The Childless City

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What is a city for? Ever since cities first emerged thousands of years ago, they have been places where families could congregate and flourish. The family hearth formed the core of the ancient Greek and Roman city, observed the nineteenth-century French historian Fustel de Coulanges. Family was likewise the foundation of the great ancient cities of China and the Middle East. As for modern European cities, the historian Philippe Ariès argued that the contemporary “concept of the family” itself originated in the urbanizing northern Europe shown in Rembrandt’s paintings of bourgeois life. Another historian, Simon Schama, described the seventeenth-century Dutch city as “the Republic of Children.” European immigrants carried the institution of the family-oriented city across the Atlantic to America. In the American city until the 1950s, urbanist Sam Bass Warner observed, the “basic custom” was “commitment to familialism.”  read more »

California's Blue-on-Blue Battle

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Perhaps nothing more illustrates the evolving inner class conflict within the progressive political movement than the recent embrace of California as a role model for the rest of the country. The Golden State, maintains John Judis of the New Republic, should provide the game plan for the Obama administration as it seeks a path back to relevance.  read more »

The Evolving Urban Form: Portland

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Among urban planners, there is probably not a more revered urban area in the world than Portland (Oregon). The Portland metropolitan area and its core urban area , principally located in Oregon, stretches across the Columbia River into the state of Washington (Figure 1). Nearly four decades ago, the state of Oregon adopted strong urban planning requirements, including the requirement of an urban growth boundary.  read more »

E-Shopping Bubbling While Retail Bums Along

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We recently explored the post-recession tsunami of online retail and discovered that e-shopping’s future is anything if not bright. According to a report by Forrester Research, by 2016, not only are 192 million U.S. consumers projected to be be clicking “checkout” (up 15% since 2012), but those 192 million will also be spending an average of 44% more.  read more »

America's Engineering Hubs: The Cities With The Greatest Capacity For Innovation

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America has always been a nation of tinkerers. Our Founding Fathers, notes author Alec Foege, were innovators in areas ranging from agriculture (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson) and electricity (Benjamin Franklin) to the swivel chair (Jefferson).  read more »

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Aspirational Cities: U.S. Cities That Offer Both Jobs and Culture Are Mostly Southern and Modest Sized

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A city at its best, wrote the philosopher René Descartes, provides “an inventory of the possible.” The city Descartes had in mind was 17th-century Amsterdam, which for him epitomized those cities where people go to change their circumstances and improve their lives. But such aspirational cities have existed throughout American history as well, starting with Boston in the 17th century, Philadelphia in the 18th, New York in the 19th, Chicago in the early 20th, Detroit in the 1920s and 1930s, followed by midcentury Los Angeles, and San Jose in the 1980s.  read more »

Humiliating Detroit

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As I’ve noted before, Detroit is all too frequently just a blank screen onto which people project their own personal bogeymen. So liberals see in Detroit racism gone wild, America’s comeuppance for its love affair with the automobile, and corporate greed. Conservatives see the ultimate end result of unions and where liberalism will take the US as a whole if it isn’t stopped.

There’s a bit of truth in all of these.  read more »

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Should Uncle Sam Chase a Scandinavian Model?

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When American progressives dream their future vision of America, no place entices them more than the sparsely populated countries of Scandinavia. After all, here are countries that remain strongly democratic and successfully capitalist, yet appear to have done so despite enormously pervasive welfare systems.  read more »

Bruce Springsteen: The Wrecking Ball Strikes Europe

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It makes sense that the European continent would enthusiastically welcome Bruce Springsteen this summer on his Wrecking Ball Tour. Europe is in its second year of a prolonged recession, and its economic union looks like a failed savings and loan association. As he has in the past, the Boss is making The Grand Tour. Instead of gracing luxury hotel suites, though, he’s filling up the kinds of cost-overrun stadiums in Barcelona, Paris, Düsseldorf, and Cork that are one reason the European Union is starting to look like Youngstown.  read more »

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America's Emerging Housing Crisis

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The current housing recovery may be like manna to homeowners, but it may do little to ease a growing shortage of affordable residences, and could even make it worse. After a recession-generated drought, household formation is on the rise, notes a recent study by the Harvard Joint Center on Housing Studies, and in many markets there isn’t an adequate supply of housing for the working and middle classes.  read more »

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