'Instant cities' to manage booming Asian population

The global population is booming, much of it in urban areas. Nowhere is this more apparent in Asia. How will we cope? Greg Lindsay suggests the instant city.

As the population of Asian countries continues to boom, there's a simple question many officials are asking themselves: where do we put all these people?

Aerotropolis author Greg Lindsay -- if the name sounds familiar, it's because we interviewed him in April -- writes in Slate that "instant cities," metropolises built from scratch, may be "the defining challenge of our era."

He writes:

The earth’s urban population will nearly double by 2050, requiring the construction of hundreds of new cities. China is already building the equivalent of a Rome every few weeks to absorb the 400 million migrants streaming in from the countryside. The question facing us as an urban species isn’t whether to build cities tabula rasa, but how. And nowhere is this dilemma more pressing than in Asia.

The utopian city is a common theme across generations, from the Brazilian capital of Brasilia to the U.S. capital of Washington, but at no point in history has humanity had so many opportunities to experiment.

The reasons all-new cities are attractive to Asia:

  • Dense, efficient cities help combat climate change.
  • Pollution is already a major issue in China and neighboring nations.
  • The rate of population growth is so high, and it takes so long to work in an existing city, that building anew may be the only way to meet demand.

Lindsay offers several examples of projects already underway, including China's Mentougou Eco Valley; a retrofit of Langfang, also in China; Sino-Singapore Tianjin Eco-City; and Songdo, in Korea . (The New York Times published a report yesterday on Panasonic's similar work to build a new "smart city" in Japan.)

The challenge, of course, is to build a city that people will want to move to. Human history is littered with pristine projects in pursuit of the ideal but shattered by reality. We all know that our current cities aren't serving us as well as they could. Are we just too busy to think big?

Illustration: Tianjin Eco-City

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com