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Monday, December 5, 2011

Where Is Eco-city?

Posted by on Mon, Dec 5, 2011 at 6:41 AM

It's not in the future. It's right here...

Do you recognize this intriguing globular cluster of stars? Its actually the constellation of city lights surrounding London, England, planet Earth, as recorded with a digital camera from the International Space Station.
  • NASA
  • "Do you recognize this intriguing globular cluster of stars? It's actually the constellation of city lights surrounding London, England, planet Earth, as recorded with a digital camera from the International Space Station."

Austin Williams, an architecture critic and one of the editors of The Lure of the City:
In the book I carried out a simple comparison of Tianjin in China and London using the criteria by which Tianjin markets itself as an eco-city. Even though the conclusions are tongue-in-cheek, the data are interesting.

For example, of those who commute to central London, 90% travel by non-car means. This is the same percentage of public-transport trips intended for Tianjin. In terms of carbon emissions, London's are currently nearly half of those projected for Tianjin. Since October 2011, all new domestic developments in London have had a maximum water consumption rate of 120 litres per person per day, which is the same that Tianjin aims for in ten years time. And finally, London has 105 square metres of green space per person, almost nine times that proposed for purpose-made Tianjin. If I was being mischievous, I might conclude that London is actually way ahead in environmental terms of a purpose-made Chinese eco-city.

No need for planning or dreaming or even utopia. A real city is already an eco-city.


Comments (10) RSS

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Living in a population-dense city, of the kind that were laid out before cars, is one of the greenest things you can do. Living in the exurbs, among "nature", one of the brownest.
Posted by Eric from Boulder on December 5, 2011 at 7:20 AM · Report this
Camembert 2
That jug-eared bell end Prince Charles has built an eco-village in Scotland. An eco-commuter-village. My mind boggles at this oxymoron. The most ecological way of living is the most economical - a large, dense, city, with well-developed public transport. If London is greener than Tianjin then New York must be greener than London, and Manhattan greenest of them all.
Posted by Camembert on December 5, 2011 at 7:26 AM · Report this
MyNameIsNobody 3
You're absolutely right Charles. Just don't tell that to the Landscape Urbanists.
Posted by MyNameIsNobody on December 5, 2011 at 9:18 AM · Report this
Fnarf 4
London surely is greener than Tianjin but it is irrelevant. The urban action in China and other parts of the growing 21st-century world are leaving the big 19th- and 20th-century cities in the dust. Ever heard of Chongqing? 9 million people, and growing like lightning. Chengdu, same thing. Chennai, India. Sao Paolo, Brazil is stealing the financial elite from New York and London, and its tech satellite Campinas is booming like noplace in the West. Comparing infrastructure alone, check out the airport in a city like Singapore -- positively futuristic compared to the clapped-out hellholes of Heathrow or JFK.

Our century is over. All we have to offer the future is Kardashians.
Posted by Fnarf on December 5, 2011 at 9:31 AM · Report this
Fnarf, It's easy (and fun!) to make this sweeping proclamations, but these other cities and their futures aren't set. Neither are ours. China also has a bunch of nearly empty cities that were built to be these new capitols of such and such industry that never happened. Brand new cities completely planned and built with over 90% vacancy.
The other thing to remember is that a rising economy in one country does not completely negate the existing economies of other countries. If that was the case then the Europe would have disappeared with the rise of the US, and the US with the rise of Japan. Granted we are affected by these other economies, but we are not destroyed by them.
oh yeah... JFK really needs to be leveled and rebuilt from the ground up. Except for the new JetBlue terminal. That can stay.
Posted by SPG on December 5, 2011 at 11:16 AM · Report this
Fnarf 6
@5, but if we leveled and rebuilt JFK, it would be worse. We have no idea how to build big things anymore. It would be vast, and plated with glamour, but it would be mostly non-functional, in part because the only function that American designers can mentally grasp anymore is security and crowd control. Have you been in any US airport, even brand-new ones, that wasn't a shithole?

Contrast that with Changi in Singapore, which is absolutely packed with genuinely great (and affordable) food service, real shops (not just Hudson News and a strip of luxury shops), free 24-hour napping areas, free showers and swimming pools, luxurious lounges open to all -- seriously, it offers a level of comfort and relaxation that is unavailable to most Americans ANYWHERE, let alone in an airport. And it's efficient, too.

I don't know where you're getting this "vacant cities" stuff from. Perhaps they exist. But Chongqing isn't one of them -- it's brand-new, but it's already larger than London or any other European city -- 28 mil in the municipality. Granted, it's not a museum like London or Paris, so you probably wouldn't want to vacation there, but it's where the future is being made.
Posted by Fnarf on December 5, 2011 at 12:35 PM · Report this
LHR Terminal 5 is rather nice, actually
Posted by myr on December 5, 2011 at 1:04 PM · Report this
Vince 8
When you invert the colors of the photo, it looks like mold in a petri dish.
Posted by Vince on December 5, 2011 at 1:25 PM · Report this
@6 Fnarf, How hard is it to google China empty cities? Here, I'll even do it for you:…

I do agree with you on the sorry state of airports in this country and I'd go further to point out that just about any project tends to look like crap and be ridiculously unfunctional. It seems like everything is trying to be grand while not being offensive to anyone. The result is that you get these grand bland structures that aren't offensive to anyone, or at least to anyone without taste or anyone who doesn't take a minute to examine them. They're completely uninspiring.
What's going to be left of these things in a hundred years? I don't think they'll even be here in a couple decades.
Posted by SPG on December 5, 2011 at 2:36 PM · Report this
Fnarf 10
@9, I believe you, but it certainly is interesting that most of the top links there are from the Daily Mail, a loon who quotes Edgar Cayce and talks about the Illuminati, and Ron Paul. Most of the evidence appears to be about one city in particular.

And even if all that is true, it doesn't change the fact of Chongqing or the dozens of other decidedly non-empty Chinese cities. Or the ones in other countries, in Brazil, India, Indonesia (Kuala Lumpur is ten times more exciting than the museum cities of the West), Mexico, Vietnam, South Africa, even Australia...

At least we have Walmart.
Posted by Fnarf on December 5, 2011 at 3:11 PM · Report this

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