I live in a city, I work on many, and I am interested in the city as a thought subject, in itself or in its links with the land in which it sits. I live in Spain, a country under a heavy crisis somehow linked to having lost the perspective about the nature and the role of cities; for a decade the city has been seen not as a tool for a better life, but as the chessboard for an economic game, confusing means and objectives.
Among the results of this crisis there is a growing awareness of urban issues. Some look for those guilty of the crisis, something I’m interested on as a citizen, but that is not the purpose of these lines. Some want a paradigm shift through a stronger citizen involvement, educating people as to obtain their engagement. Otherwise, it would be naïve to think that the city will no longer concentrate huge economic interests, often legitimate, whose effective social articulation also requires a reflection in a moment in which a growing (and often preposterous) complexity of the planning system makes it loose its legitimacy as a tool to improve our vital environment.
All the approaches enrich the debate. This blog shows a perspective on cities and land, taking into account long term dynamics: relations with the wide land context, urban pattern inertia, and the chances to improve the efficiency of the city as an everyday tool to improve our lives.
The blog will be composed of comparative case studies regarding different social and geographic contexts. The comparative analysis is sometimes based on my own personal travel experience, and in the rest of the cases on available geographic data. There is a risk to be unable to grasp the meanings in some contexts; but there is also a chance to find interesting elements in unexpected places.
As an example, this first post includes a series of images of eight midsize metropolitan areas: my hometown (La Coruña), two more European cities, two Americans, an African and two Asians. I only have been to three of these cities, and the depth of information available is not homogeneous.
A progressive scale approach allows a better understanding of some problems. The use of universally available cartographic resources does not hinder the explanation, but in some cases more elaborate maps will be used.
I am an urban planner because I am an architect, even if there is no compulsory causality. In every case I will play with scales as I find fit, from 5 cm to 1.000 km. Each question requires a scale or a combination of several, and social, economic and environmental issues coexist with an aesthetic and constructive dimension of the city.
This blog is not a collective work; I am to blame for form or content errors. I will be grateful to my readers for their observations leading to error correction.