Density Boondoggles


Is it density or migration? Venture capitalist Brad Feld weighs in:

The cities that have the most movement in and out of them are the most vibrant.

The densest city in the world won't be as vibrant as the city with the most talent churn. Yet planners and urbanists tout the former over the latter.  read more »

Green Office Towers Cast Shadow Over Sydney


Known for her spiky hair, studded-collar and heels, Sydney’s Lord Mayor is the epitome of progressive chic. For a green activist, though, Clover Moore attracts some surprising company. Landlords owning 58 per cent of the CBD’s office space have rushed to join her Better Buildings Partnership, an alliance “to improve the sustainability performance of existing commercial and public sector buildings”.  read more »

Does the Post Office Deliver in Today's Urban Culture?

Upper-CanadaPost office.jpg

The postal service has been ravaged by enormous deficits and massive layoffs. It will inevitably see the closing of thousands of buildings. Planners have taken notice. Countless journalists have lamented the loss of post-office buildings, praised their often remarkable architecture and called for pressure to save them. These buildings are catalysts of “community”, the authors have suggested, citing the chance encounters of townspeople. Something is profoundly wrong, we are told, when community incubators are eradicated.  read more »


What Killed Downtown?


What Killed Downtown?: Norristown, Pennsylvania, from Main Street to the Malls
by Michael E. Tolle

For those of us who have grown dyspeptic on the over-indulged topic of the collapse of the American city center, Michael Tolle’s What Killed Downtown? Norristown, Pennsylvania, from Main Street to the Malls earns much of its anodyne appeal by straying from a commonly accepted convention in urban studies—that an analysis of the socioeconomic decline of a community should draw heavily upon socioeconomic variables. Isn’t there another way to get the point across? And more importantly, aren’t there other contributing factors?  read more »

The Beauty of Urban Planning from the Ground


In a piece called The Beauty of Urban Planning from Space, the Sustainable Cities Collective highlights views from space of uniquely designed street pattern designs in various cities around the world. There are ten examples that illustrate the zenith of urban planning.

As attractive as the street patterns are, they highlight the inevitable inability of designers, or anyone else for that matter, to influence much more than small changes in the overall urban form.  read more »

Gentrification and its Discontents: Notes from New Orleans


Readers of this forum have probably heard rumors of gentrification in post-Katrina New Orleans. Residential shifts playing out in the Crescent City share many commonalities with those elsewhere, but also bear some distinctions and paradoxes. I offer these observations from the so-called Williamsburg of the South, a neighborhood called Bywater.

Gentrification arrived rather early to New Orleans, a generation before the term was coined. Writers and artists settled in the French Quarter in the 1920s and 1930s, drawn by the appeal of its expatriated Mediterranean atmosphere, not to mention its cheap rent, good food, and abundant alcohol despite Prohibition.  read more »

In California, Don't Bash the 'Burbs


For the past century, California, particularly Southern California, nurtured and invented the suburban dream. The sun-drenched single-family house, often with a pool, on a tree-lined street was an image lovingly projected by television and the movies.  read more »

Time to Acknowledge Falling Private Car Use


The prospect of falling car use now needs to be firmly factored into planning for western cities. 

That may come as a bit of a surprise in light of the preoccupation with city plans that aim to get people out of their cars, but it is already happening.  And it is highly likely to continue regardless of whether or not we promote urban consolidation and expensive transit systems.   read more »

Dispersion in the World's Largest Urban Areas


No decade in history has experienced such an increase in urban population as the last. From Tokyo-Yokohama, the world's largest urban area (population: 37 million) to Godegård, Sweden, which may be the smallest (population: 200), urban areas added 700 million people between 2000 and 2010.  read more »

Hong Kong’s Decentralizing Commuting Patterns


Hong Kong is a city of superlatives. Hong Kong has at least twice the population density of any other urban area in the more developed world, at 67,000 per square mile or 25,900 per square kilometer. The Hong Kong skyline is rated the world's best by both (a building database) and, which use substantially different criteria.  read more »