The Agenda

Greg Lindsay on Asia’s Instant Cities

My only cautionary note about Greg Lindsay’s report on Asia’s instant cities: the most successful of them might be best understood as high-density equivalents of sprawling mixed-use suburban developments like The Woodlands in the Houston metropolitan area; that is, they are very much in the orbit of existing cities that have grown organically, rather than Brasilia-like efforts to build a new urban center of gravity far from existing conurbations. This is important to keep in mind, particularly as urban forms in the U.S. continue to evolve. Current projections suggest that the U.S. population will grow by 100 million or so between now and 2050. Because we can expect much of the existing stock of housing to deteriorate over the intervening period, this implies a tremendous amount of new construction, much of it, one hopes, will be brownfield development in an around existing cities, i.e., the densification of existing metropolitan areas. It is possible that we’ll see the rise of entirely new cities in North America — but that shouldn’t happen because the federal government decides to create the equivalent of the postwar English New Towns. 

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