Ricky Burdett's White Paper
All the 2006 Principal Voices are submitting a White Paper to the Web site, explaining their views at length.
Ricky Burdett, Professor of Architecture and Urbanism at the London School of Economics, discusses the intimate relationship between planning and architecture in a city and the everyday lives of the people who live there.
In the Colombian capital of Bogota a simply designed stone and brick cycleway, framed by a towering Andes skyline, winds the 20 kilometers from the city's green edges to its six million-populated heart.
Meanwhile, in Mexico City -- where three-hour journeys to school are not untypical -- planners have just built a "secondo piso", a double-decker motorway, in an attempt to relieve traffic congestion.
Here, one liter of petrol costs one tenth of a bottle of mineral water, in a city that's literally crumbling as its lakes and aquifers are drunk dry by the exploding urban population.
In Mexico City, as in Cairo, Lagos or Mumbai, illegal street vendors sell phone cards and paper towels to car-bound customers trapped in the schizophrenic metabolism of a city which attracts up to 30 new residents per hour. By contrast, Seoul and Boston have demolished their urban motorways, bringing water and public space back to their city centers.
The charismatic former mayor of Bogota, Enrique Penalosa, is greeted enthusiastically by his people as he shows off his achievements, pointing to elegant new libraries and public spaces dotted across a dense urban mass of self-built shacks -- the barrios, the invasions, the favelas -- which are home to millions of urban poor.
This is city architecture that really shapes people's lives.
In a rapidly globalizing world, the architecture of a city -- how people move, live, work and play -- has taken on new meaning as the subject of research, investigation and political intervention.
It is for this reason that the 10th International Architecture Exhibition of the Venice Biennale has decided to focus on the city and its complex urban condition.
Ultimately, the shape we give society affects the daily lives of "people on the street" in the most direct and tangible way.
Providing hard paving and sewers in a tropical slum is as important an architectural act as creating an architectural landmark.
Providing well-designed open schools for children in the barrios of Sao Paulo has reduced crime by 30% in some areas. The creation of a vertical gym or cultural center at the heart of a slum dignifies the existence of disenfranchised communities, transforming people's lives as much as the provision of social welfare and food.
From the dangerous barrios of Caracas, where over 100 young people, many of them between the ages of 12 and 18, are shot every weekend, to the increasingly racially-segregated neighborhoods of post-apartheid Johannesburg, the connection between space and society is fragile and intense.
Bogotá is just one example of a truly global phenomenon that will be illustrated and amplified in the Biennale through narratives focused on over 15 cities across four continents.
A century ago only 10% of the world's population lived in cities. Today more than half the planet's population has moved to urban areas: a rapidly accelerating trend that, within decades, will see up to three quarters of the world's population living in cities, many of them in mega-cities of over 10 million people concentrated in the urbanizing regions of Asia, Africa and the Americas.
Due to its large Hispanic population Los Angeles is growing by an average of 20 people per hour. Lagos, Nigeria attracts over 50 and Dhaka, Bangladesh over 60 new inhabitants; practically one person per minute.
Meanwhile, Moscow, Detroit, Berlin and many other western cities are facing serious decline in a post-industrial age, with urban populations shrinking as jobs leave cities and people relocate to suburban landscapes composed of shopping malls, business parks and dormitory towns.
As the planet's urban population grows and changes over the coming decades, architecture will play a key role in shaping these cities of the future.
What do you think?
As everyone knows, China is facing these problems reported.
Burdett has created a world view Venice Biennale that people will remember -- a compendium of city developments that offers the need for a profound change in our understanding of urban culture today. The show should travel the globe.