The Rise of the Efficient City

Smaller, more nimble urban regions promise a better life than the congested megalopolis.

NYC-SkylineMost of the world’s population now lives in cities. To many academics, planners and developers, that means that the future will be dominated by what urban theorist Saskia Sassen calls “new geographies of centrality.” According to this view, dense, urban centers with populations in excess of 20 million—such as metropolitan Tokyo, New Delhi, Sao Paolo and New York—are best suited to control the commanding heights of global economics and culture in the coming epoch.

In fact, the era of bigger-is-better is passing as smaller, more nimble urban regions are emerging. These efficient cities, as I call them, provide the amenities of megacities—airports, mass communication, reservoirs of talent—without their grinding congestion, severe social conflicts and other diseconomies of scale.

Megacities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Sao Paolo and Mexico City have become almost unspeakably congested leviathans. They may be seen as “colorful” by those engaging what writer Kennedy Odede calls “Slumdog tourism.” They may also be exciting for those working within the confines of “glamour zones” with high-rise office towers, elegant malls, art galleries and fancy restaurants. But most denizens eke out a meager existence, attractive only compared to even more dismal prospects in the countryside.

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Source: Joel Kotkin | New Goegraphy