Contextualizing Approaches to Urbanization

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Contextualizing Approaches to Urbanization
Andy Brandl via Getty Images

Currently, half of the world’s population resides in urban areas, and this proportion is expected to rise to 70 percent in the next thirty years. One of the most pressing questions confronting architects and urban planners is how to enable cities to meet the new infrastructural and cultural demands at this critical juncture. To achieve this, I believe it is crucial to contextualize the present moment within a larger historical narrative about the city’s enduring and dynamic relationship with density and change. ….

…. Perhaps the first in this series of historical ruptures occurred around 8000 BCE with the invention of agriculture. Prior to this moment, which first appeared in the Fertile Crescent region of what is now the Middle East, humans were nomadic hunter-gathers never numbering more than six million globally. The domestication of plant and animal species thanks to new technologies for irrigation and soil tilling made food surpluses possible for the first time. It was only then that permanent settlement became advantageous and the city became conceivable. The high crop yield from relatively small plots of land enabled an unprecedented concentration of people, who were now free to undertake non-subsistence based practices such as craftwork and defense. This division of labor created a new cultural complexity organized through ruling elites and governing bodies, giving rise to the first hierarchical models of society. ….