13 Jan

THE ENDLESS CITY is a very large book. Huge actually. Coming in at 512 pages and 2.6 kilograms, this is probably not the book to tuck under your arm and take to the beach for some summer reading. Still, it’s so good it would almost be worth the effort.

Apparently, at some point in 2006 the world changed from being primarily rural, to a primarily urban population – that’s right, more than half of the world’s population lives in a metropolitan area. And in this instance, ‘metropolitan’ doesn’t mean a car-loving suburban utopia such as Melbourne or Dallas. It is more likely to mean living with 15 million of your closest friends in the dusty streets of Lagos, or sharing the Yangtze River Delta with 80 million others.

Written by 35 contributors, and edited by Ricky Burdett and Deyan Sudjic, THE ENDLESS CITY gives a global overview of population change, and then presents six case studies into how New York, Shanghai, London, Mexico City, Johannesburg and Berlin are being affected by global population movements. In London’s case, it is struggling to cope with an exploding population from the EU’s country-members which currently stands at 27. Berlin, on the other hand, is one of only a handful of cities around the world that have a decreasing population, presenting some unique challenges for the former East German capital.

THE ENDLESS CITY also gives a unique insight into the almost universal power play between rich and poor in global cities. For example, the government-funded expressway in Mexico City that was built above an existing, but perpetually-clogged motorway, with the sole aim of ensuring wealthy suburban residents don’t have to drive through the ‘real’ city or navigate pesky traffic when commuting from their office to their suburban villa. To do this, the road has very few off-ramps for about 11 kilometres, meaning the poor still have to navigate the congested streets, while their rich amigos fly by overhead.

If you’re interested in politics, geography, design, or just the world in general, this is a must-read and beautifully produced book. Try to buy it locally, however, as you can bet Amazon will charge through the nose to cart this epic tome from Seattle to Sydney.

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Posted by on January 13, 2009 in Books, reading, urban design


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