Puhe 7.5.2007
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Planning and dream of a better city on a globalized world

Laura Kolbe
IPHS President
Key speech
Chicago 2008

Dear colleagues and friends,

To start with, of course, today one has to ask: is International Planning History Society needed? Is planning history as such still a relevant field for academic studies? I see, that planning history is linked to urban history. As we know, rapid changes have occurred during the last decades. We have seen the growth of metropolises – big cities tend to grow even bigger. Regions have strengthened their identities and regionalism as local political movement is stronger than ever. The role of “public” in planning is not any more so strong as it used to be; free capitalism and civic activities influences the development in many cities, not only here in United States of America, as the tradition has been, but everywhere. We see new players in urban areas all over the world: private developers and new capitalist show great interest in land use and planning. Ethnicity and multiculturalism influence our everyday life, not at least in the cities. Universal and global trends as well as gender issues influence planning and architecture at local level. In this situation new questions must be asked. The notion of planning history must be re-taught when it comes to the planning policies, practicalities and ideologies, not to forget the role of the planners.

I just would like to make you move to Europe, to my continent which I know best, and to Moscow, to one of the interning cities of our time (let me see it as the reborn Chicago of 21st century), which is most under development at the moment; symbolizing in my opinion the transformation Europe, well the whole world is experiencing at the moment. The City Hall and City Duma project, currently under construction, will be the new home for the Moscow government and duma. It will consist of four 1012 feet, 71 story towers. Currently, the government of the city is using hundreds of smaller buildings throughout the city. It is expected that all power will be accumulated in the new complex to provide better organization, allowing the buildings currently in use to be sold. The project consists of four super tall skyscrapers with several two storey bridges between towers and eight storey bridges at the top. The highest bridges will be built in shape of letter "M" for Moscow.

But nor only a new city hall, but tens of other sky scrapes are under construction in the capital city of Russia The Federation Tower complex is a skyscraper currently under construction in Moscow, is designed to be both the tallest building in Europe as well as Europe's first super tall building with 93 storeys, divided into two towers. Eurasia is one other 994 feet skyscraper with offices, apartments, a casino, a hotel, and other entertainment. Symbolically, in the middle of all these building activities, is Moscow International Business Center is a commercial district of central Moscow. This area is currently under intense development. The goal of Moscow IBC is to create the first zone in Russia (and in all of Eastern Europe), that will combine business activity, living space and entertainment. It will be a city within a city. The project was conceived by the Moscow government in 1992. The construction IBC is taking place on the Presnenskaya embankment. The entire project takes up 1 square kilometre. Today, most of the buildings there are old factories and industrial complexes. The total cost of the project is $12 Billion.

The end of the Cold War at the turn of the 1980s and 1990s was followed by an awakening nationalism in many parts of Europe. In the European map, redrawn in the 1990s many new independent nations were born, often in line with historical borders created before 1945. A major political transformation occurred in many Central and East European countries, where the awakening movements helped to create a new political power structure. Followed by a reunification of Europe new possibilities were opened for new over national (meaning European), national, urban and local identities. Many new nation-states emerged, each with its own national capital city. At this area of Europe, one could see how in Tallinn, Riga, Vilnius, Warsaw, Minsk, Kiev, Ljubljana, Sarajevo, Bucharest, Sofia and St. Petersburg the same issue became vital: how to underline at he same time the special history and status of the metropolitan city and to create a modern post-socialist nationhood and manifest its urban image as well as its political and symbolic centrality.

New world after 1989 and new urban policies

I think we have to deal two kinds of interests in the field on planning today, dual and dialectic interests you might say: interest for local history and national nostalgia – urban, modern and global renaissance. Both affect on our dream of a better city. The 1980s saw the renaissance of religious and national feeling, and along with it, a growing respect for history, especially urban history. Interest in public historic buildings and antiquities increased. The enthusiasm for restoration expressed not only anti-Communist feelings but also a completely different historical approach to the urban reality than that of progressive Soviet modernism. The break-up with the Soviet Union increased the willingness to change the socialist planned economic system. Locality became on of the key issues. In city planning and urban development the political change meant a transition from a centralist urban hierarchy towards a post-socialist networking policy and post-industrial capitalism. Internationalisation and regionalisation became two major strategies to find new ways of self-representation after the fall of Socialism.

Today, everywhere in the global world a new concern is laid on the metropolitan development, international city networks and regional network activities. Towards the end of the 1980s and beginning 1990s became clear that cities and regions were caught in the new stage of development. This development was a response to
• the economical and social changes in the society
• the convergence of new information and communication technologies
• decentralization & deindustrialization
that started to manifest themselves in the mid of 1970s, resulting in the western world economical and instability - a phenomenon that was practically unknown during the post-war boom period 1945-1970. Whole clusters of urban industries disappeared (like shipbuilding, textile etc.) at the same time as the globalization of production has changed the economic and social life in the cities. The most important consequences have been a new form of urban hierarchies and new forms of cities’ networking, both at national and over-national level.

