My next novel is centered around a fictional city, and as such, of late, I have grown obsessed with urban planning. How does one build a city? How does a city grow? If a city truly is an organism, as so many people claim, then how might that organism react to extreme changes and impositions? How might a city react to being placed underground? To having no ready supply of fresh air, clean water, nutritious food? Where might people live, how would they live, and what would the making of light into a commodity that only the rich can truly afford do to shape and rhythms of such a place? With the distinction between night and day gone, how might people organize their lives? What methods of transport would prove most popular and how would they change the shape of the city? Would any one government be able to control these forces, or would the populace overcrowd and overrule such strictures as one sees the favelas of Rio do and the rookeries of Victorian London once did?

There’s a fantastic essay in the National Geographic that is a must read for anybody interested in urban planning the future of both our planet and our cities.

“And here’s one more change since then: Urbanization is now good news. Expert opinion has shifted profoundly in the past decade or two. Though slums as appalling as Victorian London’s are now widespread, and the Victorian fear of cities lives on, cancer no longer seems the right metaphor. On the contrary: With Earth’s population headed toward nine or ten billion, dense cities are looking more like a cure—the best hope for lifting people out of poverty without wrecking the planet.”

 The concentration of human capital into small areas reduces the barriers between transportation, communication, and growth. It creates a collective space in which the development of ideas can thrive, a fecund spot where humanity can thrive and grow–if properly managed. Why has Seoul developed into such a wealthy and successful city while Nairobi has not?

So much to learn, so much to absorb, so much to assimilate and process. It’s a fascinating time when people are starting to realize that the future of cities is no longer this:

But this: