Size Matters

It’s really difficult to envision just how massive Chinese cities are. From Chinfographics comes this chart of the 60 largest with a population of over 1 million (and including some in Taiwan). Alongside for comparison are other famous world cities – but as you may notice, the population counts there look a bit large. They’re using the metropolitan area population, so New York gets 21.3 million instead of the usual 8.3 million, Boston gets 5.2 million instead of the usual .5-1.3 million, et cetera.

But it is rather mind-blowing just how enormous China is.

Via Slate.

I Guess CCTV Is Good for Something

A friend of mine got mugged over the weekend coming back from a bar on Saturday night. Luckily, only his phone was taken and he wasn’t hurt at all.

Naturally, CCTV was useless in helping to prevent the crime or even to identify the assailant after the fact. Two separate cameras caught it, not that that matters. Also, rendering the cameras even more useless, they were owned and operated by the LSE, though they were kind enough to release it to my friend.

From him, it got to me. I took the liberty of editing the footage into a single video, and added a very necessary soundtrack. The whole thing only took me about 30 minutes. At least some good came out of the whole affair…

EDIT: Most of the details regarding the path that footage took to get to me were dead wrong. They have since been corrected.

Stephen Graham to Speak at the LSE

Back in April, I wrote about emerging patterns of urban warfare and the new surveillance state that continues to grow in modern cities. Much of what I wrote was inspired by Geoff Manaugh’s amazing work at BLDGBLOG, but also by Stephen Graham’s new book Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism. If that sounded interesting to you and you’ll in be in London next week, some great news:

Cities Under Siege

LSE Cities Book Launch

Date: Monday 7 June 2010
Time: 6.30-8pm
Venue: Sheikh Zayed Theatre, New Academic Building
Speaker: Stephen Graham
Respondent: Gareth Jones
Chair: Dr Fran Tonkiss

Cities have become the new battleground of our increasingly urban world. From the slums of the global South to the wealthy financial centres of the West, Cities Under Siege traces how political violence now operates through the sites, spaces, infrastructures and symbols of the world’s rapidly expanding metropolitan areas. Drawing on a wealth of original research, Graham shows how Western and Israeli militaries and security forces now perceive all urban terrain as a real or imagined conflict zone inhabited by lurking, shadow enemies, and urban inhabitants as targets that need to be continually tracked, scanned, controlled and targeted. He examines the transformation of Western militaries into high-tech urban counter-insurgency forces, the militarization and surveillance of March international borders, the labelling as “terrorist” of democratic dissent and Politics/Geography protests, and the enacting of legislation suspending “normal” civilian law.

But best of all…

This event is free and open to all with no ticket required. Entry is on a first come, first served basis. For more information, email d.tanner@lse.ac.uk.

I cannot wait. See you all there.

A New Definition of Suburban Sprawl

The atomic bomb was on everyone’s mind quite a bit in the late 1940s. Clearly it was a real city-killer of a weapon, one that worked best when targeted against a dense population system. So what was America to do in the face of such a threat? Simple: spread them out and move all industry underground.

The crux of the issue was to remove everyone from any American city with a population greater than 50,000 people and place them in newly-built communities set out across the country’s landscape (mostly) like a chess board, the towns existing on all of the connecting lines. [As weird as this sounds, the great Norbert Wiener came up with a similarly astounding, untouchable idea using circles.]. The authors proposed to build 20,000,000 new homes, relocate industry (preferably underground), reallocate and redistribute energy supplies and natural resources, and recreate the very fabric of social and economic life in America.

Via io9.

Urban Jungle Warfare

An American solider in Sadr City, Iraq, 2008. Photo: Zoriah.

Geoff Manaugh at the ever-fantastic and always impressive BLDGBLOG has a post up about Stephen Graham’s Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism and urban warfare in general.

The city is obviously going to be the defining social construct of the 21st century, but whether that happens in the benevolent, ‘new urbanist’ way that’s all the rage these days seems increasingly unlikely. From Mike Davis’s Planet of Slums:

The cities of the future, rather than being made out of glass and steel as envisioned by earlier generations of urbanists, are instead largely constructed out of crude brick, straw, recycled plastic, cement blocks, and scrap wood. Instead of cities of light soaring toward heaven, much of the twenty-first-century urban world squats in squalor, surrounded by pollution, excrement, and decay.

One is reminded of John Robb’s take on cities and the coming urban warfare, along with his prescription against urban conglomerations. Cities are immensely important nodes in a country’s system, and taking them down is easier, more profitable, and much more effective than as was practiced in the first half of the twentieth century.The will to besiege a city that continued up through the World Wars at Leningrad, Liege, and Namur is no longer there, but that brute force method is no longer needed. And the material rewards – not to mention the political and social effects of urban devastation – are more promising than ever.

Continue reading

“Dead Space” Comes Alive

A perfect example of urban infill, courtesy of the Wall Street Journal:

Nokisaki.com seeks pockets of “dead space” around cities and converts them into short-term rental property.

In Tokyo, where every sliver of land is at a premium, a few feet of unused private property near the front entrance of an apartment building can be used to sell muffins. A patch of storefront space transforms into an ad hoc vegetable stand for a farmer or a consulting space for a fortune-teller.

Those spaces can be reserved at Nokisaki for short periods of time—starting from three hours—and for as little as $15 total.

This is the exact approach that metropolitan areas need to take, and a great boon to small entrepreneurs and other makers. It certainly cuts through the red tape of zoning laws and the like.

Even in the urban context, these microrentals are not an instance of packing in more people like sardines (whether this would work outside of the hypercrowded Tokyo is up for debate), but rather matching supplies of valuable land with those who need it. Just for a little while.

Via GOOD.