After the political changes in 1989-1991 a tremendous new market opened up in Eastern Europe for the western capital, resulting in a rearrangement of the important cities like Berlin and Vienna. The disappearance of the Iron Curtain provoked a new kid of dynamism resulting in reconfiguration of nations, spaces and regions. Using a German colleagues phrase, Karl Schlöger, the remapping of the world is going on. “Eat” and “West” are disappearing – new common language and ideology is capitalism and speculation. Here of course we need to ask,

Cities are to be, like many urban theoretic scholars claimed, today and in history, machines for wealth creation and creativity. Planning and architecture always express ideology; conflicts and contradictions that promote societal change. Many theories of urbanism (David Harvey, Manuel Castells) argue that the form and function of a city are expression of its societal circumstances as defined within the concepts of historical materialism. Class, capital and power shape today the city and use it to perpetuate themselves. Here I can only note a new strong dimension: hundreds of thousands of people are moving around, seeking for job, trade possibilities, better life, without leaving any trace in public space or political consciousness. This huge migration and commerce linked to it has not yet, as Schlöger points out, left marks on “official” cities; it is concentrated on informal distribution places, markets, bazaars and places of unofficial exchange. Here we see that the bazaars outside the traditional city centers create new commercial and trade centers.

This of course, challenges the instruments of traditional planning – and affect on our understanding of planning mechanisms, dreams behind planning and its history. Let’s see where we are, historically. Immediately after the II WW, the war generated a need for a vision of society, reference usually being a nation state (1). The score was set: social welfare for the whole nation and for all of its citizens. A consensus was born, incorporating together a large number of different interest groups for a political partnership, wanting to promote social stability and economic growth. Planning was key element in all policy making. / during the growth period in 1950s and 1960s an economic prosperity developed (2). Cities were planned for a better future: according to modernist ideal; new residential areas, shopping centers, roads and traffic arrangements were planned based on partnership with private sector. Planning could fulfill its role in terms of steering and balancing the demands and having social objectives.

The political events of 1968 represent the breakdown of this consensus (3). It was during this period that the post-war materialist Welfare State approach was questioned. Planning’s ability to operate in the “public interest” was now being openly questioned; social aspects were dominant, ecological started to grow. Moves were made to open up planning with more civic participation. Modernist movement was criticized; urban history and urban values became stronger. / After Thatcherism during 1980s new approach to planning became evident (4). A demand arose: in the planning process all decisions, choices or priorities should be based on market principles – only market can deal with the complexity of the city and encourage innovation. Consequently, planning since then is being dominated by expanded use of market mechanisms and a market-led approach to public-private partnerships. Here we are today: there is a strong negative feeling against purely public planning (with its “leftist” touch…) and a rehabilitation of private planning and privatization – this also being one of the central themes at this conference.

Alas, the dream of our time is the global creative city. The reality of today is urban growth: at the end of this year – so calculates the United Nation’s social- and economic department DESA - half of the world’s population, 6,7 milliard people live in the cities. Is this the final and grand change in the history of human kind? From here on, most of the people in the world are urban dwellers. Forty years from here, in 2050 the percentage will be 70: of 9,2 milliard people 6,4 live in the cities. The biggest urbanization will be in Asia and Africa – here most of the people still live the countryside. This will create huge new challenges in planning for well-populated countries like India, Bangladesh and Nigeria. Old continent, Europe, as well as Australia, New Zealand and North America will loose their position as most urbanized areas of today.

Today we have 19 mega cities with a population over 10 million people. After 15 year the amount of mega cities will be close to 30, most of them being in China and India. The paradigm shift is having widespread consequences: a traditional form of nation state is getting looser as cities grow in size and importance. A new type of competition and co operation in between cities has emerged. The success of a city is today considered to be on the role it plays in the integrated world economy. Here we have the basic background for my presentation: global integration during 1990s and a new kind of competition of cities and regions. Opening the frontiers, removing trade barriers, free circulation of economic, technical and human resources affects today cities’ urban policy. At the same time, internationalization of the society and longing for history created a need to stress the specificity of the space. (Verwijnen)

What can be the forces for change during the 21st century? The largest cities tend to have the richest information technology networks as well as the richest facilities for personal movements, like international airport, high-speed trains etc. These advantages seem to be cumulative, supporting each other. Also, major global cities increasingly compete with each other to attract top-level global activities, transnational capital and elite population. In this process the metropolitan clusters seem to continue to grow and expand. They can become even more powerful actors on the international scene. Politically this can mean that creative cities - with their regions and powerful elites - increase their demands on autonomy and self-determination vis-à-vis a centralized, national state.

Are we now finally seeing the birth of a modern, creative city, satisfying all needs of a human being? During the 20the century political debate many have wished and hoped the death of the megalopolis, developed into the giant uncontrolled city of necropolis, as was the interpreted by Lewis Mumford, one of the great writers within urban history. This has not yet happened. We can see, on the contrary, that this Mumfordian megalopolis is renamed today as the global city. It still attracts those who command and control the new global economy. The fascination is based on the fact, that no one kind of city, nor any one size of city, has a monopoly on the good life; but that the biggest and most cosmopolitan cities, with all their problems and disadvantages, have throughout the history been the places where the creativity flourishes. So the air is still free in the cities or, as Aristotle said, “men came together in cities to live, but remained there to live the good life”.

On has to ask, is there going to be a happy end in our time? Cities continue to grow, people will be urbanized; no planning is needed in the future? The map of post-1989 world is also going to be labeled with the map of post-September-11. This situation makes the future prospects all but romantic and nostalgic. One global crisis – now maybe some more of the climate changes? - and we can see a political and social counter reaction. The human need for “safe space” at mental, cultural and social level can change urban developments into a complete counteraction. Conservative, nationalistic and populist movements can start to rise. De-concentration strengthens; people prefer to migrate to small safe towns and villages at the outskirts of cities. Rural and nostalgic values dominate. I sometimes wonder: what would Ebenezer Howard like to say in our world? What would be his urban utopia for 21st century?

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