• Highways Destroyed America's Cities
• Why haven't China's cities learned from America's mistakes?

Urban Planning

by hugo - Nov 25th, 2015

"America loves its freeways. After the 1956 Federal Highway Bill created the pathway for a 41,000 mile interstate highway system, states and cities jockeyed for the funding to build ever-more extensive networks of pavement that could carry Americans quickly between cities. Sometimes, they built these highways right in the middle of cities, displacing communities and razing old buildings and homes. “This was a program which the twenty-first century will almost certainly judge to have had more influence on the shape and development of American cities, the distribution of population within metropolitan areas and across the nation as a whole, the location of industry and various kinds of employment opportunities,” Daniel Moynihan wrote in 1970 about the federal program that built these thousands of miles of highways. But highways also created problems, some of which have become much worse in the years since. Urban freeways displaced communities and created air and noise pollution in downtown areas. They made it easier for suburban commuters to “zip to their suburban homes at the end of the work day, encouraging those with means to abandon the urban core,” Ted Shelton and Amanda Gann of the University of Tennessee wrote in a paper about urban freeways. They also encouraged a reliance on cars that has led to the traffic problems and commuting woes that are motivating a return to city cores." ================================================ “The removal of urban interstates is a growing trend in the U.S.,” Shelton and Gann wrote. This trend, if carried to its logical extreme, can yield sites of intervention that hold the promise of remaking the American city.”

Highways Destroyed America's Cities
Can tearing them down bring revitalization?
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"... it was clear that Chinese developers had done more than duplicate California’s Mediterranean-themed architecture. McMansion communities like Rancho Santa Fe have also helped recreate the golden state’s car headaches and endless sprawl, thanks to planners and policymakers who have repeated the urban design sins of developed countries. For China, California dreaming has turned into a nightmare." "But China looked back instead of forward. Over the past decade and a half, the nation’s developers and government officials have replicated discredited urban planning templates, importing ideas that were tested, failed and long since abandoned in places like Europe and the US. Planning authorities have committed “essentially all the mistakes that have been made in the western world before”, says Yan Song, director of the programme on Chinese cities at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill." "These ideas have worked about as well in China as they have everywhere else. Which is to say congestion, smog and competition for scarce resources are on the rise. A 2011 IBM survey found Beijing and Shenzhen had the most miserable commutes in the world, after only Mexico City. Cars now generate a third of the hazardous air pollution in Beijing caused by fine particles known as PM 2.5. And a report from the World Bank released this past March found China’s urban expansion had put the country’s available farmland “close to the ‘red line’ of 120 million hectares” – also known as “the minimum necessary to ensure food security.” "China’s bureaucrats and homebuyers are drawn to the same trappings of success that moneyed classes elsewhere have enjoyed. There’s the sense, for example, that to become a financial centre, China must look like a financial centre – which means replicating the plans for the Loop in Chicago or Canary Wharf in London. Businesses want the appearance of modernity that, it seems, only stacked glass boxes can provide. And homeowners want the white picket fence that defines the Chinese dream as much as the American one. “In a way, it’s the Louis Vuitton complex: ‘because everyone else has a Louis Vuitton, I have to have one, too,’” says Laurence Liauw, author of New Urban China and the principal director of Spada, a multi-disciplinary design firm based in Hong Kong. “We [the Chinese] want to be like everyone else. We want to be like Palm Springs, or Portofino, or whatever is the latest fashionable address.” “There’s nothing wrong with it,” says Liauw, except that “it comes at a very, very high cost to humanity, to the environment and in resources.”

Why haven't China's cities learned from America's mistakes?
Faceless estates. Sprawling suburbs. Soulless financial districts. Discredited elsewhere as fostering the worst kind of urban angst, these are the vogue in China – but change could be afoot
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