How Many Cities Does It Take to Make the Perfect City?

A new ranking out this week names the top global cities — and pinpoints the cities with the most potential to be on that list in the future.

For 2015, Chicago-headquartered consulting firm A.T. Kearney added a “Global Cities Outlook” list to its annual Global Cities Index report. According to A.T. Kearney, the yearly index “provides a unique assessment of global engagement for 125 cities representing all continents and regions, measuring how globally engaged each city is across 26 metrics in five dimensions — business activity, human capital, information exchange, cultural experience and political engagement.

The new feature, the Outlook, “evaluates the future potential of 125 cities based on the rate of change across four dimensions — personal well-being, economics, innovation and governance.”

Forty-one new cities made it into the group that was evaluated this year, including Philadelphia, Phoenix, Accra and Chennai.

Sixteen cities ranked in the top 25 on both the GCI and the GCO.

(Credit: A.T. Kearney)

Only London and New York ranked in the top 10 of both.

(Credit: A.T. Kearney)

In a press statement, Erik Peterson, A.T. Kearney partner, said: “The structure of the Global Cities 2015 measures both the current performance and future potential of cities to attract and retain global capital, people and ideas. As cities continue to expand their global influence, the Global Cities results inform the strategies of business leaders (placement of regional headquarters, research centers and other operational hubs) and city governments (improvement plans and investment decisions).”

The report emphasizes the international nature of today’s urban competitiveness and also acknowledges that perfection is a tough reach given the metrics.

Creating the “perfect” global city from the Global City Index requires the attributes of 19 separate cities, up from 16 in 2014. The #1 cities in the Index and Outlook only score ~60/100, with Beijing entering the Global City Index Top 10 in seven years.

Top cities in Europe outperform North America today but North America shows more future potential, especially in innovation. Top cities in China significantly outperform India today but the race for the future is tighter.

See the methodology and full report here.


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Stephenson Studio completes a Mondrian-inspired home for a remote site on the Welsh coastline

This family home nestled against the remnants of an ancient stone cottage on the Welsh coast features a composition inspired by the client's interest in abstract art (+ slideshow). (more…)


A True Community Waterfront Is a Better-Protected Waterfront

(AP Photo/Jason DeCrow)

City planners may throw “resilience” around like a buzzword, but as opposed to “smart” (or the dreaded “impactful”), it means something real.

On a basic level, its meaning is technocratic. According to the Rockefeller Foundation, the term arose in the 1970s as a way to measure cities’ vulnerability to risk or sudden shocks, and more recently the concept “has helped to bridge the gap between disaster-risk reduction and climate-change adaptation.” According to Nancy Kete, who leads Rockefeller’s work on urban resilience, “it’s not resilient if you’re just talking about risk reduction.”

The idea that cities can stave off the worst effects of climate change is no longer realistic. They must now learn how to adapt to it, Kete says — and this should lead city planners to focus on community resilience as an integral part of overall resilience. (Next City receives funding support from Rockefeller.)

What makes for resilient communities is, of course, a matter of debate. But in a coastal city like New York, community access to the waterfront is the starting point. During a panel on resilience at a recent Metropolitan Waterfront Alliance conference, which Kete moderated, many of the most popular ideas involved undoing New York’s legacy of building right up to the water’s edge.

Daniel Tainow, of the Lower East Side Ecology Center, pointed out that historically, communities closest to the water have had the least say over how that space is used. “One of the first things you notice when you look at the waterfront is the FDR [Expressway],” he said. “East River Park was developed as a part of that, but without thinking about the community impacts. Our park is nice, but there’s a huge highway blocking access for most of the community.”

More recently, according to Tainow, city officials are getting better at taking community input into account. The Lower East Side is home to the first phase of the “Dryline,” a long waterfront park that will have flood-protection mechanisms such as berms and retractable walls. Tainow said that the project’s designers have done “a really good job of incorporating previous people’s plans,” a step up from the heavy-handed approach of the past. Moreover, he said, residents are learning how to evaluate proposals in their own communities: How long will the buildout last? Will it block access to the waterfront? And will designers hire local residents to build and maintain the projects?

The idea that resilience means spreading knowledge among everyday New Yorkers was popular with the panelists. Stephen Whitehouse, a landscape architect, put it this way: “Is resiliency like a pat of butter that you spread over the landscape of New York City, or is it a resource to be replenished over time?” He strongly implied that for communities to be truly resilient, it would have to be the latter: a community’s recurring investment in itself, not just resources sprinkled from on high. One audience member, Susannah Black of the New York Harbor Foundation, touted waterfront education as one such investment. From a young age, she said, children should be taught “hands-on waterfront skills as well as the awareness of broader climate-change issues.” Panelist Emily Maxwell of the Nature Conservancy agreed and added that given New York’s poor history of caring for its waterfront resources, adults could use that education just as much as students.

