The preservation of urban densification is absurd
Years ago i did an interview with richard rogers in his office near london. At some point i remarked that he was truly a 20th century man. To my surprise, he did not take this as a compliment. "I do not want to be a man of the. Century", he said. "I want to be a person of the 21. Century." from that moment on, i realized that lord rogers was a man of great ambition.
Years later, when the virtually uncontroversial result of his expert group landed on the cabinet table, everyone could see his ambition. But at the same time, the nemesis that follows the stubs of power also loves to recognize itself. Lord rogers has obviously not become a person of the 21. Century, but a man who has come to terms with the 21. Century struggles. The report of his expert group is absolutely wrong about the future of cities. It is wrong because, in the broadest possible sense, every significant advance in science, technology and society during the last century has strengthened the centrifugal dispersion of human settlements and weakened their centripetal counterforce.
Only governments that are always determined to throw good money out the window to resist unstoppable trends offer support for the mirage of urban renaissance. Everything else points in the other direction.
Just look at the urban infrastructure. The london underground, for example, which carries three million people a day, is the foundation of public transport in the city. Long ago, it bubbed up 25 percent of its track due to years of deferred repairs and lack of investment. The condition of the system is now so bad that 50 billion pounds and operational disruptions were necessary over a period of 10 years if it was to be modernized.
London is just like the subway. It has streets that are too narrow, buildings that are too old, and vastly exaggerated notions of the value of the whole. This misconception of the value underlines the denial with which many of the "people of the 21. Century" face the facts of urban decline. If we could have invested 5 billion pounds in the crossrail, then we did. When we could have set aside 10 billion pounds for new bus lines, we had done so. 10 billion for slum clearance and social housing? Yes, of course. For only 70 billion pounds – and with years of disruption across the city – you could get london back in shape. But we can’t afford to spend it, and we can’t afford the time. That’s why we play around with vat and provide public funds for urban renaissance, which are just a bit more than the car industry’s advertising pot.
Deep down, we know that we can only afford the light, electronic and information infrastructure that consumers are willing to pay for. And this infrastructure is no longer tied to one place at all.
Now look at the land that is supposedly so valuable that it must be protected at all costs. What can it be used for, if not for a beneficial purpose?? Understand our "man of the 21. Century" the impact of scientific agriculture on food production? Until the second world war, agriculture was carried out organically. It could easily produce a ton of food for every acre that was cultivated. Within 50 years of scientific progress, crop yields quadrupled. In the last 10 years, genetic changes have doubled this again. There is enough space on the land to both farm and build buildings.
The whole idea of concentrating the population in the cities while sparing the countryside for its own protection is absurd. Urban densification is not efficient, it is expensive, inflexible, undemocratic and dangerous. Low-population and wide-area networks of settlements are controllable, self-sustaining and, most importantly, offer where people really want to live.