Ed Glaeser recently asserted that cities are growth engines. He vividlyportrays his view o both the benets o the city, and the disbenets onot supporting their economies in his new book. This was described in‘Prospect’ magazine as a ‘love letter to cities’. Making cities work matters.I cities are engines o the new economic uture, then neighbourhoods andcommunities are key parts. How we see them matters.Someone once said that ‘what is most general is most particular’. What thismeans is that the things which mean most to one person, probably meansomething to someone else. This isn’t about preerences. This is aboutthe qualities that aect us as humans. It is about lives. Starting with thismatters.In discussing neighbourhoods, cities and communities it is important tobe clear about what matters. For some, the design o the place matters,how it looks, how it works. I we locate a two year old in the centre o thisquestion we might unpack the answer starting in terms o some o thebasic elements o our lives: a house, health, a job, learning. Looking intoeach o these elements in turn, we inevitably start to look at relationships,between the elements, between spaces, between people, between serviceproviders, investors, designers, users. Instead o moving rom the generalto the particular, we might start with the particular. Start with something thatmatters and move out to the bigger picture; sometimes we get dierentanswers, and new ways o seeing things. This matters.It has been argued that one key source o health inequality is the lack oopportunity to get a job. Proessor Michael Parkinson, in presenting work on competitiveness and social cohesion notes that ’the key social ace ocities and regions is the emergence o social exclusion which is growingin rich as well as poor areas, in growing as well as declining areas. Thegrowth in social exclusion is intimately connected to, and partly caused by,the search or economic competitiveness. But at the same time the growthin social exclusion is limiting the economic competitiveness o our citiesand regions’. This is the key dilemma o the uture o places, a real andconcerted eort to build opportunity or all and tackle the wicked problemsthat have dogged communities or generations.
“The cities everyone wants to live in would be clean and sae, possess efcient public services, support a dynamiceconomy, provide cultural stimulation, and help heal society’s divisions o race, class, and ethnicity. These are not the cities we live in. This is so in part because the city is not its own master; cities can ail on all these countsdue to national government policy or to social ills and economic orces beyond local control. Still, something has gone wrong, radically wrong, in our conception o what a city itsel should be.
Richard Sennet, Quant
ACADEMY OF URBANISM CONGRESS VI, Glasgow 2011
Provocation workshop themes: Overview