Berlin and Moscow along with the urban regions of Catalonia, and Northern Italy (Milan, Turin, Genoa). In addition to this international panorama, the 2006 Venice Architecture Biennale will propose a manifesto for Cities of the 21st Century – focussing on the potential of cities to contribute to a more sustainable, democratic and equitable world."

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