Cities can't get airborne, citizens can... A simple way to look at vertical densification is to observe what it has already caused, i.e.:
vast industrial farming areas almost emptied from their former rural inhabitants, from where an ever increasing proportion of processed food is supplied to captive urban populations
huge factories and offices bound to find ever more outlets for their products and services beyond all real needs -- a trend called economic growth or consumerism...
gigantic road and transit infrastructures for commuting from suburbs and smaller peripheral towns into the city and back home.
Night-clubs and discotheques where masses of nubile singles gather together every night until early morning, yet where everything is set to prevent the subtle glances and whispers deemed to promise meaningful matches, e.g. violent music, darkness or dazzling laser light, modern lonely dance styles... far, far away from the ancient Saturday night dance halls with life music and calmer areas for possible conversations (with the presence of the elders likely to deter young impostors from squatting the most desirable ladies...).
So, there must be also a simple way to figure out a solution, i.e.:
spread a substantial part of the city dwellers into the surrounding farmlands by creating opportunities for them to become neighborhood part-time farmers-workers/employees/entrepreneurs.
preventing the consequent sprawling of road networks through mass-produced personal electric vertical-take-off-and-landing (e.g. ultralight tilt-rotor) aircraft.
striving to imitate nature in terms of symbiosis, mainly as related to sedentary species (i.e. plants) collaborating with mobile species (especially flying ones), trying hard to meet the challenge of identifying human society's pendants of these species and their respective roles -- e.g. with nurseries, kindergartens, public schools, colleges, universities, high-schools, hospitals, old-age homes to be considered the sedentary, and nurses/parents, pupils/teachers, students/professors, patients/doctors, relatives/geriatric personnel, the mobile symbiotes...
How else could we stand be it only a tiny chance to make our dream of the global village come true?
Re: Stranded in high-rises Mitch, I agree. And that's just the thing... if we're going to build taller towers, we also need to invest in tech and infrastructure that is going to keep the people in those towers safe. Disaster-proofing should be our next big step after what we've learned.
Stranded in high-rises The only solution I can see for residents stranded in New York high-rises during disasters is to do more to disasterproof the city -- build more floodproofing of the type that exists in Hong Kong (which sees a Sandra-class storm a couple of times a year). That's expensive, and it should be done before -- or at least in parallel with -- construction of more and taller high-rises.
Re: Too high may be relative One thing that I hope people don't overlook in Nicole's blog is the scale of some of these proposals. I see the logic in allowing some upward expansion, but in cities like Prague or Washington you don't have to jump from 90-120 foot limits to 600-foot monsters. Start by doubling the current limits in those cities where a 50 or 60-story building would be the proverbial sore thumb. The construction and utility costs of monster skyscrapers don't translate into efficiencies, and I believe that four or five 20-story buildings not only provide more growth potential but can be built in more environmentally friendly means than a couple of 50-story buildings, and they can fit in with the character of a city like Washington.
Mary, there are long term trends and short term trends, and there are regional trends.
At the moment, the short term trend is that there is still a need for human labor, though that's been dropping in the industrialized countries. As the opportunities become scarcer, people will move to where ever they think the odds are better. The trends I speak of are longer term (ten to twenty years).
In areas like China where manufacturing has been growing their economy, the peasantry is still making the transition from farmer to factory worker: a phase many countries went through last century. The long term trend, even in China is about to change as the drive to squelch complaining workers and avoid the rising cost of labor, Asian factories are looking to a new generation of robots to bail them out.
Over the next few years Foxconn, Chinas largest private employer with over a million employees plans to replace labor with a million robots over the next few years. Other Asian electronics companies have made similar announcements. That dynamic is going to affect China in ways no one can predict. I fear their real estate bubble is about to burst as ours did a few years ago. Their centrally controlled economy may or may not weather it better, we'll see.
I think the move to cities will continue even as the jobs dry up. Teh rising cost of fuel will make long commutes too expensive to drive a car to work for many people. For those with a lower income, that cost is becoming a significant portion of their take home pay.
Re: Sands of change I'm with DerrickWood on my preferred living locale. I attribute it to being raised in a very small midwestern city and encouraged to love wide open spaces as a child.
That said, I see telecommuting and other forms of automation as vital to sustaining rural and exurban municipalities. I've been telling folk in my rural area of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, that telecommuting is going to be key to sustaining their lifestyle going forward. I am not sure they believe me. I've spoken to regional investors about this as well, but they seem to shrug me off. Odd.
Re: Sands of change Wow, wbalthrop, great message post there. Your reasoning makes perfect sense to me. If large cities are not required and in fact become too cumbersome to sustain properly, smaller ones will take their place.
But then, how to account for the trend in supercities, particularly in places like China?
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