My interest in cities has been with me ever since I visited Chicago as an early student of architecture.  Growing up in suburban Indiana, I became fascinated by Chicago, a city with soaring towers, white steam drifting up through the city streets, scaffolding covering one’s step on the sidewalk, and the total immersion in the built environment, made me come to life.  Even more so my interest in public transportation, the ability to travel of great distance with complete strangers, a kind of innocent slide into anonymity.  My travels to quite a few cities, most recently Mexico, has made me more interested in these places of opportunity.  Where once America looked upon the empty horizon and saw the invitation of opportunity extended upon the open hand of the landscape, people now look to the city, its tall buildings like exclamations marks, vessels of excitement and of themselves opportunity.  Although man, particularly the white man, never walked lightly on the land, his impacts were hard to detect, and yet the environment seemed strong enough to undertake this alteration.  Now, man moves to the city, not only in hope of work, but as a way to save the landscape.  Man – at least in his 21st century state – is not compatible with nature, and thus it is ideal that he move to the city.   My research and reading into modern day cities has made me aware of their functioning and operation in our global world.  Of particular interest, is how cities change our understanding of time.  The modern city competes through its acceleration of communication and its transfer of people to places.   What economists are saying is that the GDP (gross domestic product) is a poor indicator of a cities wealth.  Environment, educational opportunities, and recreation can play as much or greater an influence than mere wealth.  Most people rank money as the fifth most important reason they would stay at a job; likewise a city’s money does not reflect what it values.  Just like a company, a city’s most precious resource today is its people, who bring wealth, character, and education to a place.   This interaction of individuals brings about a social dynamism and growth only allowable in the city.  What cities have come to face, however, is the immigration into the city of people from the country.   These people not only fulfill jobs, but also are worthy of being given opportunities for basic human services.  It appears that in places of extremes between rich and poor, there lacks a middle class, which lacks a service industry, which thus leaves these people unemployed.

Not only are human resources growing interests and concerns for cities, but basic necessities, particularly water, provide a telling example of the political and environmental challenges faced by cities.  An interesting example is the Three Gorges Dam in China on the Yangtze River.  Part of this project involves gravity feeding water to Beijing, from south to north.  These projects, however, reside in a gray area of human need and environmental degradation.  Los Angeles is also a telling example of the problems a megalopolis can impose upon scarce water resources.

One of the more interesting articles I read explained that maximum density can be achieved by six story low rise residential buildings, as opposed to mega-high rise structures.  This article focused on the size relationship between the building’s plot and its occupied space.  Guanzho, for instance, has wide roads and bigger plots, to account for the high rise towers, which cast shadows upon neighboring structures, and which are truly unmanageable in size when placed upon narrow streets.  A city like Rome or Paris can achieve nearly identical density by having smaller plots and narrower streets.

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