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The Sunday Diigo Links Post (weekly)

  • Another Lincoln Institute publication, abstracted on this webpage. Interesting comment re. differences between infill policies in cities with little population growth (where I live, for example) vs. infill in cities with rapid population growth:
    Policies aimed at reducing fragmentation should be clearly distinguished from policies aimed at increasing the density of built-up areas. Encouraging infill in cities with little population growth is qualitatively different from encouraging infill in cities with rapidly growing populations. In the former, it can form the backbone of an effective ‘smart growth’ policy. In the latter, it is overshadowed by the urgent need to prepare vast areas for projected outward expansion.

    tags: lincoln_institute density cities infill growth sprawl

  • New publication from the Lincoln Institute, downloadable as PDF. Abstract on this webpage; excerpt:
    The key findings show that on average, densities in developing countries are double those in Europe and Japan, and densities in Europe and Japan are double those of the United States, Canada, and Australia; and that on average, the annual growth rate of urban land cover was twice that of the urban population between 1990 and 2000. Most of the cities studied expanded their built-up area more than 16-fold in the twentieth century. At present rates of density decline, the world’s urban population is expected to double in 43 years, while urban land cover will double in only 19 years. The urban population of the developing countries is expected to double between 2000 and 2030 while the built-up area of their cities can be expected to triple.

    The research suggests that preparation for the sustainable growth of cities in rapidly urbanizing countries should be grounded in four key components: the realistic projections of urban land needs; generous metropolitan limits; selective protection of open space; and an arterial grid of roads spaced one kilometer apart that can support transit.

    tags: lincoln_institute cities urbanization density

  • Some of this I’m inclined to disagree with, but the overall gist – that, if we care, we need to control our own “memory theaters” and not rely on outsourcing them to the cloud or to various “hamster cages” – I can’t disagree with.
    Until these companies take seriously the needs and, above all, the rights of readers (the human beings, not the machines), they deserve ruthless suspicion. Just because the Kindle and iPad might seem to work relatively reliably now, and because Google tells itself “don’t be evil,” we shouldn’t keep from entertaining darker, more paranoid, even Orwellian fantasies. Never before has the technology been so good for totalitarian urges, should they arise. Already, the agreements being hammered out between Google and the publishing industry are likely to allow Google to withhold as much as 15% of its scanned, copyrighted archive from the public. It’s unlikely that anyone will bother (or pay) to scan most of those books again. Whoever controls Google Books already controls the future of public knowledge to a very considerable degree.

    Far from its pleasantly chaotic salad days, the internet is now tending toward mass consolidation. Companies are less and less interested in helping us store information ourselves and more and more eager to do it for us. We’re not keeping our email and documents on our computers’ hard drives anymore; Gmail and Google Docs have them on distant servers. Apple wants to follow suit with its subscription-based MobileMe system, pulling more and more of our data into its so-called “cloud.” Facebook has already done so with no less than our friendships.


    tags: nathan_schneider memory_theater kindle e-books identity

  • Jan Gehl giving a talk at Cooper Hewitt. It’s long, but worth watching.
    Urban life is in many ways a matter of rhythms, and the rhythms of human movement and perception have found a gifted interpreter in Gehl. Every city that has implemented his ideas has revived some of its livelier qualities, or discovered them anew.

    tags: jan_gehl cities video cooper_hewitt urban_design

  • Jan Gehl on understanding humans, and thereby creating better cities:
    Ever since planning was professionalized around 1960, instead of adding new streets and new houses to existing cities, they switched to big scale stuff–big buildings, new districts, and handling the influx of automobiles. They were good at handling big blocks, but weren’t paying attention to people. In the book, I talk about three levels in city planning: the big story seen from above; the medium story–the site plans, and the little story–the people landscape seen at eye-level. Planners tended to the two bigger scales, but would not come down to eye-level and see the results. And architects became more and more interested in single buildings and in forms than in society. They were concerned with the skyline than the sidewalk. But the people scale is the most important scale, because that’s where the biggest attractions are–other people–and that is exactly the scale that has for years been forgotten and mishandled. Nobody has been commissioned to look after it in any systematic way.

    We know more about the habitat of panda bears and mountain gorillas than we do about cities at eye-level. It’s intriguing why so little research has been done on the urban habitat of homo sapiens in urban settings. Since Jane Jacobs, maybe 10 people have studied it seriously: Holly Whyte; Christopher Alexander; Allan Jacobs and Donald Appleyard among them. Ten years ago, we started our consultancy firm to put all of their theories to work. And we’ve learned a lot about what works and doesn’t work. It’s partly a cultural question and partly it’s a matter of biology and what kind of animal we are–how far we can move, and see. Why is it that shops are four or five meters apart on all the good shopping streets all over the world? Because if you’re walking past, there is a new experience every four or five seconds, which is ideal from a stimulus point of view.

    tags: cities jan_gehl urban_design

  • On cities built for people:
    In traditional cities – those places we instinctively love because they’re lovely and beautiful and make us want to sit and eat an ice cream or sip a coffee – the Godzilla factor doesn’t win. Great traditional places like the Piazza del Campo in Siena, Italy, or cities like Barcelona, or Gehl’s own beloved Copenhagen which have grown on a foundation of progressive urbanism, and great new places like Curritiba in southern Brazil built on sustainability principles, all are full of small signals and eye-level details that can only be seen as you walk along a human-scale street at 5 km/hr. And Gehl Architecture’s extensive research in the public realm – which could be characterized as an anthropological study of the wild homo sapien in his natural urban environment – backs this up. We don’t just happen to love Venice because it has great food or because it’s romantic and old. We love places like this because they’re built in a way that works for an average human being just walking or biking around being human.

    tags: jan_gehl urban_design cities

  • Why is Wal-Mart taking on a negative externality that no one is really forcing the company to address or fix? It’s scale.
    In a recent article in HBR, Chris Meyer and I argued that we’ll see companies taking more and more ownership of externalities they could ignore because of changing sensibilities and better sensors (meaning detection and reporting of impacts by third parties). But we also identified a third driver: the scale of modern business. Whereas in the past, a single grocer could not have much impact on society, in today’s highly consolidated market, Wal-Mart touches a significant percentage of the nation’s food intake. Once you reach a scale where your decisions have ramifications for millions, it is hard to pretend that the impacts, even as distant ripples, are not your problem.

    tags: harvard_business walmart negative_externality scale health

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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