Why you should care
OZY’s City Futures brings you urban face-lifts reshaping life, from crumbling commercial capitals to war zones.
The world has never been more urbanized than it is today — 55 percent of all people live in cities, according to the World Bank, compared to 46 percent at the turn of the century. Yet individual cities aren’t guaranteed growth. Detroit, once an epitome of America’s manufacturing prowess, and Aden, the Yemeni city that was the world’s second busiest port in the 1950s, are today shells compared to the past. One of the world’s first cities, Uruk in Sumer, no longer exists. Other ancient urban hubs such as Jerusalem, Athens and Damascus, however, still remain important cities.
What makes a city click, why do some fail and how are urban hubs around the world reinventing themselves to stay attractive to both existing residents and newcomers? These are some of the questions OZY’s City Futures series will answer, with stories from around the world. No matter where you live, in a world that’s only going to urbanize more, the lessons these cities offer are vital for us too.
Barranquilla, a melting pot of immigrants and cultures at the start of the 20th century, is witnessing a revival after three decades of stagnation, driven by oil and gas investments, a building boom, a populist, baseball cap–wearing mayor and a controversial strategy – moving closer to the coast.
Months — and in some cases years — of sieges and conflict with ISIS have left large urban centers from the Middle East to Southeast Asia in ruin. Now freed, Mosul in Iraq, Marawi in the Philippines and Kobani in Syria aren’t just rebuilding what was destroyed — designers, residents and aid agencies are creating modern cities that address the social, economic and infrastructure shortcomings that allowed ISIS to capture them in the first place.
A growing number of American cities are turning to the U.N’s sustainable development goals (SDGs) to measure their own progress in arenas as diverse as fixing broken justice systems and ensuring economic opportunities for vulnerable communities. They’re also hoping to shield themselves from the adverse effects of a fraying relationship between the U.S. and the U.N.
Port Elizabeth has long suffered a reputation as a cultural desert compared to Cape Town or Johannesburg. Now, rare teamwork between the local municipality, the federal government and a growing band of entrepreneurs is allowing the city to use tax incentives and a low cost of living to attract creative professionals and businesses.
From markets shaped out of containers and green parks built over lakes to privately owned public spaces and government-backed indoor hawker centers, Asia’s mega cities are finding new fixes to the urbanization eating up traditional public spaces in a continent that has seen 200 million people move from villages to cities in just a decade.
Spanish real estate developer Fernando Palazuelo lost most of his wealth in the 2008 economic crisis. So, he did what many Spaniards before him did — look for opportunity in the Americas. In Lima, he found it, in the form of a historic city center left dilapidated by neglect from Peru’s wealthy elite. Palazuelo is now restoring Lima’s history — one that was built in part by his nation.
Suzy Torriente is chief resiliency officer for Miami Beach. Her ability to translate what climate scientists say into action has made her a star in climate circles. She has spoken at conferences around the world, trained municipal workers in South Africa on climate adaptations and helped review the National Academy of Science’s 2017 climate report. Torriente is part of the emerging field of climate change specialists in local governments, today the frontline in America’s fight against climate change.
Asia is home to the most ambitious “smart city” projects, from the UAE’s Masdar to India’s Amaravati to China’s Tianjin Eco-City, districts aiming to go completely green with driverless electric cars and zero-emissions buildings. But the combined population of all these startup cities could fit inside one neighborhood of China’s Chongqing. Whether Asians can scale the innovations of their experimental zones to the level of their many megalopolis cities is the question whose answer will hold lessons for the rest of the world too.
Varvara Melnikova’s Strelka Institute for Media, Architecture and Design played a key role in Moscow’s urban face-lift in recent years. But her goal — and challenge — is bigger: She’s out to train a young generation of Russian urban planners who understand the concept of the public space in a land notorious for its concrete and brutalist architecture.
- The Defiant Congolese City Daring to Resist a Dictator
- This Ungoverned Haitian City Is Fighting to Stay Alive
- The Road to China’s Global 5G Domination Is Here
- As China Caps City Populations, Its Neighbor Rolls Out the Red Carpet
- America Begins Capping Freeway Scars of the Past
- Chicago’s Crime-Busting Model Is Sweeping the Nation