1. A Quick Review of Cities

2. Some Agents of Change


3. Current Urban Trends in America

(Based on book America II by Richard Louv.)


Nostalgia wave affecting baby-boomers (born 1946-64)

- up to 1970: move for money

- post-1970: move for livable environment (or to simply get out!) Facilitated by interstate and trans-Canada highway networks. Decentralization of manufacturing via trucks. Other factors include rural cable tv (satellite dishes), air-conditioning and widespread college extension systems.

Trend fed by changes in production technology : aluminum and plastic materials, miniaturization and electronics, telematics (computers plus telecommunications).

America is deconcentrating

Three basic movements:

  1. interregional to south and western U.S.
  2. continued growth of suburbs (often far into the intermetropolitan periphery.) (Edge Cities)
  3. from urban growth to rural growth
Related Global Trends

Similar trends internationally:

Other countries experiencing move out of core areas include:

Denmark, France, Netherlands, Finland, Canada, West Germany, Iceland, Italy, Norway, Japan, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

In Canada, 9000 small towns (less than 10,000) and villages have 4.5 million people (1/5 of Canada's population) and growing (during 60s and 70s, grew 25% in each decade) - "urbanized" without being urban!

Mall Culture

Growing cities, like Phoenix, Arizona, are assuming a "polynucleated" form: vast urban areas with no dominating core.

Giant regional shopping mall has become the hub of the new urban village.

Mall culture now dominates America's urban social and commercial life.

        Old cities designed to maximize production ; 
        new cities designed to maximize consumption.
New metropolis will be vast -- 150 to 500 kms. across. Increase will allow people to live at different scales simultaneously. Subcommunities too distant for commuter movement. Pattern of 2010 may be more like that of 1910!

Deconcentrate from centre, but reconcentrate into urban villages.

New developments are products of new spirit of entrepreneurialism.

Privately developed condominiums with:

In Houston, Texas, there is no zoning because it tends to limit small business opportunities. Political structures designed with minimum governmental responsibility. Real power held by developers. Residents buy own services -- for protection just about everyone carries a gun!

Private zoning reflected in use of restrictive covenants.

Condominiums today dominate the housing market: currently about 25% of new homes in U.S.; by 1990 probably more new homes will be condos, than single family dwellings.

Such "capitalistic communes" allow people to live as in small towns of a century or more ago. Inspired by Disneyland/Disney World and EPCOT.

Preference for life beyond cities revealed in polls for at least 20 years. Qualification now is that residence be within 50 kms. of city of at least 50,000 people.

Emergence of countrified city ("buckshot urbanization") - a loose collection of small towns, crossroads communities and developments strung along country roads.

Invisible web of new settlements encouraged not only by satellite tv, but by technology of septic tanks!

Easiest way to become an entrepreneur is to work out of the home - the "electronic cottage".

Reflects fundamental shift from large scale, bureaucratic enterprises to small scale, entrepreneurial enterprises.

Trend is toward commercialized nostalgia, walled cities with electronic security systems, enforced social sameness and a perversion of traditional democratic values

. Toward an Information-Based Urban System

Trend toward "any-time, any-place, no-matter, mass-customized" production system (S.M.Davis, Future Perfect)

real-time production (produce on demand)
(24-hr.Banking, shopping)
world's information conveyed to any place
(miniaturization of space (Japanese gardens,museums, pioneer villages), manufacturing by consumers in own space (home))
need for intangible goods/services greater than for tangible
(computer software, education, advice)
automation enables mass production of customized products
(clothing, magazines, automobiles, entertainment)
Decline in jobs in actual physical task of manufacturing due to automation, and contracting out abroad to cheap labour countries. Offset by rise in service/domestic sector: expanding retail sector, due to need for greater producer/consumer interaction, leading to megastructures where external surface area is minimized while maximizing the opportunity for internal social interaction, i.e. Maximizing exposure to products and ideas per unit time. But business must be alert to problems of diseconomies due to information overload and congestion.

The Emerging On-Line Economy

Re-emergence of the home as the central unit in society of tomorrow

Transformation of household space is particularly significant in the context of the changing pattern of urban space

Large-scale factory production ---> small-scale decentralized production (household)

May become new
locus of "sweated"

Transfer of activities of factory, office and shop space to electronic household space (also implies offloading costs to the household)

control by ownership replaced by control by contract

transport highways under public ownership
electronic highways under private ownership

Privatization leading to diminishing role of local government

Instead of imprisonment, monitor convicts electronically 24 hours a day.

New spatial organization by class:

  1. permanent workers
  2. temporary/part-time workers
  3. contract workers
May see rise of information-intensive city states (Singapore is an example) or regions with total access to global information.

4. Future Possibilities

Major industrialists in Japan support a project to build a floating city of 30,000 people. Cost of land around Tokyo makes it attractive. Could be secure against earthquake and tidal waves.

Underground dwellings conserve energy and preserve the landscape.

Ocean surface/floor communities may be based on mining and ocean-farming.

Domed communities will enhance environmental control.

NASA plans a space station for manufacturing by early ???. To be commercially viable. One plan is for a 70 metre spacehab to accommodate 150 residents.

Lunar communities based on mining.

Arcosanti - brainchild of Paolo Soleri under construction (for years!) In Arizona. Unites architecture and ecology.

Botanic communities - bioengineered dwellings.

The Compact City - conceived by Dantzig and Saaty (in book by that name) - a vertical "layering" of neighbourhoods, instead of horizontal sprawl. Conserves valuable agricultural land.

Some Links to Discussions of Social and Economic Change:

Return to Future Communities Page