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environment

City heights
T
here’s a classic line from the film Crocodile Dundee where
upon arriving in downtown Manhattan fresh from Outback
Australia, ‘Mick’ Dundee comments that; “Seven million
people all wanting to live together! New York must be the friendliest
place on earth!”
To anyone even remotely familiar with the Big Apple, the state-
ment is laugh-out-loud hilarious. But, if you think about it long
enough, maybe he did have a point. After all, why do so many of us
decide to make the city our home? So many of us in fact that the
United Nations estimates that by 2020 over 50 per cent of the plan-
et’s vast and ever expanding human population will live within an
‘Urban’ environment. Or, to put it another way, some 70 million
people a year currently migrate from the country to a city, that’s
around 130 a minute.
This kind of social shift is of tremendous importance to those who
plan and build our cities, demanding innovative and creative solu- Myles Cummings
tions to housing, transportation, work, and leisure spaces. But the goes ‘back to the
challenge of designing the ‘City of the Future’ is one which architects future’ and looks at
from Edwin Lutyen to Le Corbusier have relished. Urban planning on some of the radical
a grand scale panders to both the dictator and the demi-god in them. new thinking which
It is the closest the architect comes to government in the imposition will shape our cities
of his/her ideas on society at large. Urban planning on a grand scale in the 21st Century
has at its heart the notion that the Metropolis can be designed and
built in such a way that the society which inhabits it, will potentially
lead a better, happier, and more fulfilled life. In other words, Utopia
is city shaped.
Just how much that shape can change though is demonstrated
very clearly in the Barbican Art Gallery’s upcoming Future City exhi-
bition which showcases 60 visionary building projects and urban
plans from around the world, tracing the history and development of
international experimental architecture since 1950. Comprising origi-
nal models and drawings, films and photographs, the exhibition
invites us to envisage radically new ways of living in the city.
Highlights include drawings and models from contemporary working
architects like Zaha Hadid, and Foreign office architects; a model of

22 newdesign issuefortyone

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