Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Can cities really be sustainable?

            There is a twofold reality concerning cities. On the one hand, they are the locus of many of our most well-rehearsed national problems (Amin, Massey & Thrift, 2000), but on the other, they can be considered among the brightest stars in the constellation of human achievement (Rees & Wackernagel, 1996). Therefore, they are sinks of challenges, but also sources of creativity and hope (Amin, Massey & Thrift, 2000).
The nature and variety of challenges which cities have faced during their existence have differed widely. At the very beginning, the first human agglomerations or ‘walled cities’ were shelters against invasion, starvation and wild elements. Then the Greco-Roman cities can be considered the origins of politics, democracy and citizenship but also were centres of slavery and injustice. Much later, the Victorian industrial metropolis was locus of poverty, grime and disease as well as generators of moral revolutions (Amin, 2006). Nowadays cities are recognized as being arenas for social inequalities and major causes of natural resource degradation. Moreover, since the first years of the last century, these problems have been increasing due to the progressive urban population growth. In this sense, according to the last World Urbanization Prospect report, within 40 years almost the 70% of the total population will live in cities (World Urbanization Prospects, 2007). As mentioned by Amin (2006), the human condition has become the urban condition, and hence, the future of mankind is now (more than ever) closely linked to the destiny of our cities.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Entrepreneurial Urban Regeneration of Bilbao

In the last fifteen years, Bilbao (Fig. 1) has changed its image from an old city in decline to be considered “la nouvelle Mecque de l’urbanisme” (Masboungi, 2001) with the Guggenheim museum as the most conspicuous flagship (González Ceballos, 2004).

Fig. 1. Satellite image of the city of Bilbao.

Nevertheless, the process recently developed in the Basque city is not original neither innovative. Actually, Bilbao is just one more in a large list of cities which followed the regeneration model of some North American and British metropolis such as Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Glasgow or Birmingham (Rodríguez et al., 2006). According to Rodríguez et al. (2001, p. 167), the strategies used by Bilbao are framed within the New Urban Politics (Cox, 1993), “a view that subordinates urban government strategies to the imperatives of globalized capital accumulation”. The authors go on to argue that this new form of urban governance is based on two main components. First, in the last three decades, there has been an inter-city competition to attract international investment and to promote themselves (Begg, 1999). Secondly, the new urban governance system is grounded in the entrepreneurial government of Harvey (1989). On the one hand, the entrepreneurialism performed in these urban areas is centered in the speculative notion of quangos (public-private partnerships) and, on the other hand, it is also more focused on the political economy of the city rather than of territory.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


Citizenship is a condition of civic equality. It consists of membership of a political community where all citizens can determine the terms of social cooperation on a equal basis. This status not only secures equal rights to the enjoyment of the collective goods provided by the political association but also involves equal duties to promote and sustain then - including the good of democratic citizenship itself.

CITIZENSHIP A Very Short Introduction

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Saturday, October 3, 2009


Pottersville is not the town of the most famous magician of contemporary literature. Pottersville is a dark village, lit only by neon lights and where looting, gambling and drinking reign everywhere. It owes its name to the owner of everything that exists in the city, Henry F. Potter, much like citizen Kane.

This is an alternative Bedford Falls without George Bailey, in the Capra’s film It’s a wonderful life! It is also the favorite example of S. J. Gould in his Wonderful Life to explain the meaning of contingency. In his book, Gould (whom some will remember as the mustache paleontologist that appears in The Simpsons) proposes a new conception of the History of life. On the one hand, he dismisses the traditional iconography and the cone scale, namely evolution as an inexorable progress of increasing complexity, in which the final and inevitable result is the human conscience. By contrast, Gould argues that life we know today is the result of the contingency. If the tape of life could be rewind and modify some variables. Then play it again, the film would be (completely) different.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Niches and Invaders

A niche is a term describing the functional position of a species in its ecosystem. In nature there are predators and preys, generalist and specialist species, key species and so on. An invasive species is an exotic species that adversely affect the habitats they invade economically, environmentally or/and ecologically. Here you can find a good example in São Miguel Island (the Açores, Portugal).

On the other hand, on both sides of the commercial streets of most occidental cities, there are plenty of different niches. There is a niche filled by big book stores like Borders (US), Waterstones (UK) or La Casa del Libro (Spain). But it is possible as well observe McDonalds, IKEA or Zara everywhere. Because of Globalization, these sort of stores and restaurants are invading our urban ecosystems.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Complexity Theories of Cities Have Come on Age

International Conference


1. Achievements, criticism and potentials yet to be realized
2. Implications to planning and urban design

TU Delft, September 25 - 27, 2009


Three decades of research have established the field of complexity theories of cities (CTC) as a dominant approach to cities with urban simulation models (USM) as its major methodological tool. Now that the field has come of age, it is time to stop for a moment, look back at what has been achieved, with appreciation, but also with sober criticism and then look forward at potentials that have yet to be realized.