Monday, October 23, 2006

Mega cities on display in Venice

The biennale on architecture in Venice is well worth a visit – you should reserve two days for it, there’s a lot to see. It’s hard work, but luckily there’s all of that wonderful Italian coffee to pick you up.
It closes on november 18th.

The theme this time is Mega cities, and the main exhibition looks at 16 major cities: Caracas, Cairo, Mexico City, Cairo, Berlin, Shanghai, Istanbul and Los Angeles are among them.
Lots of good analysis, breathtaking multimedia, amazing photos and interesting facts. Such as:
There’s one square meter of free space pr. Inhabitant in Cairo.
In 2050 8 billion people will be living in cities - 3/4 of the worlds population, as opposed to just over half today.
The worlds largest city currently is the greater Tokyo metropolitan area with 34 mio. Inhabitants. By 2050 Mumbai is expected to be the largest. It’s currently 18 mio. But will likely be over 40 mio. Then.
In Los Angeles 80% of all transportation is in cars, In Tokyo 80% of transportation uses trains and buses.
The typical daily commuting time in Sao Paolo, Brasil is 4-5 hours.
Half of all cement in the world is used in China. Shanghai alone added 2700 skyscrapers in the past ten years, increasing the number of hi-rises tenfold.
60% of Mexico Cities inhabitants are squatters. The rates for ”informal” occupancy is similar in many third mega-cities.

The impression I got away with was that of to very strong, opposing forces, top-down and bottom-up. One is city planning and architecture on an absolutely massive, soviet style scale. The exhibition shows any number of very large projects for brand new cities with hundreds of thousands of inhabitants – particularly for Asia.
The other force is the flood of poor people simply moving to the city, putting up their shacks where it’s possible. Seen from above, it looks like a sea of corrugated tin roofs and muddy roads swallowing the old, official cities.
The Venezuelan pavilion is about the slums of Caracas. On a wall-size sign it’s states something like: These people have no use for architects. This sort of city does not look like someone intended. But perhaps, the solutions that the people in the slums find to solve the extreme pressure on resources could be used by all of us.

For old times sake I did a radio-report for Radio Denmarks Orientering.
It’s in Danish, though. You can hear it here.

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