Of course, “community resilience” is harder to achieve than “resilience” as a purely technocratic endeavor. The panelists were frank about the frustrations and complications of a community-based approach. Vincent Lee, of engineering firm ARUP, noted that any major building project in New York requires the agreement of several stakeholders, and waterfront projects tend to double or triple the number of voices involved. (Lee told the story of a park in Queens that involved the input of a local group called DOGLIC, or Dog Owners of Long Island City.) Then there are the minor disruptions that people hate in any neighborhood: blocked views, uprooted trees, eliminated parking spaces. Maxwell remarked, “You can walk in thinking, ‘I have this great project, why wouldn’t everybody love it?’ And then you can find friction, and the friction improves the project writ large.”

Still, if there’s anything that stands out about resiliency in New York, it’s the scale of the work that must be done. The city has more than 500 miles of shoreline, owned and managed by hundreds of private landowners and government agencies. For much of its history, New York built right up to the water’s edge, and preparing for another Hurricane Sandy-like storm will require rethinking (and maybe undoing) that legacy. Technocrats, no matter how talented, can’t do it alone.


renzo piano’s italian bank tower contains a public bioclimatic greenhouse

soaring 166 meters above turin, the scheme is conceived as an 'environmental and social laboratory', positioned at the center of a range of public services.

The post renzo piano’s italian bank tower contains a public bioclimatic greenhouse appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.


Danish designer Jacob Jensen dies aged 89

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johann sebastian bach gets illuminated by visual artist alan warburton

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The post johann sebastian bach gets illuminated by visual artist alan warburton appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.


We Need to Be More Thoughtful About Displacement

Brooklyn’s Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Last week, New York magazine published a provocative, but troubling excerpt from author D.W. Gibson’s new book The Edge Becomes the Center: The Oral History of Gentrification in the Twenty-First Century. Its frank description of real estate plunder in Brooklyn offers a rare glimpse into how race influences current-day real estate transactions.

In the piece, an anonymous Brooklyn real estate developer outlined strategies — many illegal and predatory on low-income black Brooklyners — to oust renters and property owners and replace them with white, relatively affluent transplants in neighborhoods that had been primarily occupied by residents of color.

“Ephraim” charged newcomers double what the displaced residents were paying, raising rents to prices that arguably reflect the new realities of demand in the neighborhood:

The building was full of tenants — $1,300, $1,400 tenants. We paid every tenant the average of twelve, thirteen thousand dollars to leave. I actually went to meet them — lawyers are not going to help you. And we got them out of the building and now we have tenants paying $2,700, $2,800, and they’re all white. So this is what we do.

In public conversations about displacement as the primary harmful outcome of gentrification, too often discussions focus on how “market forces” price low-income people out of their homes, without the necessary specificity that gives context to these “forces.”

Discriminatory practices like the ones Gibson and Ephraim recount co-exist and are intertwined with the rent inflation in neighborhoods caused by demand. Often the demographic overhaul in previously economically depressed neighborhoods is explained through the narrative of “millennials flocking to cities” or the congratulated success of urban revitalization.

Economists might argue that Brooklyn landlords like Ephraim are bringing rents and building prices up to their fair-market values, albeit in an insidious manner. Whether the means are “rational” or “natural” might not have that much value to actors in the business community, city hall, or oblivious members of the general public who are just happy to see a new pour-over coffee shop or commissary has opened on the corner.

Nonetheless, observers (myself very much included) owe it to dispersing communities to uncover the nature of how and why people depart communities.

One of Ephraim’s most incendiary and heart-breaking quotes in the article is when he says, “The average price for a black person here in Bed-Stuy is $30,000 dollars. Up over there in East New York, it’s $10,000 dollars.”

He’s referring to the price point at which a black tenant will take a buyout for their apartment, but he also unknowingly brings to mind the historic commodification of black bodies in the form of slavery. Black people in America are exhausted by the obliviousness that real estate interests and economic boosters exhibit when urban revitalization occurs and low-income people of color aren’t there to reap the benefits.

This week, I’ve been experiencing Detroit for the first time at the Center for Community Progress’ Reclaiming Vacant Properties conference. Over and over, speakers have emphasized that poverty, not gentrification, should be the priority of urban agendas. There’s a space where the two overlap that is underexplored. But more and more community groups and activists across the country are tackling what shouldn’t be a mystery. Philadelphia and Oakland groups have published reports called “Development Without Displacement” (read Oakland’s here and Philadelphia’s here).

We must also seek answers about why people accept offers like Ephraim’s and where they are moving — and if the money they accept ever actually puts them in a better financial position. Are there real estate development classes that could help build wealth in communities from within? Are there legal and financial resources tailor-made for low-income property owners exploring buying and selling? How are tenant protection laws being re-assessed and enforced? These are all questions I will be exploring in the future and will write about in this space.


IKEA METOD + matali crasset, paola navone and thomas sandell/studio irvine

IKEA temporary has transformed a two-storey space in milan to showcase their products along with the modular METOD kitchen which has been interpreted by three renowned designers in their unique styles.

The post IKEA METOD + matali crasset, paola navone and thomas sandell/studio irvine appeared first on designboom | architecture & design magazine.


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