China defines “big city disease”

In announcing plans for Shanghai, China also defined “big city disease”:

China’s financial hub of Shanghai will limit its population to 25 million people by 2035 as part of a quest to manage “big city disease”, the cabinet has said…

State media has defined “big city disease” as arising when a megacity becomes plagued with environmental pollution, traffic congestion and a shortage of public services, including education and medical care.

Many of China’s biggest cities also face surging house prices, stirring fears of a property bubble.

This leads to two thoughts:

  1. If China, a country devoted to urbanization, thinks this is the population limit for big cities, does this mean other industrialized countries will follow suit?
  2. It would be interesting to hear urban experts weigh on regarding how big they think major cities can get. Twenty-five million people is quite a few but can some of the issues Chinese officials raise be ameliorated by good planning or technological advances?

Perhaps one of the key features of major global cities of the future will be a limited population size in order to have a certain quality of life. In contrast, major cities that are not as important may grow to unheard of sizes with all sorts of symptoms of “big city disease.”

In the movie Her, futuristic Los Angeles looks like Shanghai

In recently watching the movie Her, I was intrigued to see the futuristic Los Angeles. What exactly does it look like? Shanghai, as the film was filmed in LA and there. Here is what I noticed in the film:

1. There are a number of portrayals of Los Angeles. For example, the Walt Disney Concert Hall is featured in several scenes. One time the main character walks past the Hall and another scene takes places on an outside terrace with a lotus flower fountain on an upper level of the hall. Here is what the fountain looks like:

WaltDisneyConcertHallFountain

See an exterior shot of the building in an earlier post. This building fits well with a futuristic image with its metal panel exterior and unusual lines.

2. There are a number of shots of a city skyline, particularly from the main character’s apartment. However, this view usually has a lot more tall buildings than Los Angeles actually has. While Los Angeles has a downtown as well as an outcropping of taller buildings by Beverly Hills, there were clearly too many to be LA. At the same time, there were also shots featuring the One Wilshire building. So the film plays loose with the skyline shots but they are often Shanghai.

3. There are a number of scenes in public spaces, particularly nice plazas and walkways that connect large buildings. I haven’t explored all of LA but I know these are limited in the downtown so there seemed to be too many.

4. There is a scene early in the movie featuring a subway/train map in the background and while the base map is of Los Angeles, it clearly has too many mass transit routes to match today’s LA.

5. Others images of mass transit don’t look like LA including a bullet train and elevated mass transit lines.

6. Some of the shots from apartments or the tops of buildings show more boulevards than streets or highways.

7. Some of the outdoor scenes have street signs that look more Asian in design as well as more Asian pedestrians (though LA has a large Asian population).

Los Angeles was once viewed as the future of American cities: sprawling, encompassing a broad range of terrains from beaches to hills, and glamorous locations. However, American filmmakers may now be looking to rapidly growing Chinese cities for what the future holds.

Seeing China’s growth in two pictures of Shanghai

Urban growth and building can occur at a very quick pace. The population growth and building in Chicago in the late 1800s was tremendous. BusinessInsider has two pictures that show the rapid construction that took place in one part of Shanghai between 1990 and 2010.

The pictures are fascinating in themselves. But an explanation of exactly what happened and how it happened would be even better.

h/t The Infrastructurist