This is part 3 of a 6-part series covering “Cities in the Year 2000”, a kids’ book on cities published in 1985. Here are parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6. I suggest reading on a desktop, as the screenshots of the pages should be large enough to read (hopefully).
This page talks about some considerations for city planning: ensuring light and clean air, open space etc. I give it bonus points for using the word “higgledy-piggledy”.
Historically, cities weren’t planned at all, and in the early stages of the Industrial Revolution factories and mills were mixed in with housing: “the result was a city almost impossible to live in because so much of it was grimy and unhealthy”.
In the 20th century, cities started to plan how they would structure themselves. Zoning and green belts are two methods mentioned, although “green belts are no longer so popular with planners”. Certainly in NZ, all the green belts I can think of were set up many decades ago, many of the cities involved have grown beyond them, and urban limits are now the preferred method of controlling city boundaries.
Zoning, of course, is pretty much universal in NZ; industry is separated from housing. We’ve had much some in-depth discussions about it on this blog [LINK].
Not much I can add here, but it’s certainly interesting – from ancient cities through to more modern ones, and even fictional ones…
Now we see some of the ‘new’ (20th century) cities – typically those which were deliberately “built with one intention – to move some people and power away from the huge capital cities”. Various world governments have been keen on this idea; the book notes that “two problems arise from [the attraction of big cities]. One is that the city gets so big and busy it smothers itself… the other is that… it robs smaller areas of their new industry and growth”.
Generally, we’re talking about governments making a value judgment that growth should be spread around the country, and taking steps to make that happen. There’s quite a history of this, as laid out on the page. From the ‘garden cities’ and ‘new towns’ of England, to heavy taxes imposed on Paris to encourage businesses to go elsewhere (with new towns planned along the Seine, connected to Paris by high speed rail), to Brasilia in Brazil and Canberra in Australia – both introduced as new cities to be their nations’ capitals, and take some activity away from the big existing cities.
The book notes that “not all New Towns work well. In Britain they have drawn too many skilled people away from the main cities and left behind too many of the unemployed. They can be boring and socially dead places”.
Of course, many ‘futuristic schemes’ for cities have come and gone since this book was published. I’m not sure any have really come to fruition, at least in the developed world. Places like Dubai, or various Chinese cities, might be influenced by a desire to be “futuristic”.
This page gives some interesting examples of cities which have tried to preserve their heritage; Venice, which continues to slowly sink into the sea; and Warsaw, largely rebuilt after World War II with some areas “made to look exactly as they did before”.
The tradeoffs between preserving heritage and enabling new development are something every city has to grapple with. The book also notes, using the example of a house, that it’s often cheaper to repair old buildings than to replace them.