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Cities, architecture and society.

This issue of the AR focuses on the 16 cities that feature in the main display of the 10th International Architecture Exhibition at the Arsenale in Venice. Cities have been selected to ensure a degree of consistency in size--they are all above 3.5 million people--and geographical distribution across the globe. Above all, though, they have been chosen because each city is undergoing a period of significant change that has a direct impact on its urban form, city policy and future development. The following 32-page section provides an overview of each city, comprising a short personal account of everyday life and a complementary analysis of social and spatial attributes, developed by the team at the London School of Economics. Together they provide a unique perspective on global urban change.

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Imagine that we could see the entire earth from space at night-time. The enormous patches and cordons of light closely mirror the world maps of urban extents and the wider human footprints associated with them. If we think of the concentrations of consumption of electricity as representations of human settlements, then large-scale patterns of urban development begin to take shape before our eyes. From this we see that most of Europe is criss-crossed by urban development and that a dense band of urbanisation is consolidating at the core of this continent, stretching from southern England to northern Italy. In North America, vast parts of the United States, except perhaps its deserts, are covered by an almost geometric grid that also links sections of Canada and Mexico. These spatial continuities illustrate the high degree of integration that has developed between cities and their respective regions.

Looking beyond North America and Europe, we identify other areas of intense urban dynamism. From the sky, the entire Japanese archipelago--a relatively older urban system that shares many commonalities with North America and Europe--looks almost like an urban continuum. This reflects the fact that Tokyo's capital region can be accessed from anywhere in the country in a few hours' time via a sophisticated high-speed rail network. In Tokyo, nearly 80 per cent of the population use public transport to get to work (in Los Angeles, by contrast, 80 per cent use private cars), which provides a model for efficient growth for what is today the world's largest metropolitan area with over 30 million people. After a period of relative economic stagnation, Tokyo is beginning to once again explore its unique characteristics; its architects and planners engaging with issues of public space and particularly the relationship to water within this dense and fragmented mega-city.

The world map clearly indicates the extensive city-regions that are rapidly forming in southern Asia and coastal China, areas expected to concentrate close to half of the world's urban population within a couple of decades. According to the United Nations, Mumbai-India's dynamic powerhouse--is set to overtake Tokyo as the world's largest city by 2050, but nowhere is the dizzying velocity of this transformation as tangible as in the largest Chinese conurbations. Shanghai is now one of the world's fastest growing cities while Beijing is hurriedly transforming itself in anticipation of the 2008 Olympic Games. As Shanghai grapples with the social challenges of integrating a 'floating population' of rural in-migrants numbering perhaps five million people--the population of greater Milan--it continues to grow at a breathtaking rate in both height and breadth, with nearly 3000 buildings over ten storeys high in a city that had less than 300 only ten years ago.

But rapid urbanisation is not always paralleled by the exponential economic growth and comprehensive infrastructure investments of the Asia Pacific region. In central and coastal Africa, what may appear as dim clusters of light during the night are actually massive urban agglomerations sheltering millions of residents with, as indicated by the scanty reach of their electrical grids, only the most basic and deficient infrastructure. Demographic pressures are bound to continue--by 2015 with each passing hour, Lagos will add 67 new residents, Kinshasa 34--leading to a disproportionate concentration of young people in the southern hemisphere that coincides with a global imbalance of social indicators such as literacy and income levels. In Egypt, one child is born every 20 seconds and many people move to Cairo within the space of one generation. In this city, over 60 per cent of the population lives in informal settlements with buildings up to 14 storeys high in a city with only 1 square metre of open space per person (each Londoner, by contrast, has access to 50 times that amount).

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Even Johannesburg, that economic and cultural engine of southern Africa, is challenged to maintain its current levels of infrastructure provision in the face of a growth scenario whereby its population may double in a matter of decades. In this post-apartheid city that is struggling with crime, fear, segregation and AIDS, there are attempts to bring people back to the abandoned downtown, from which in the last decade many businesses fled to anonymous corporate areas on the urban fringes, with small-scale projects around transport hubs (or 'taxi ranks') that are designed to re-humanise the public realm of the city otherwise hidden behind security fences and inside gated communities.

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There is a growing awareness that the urban agenda is a global agenda. The environmental impacts of cities are enormous, due both to their increasing demographic weight and to the amount of natural resources that they consume. Every aspect of urban living has significant implications for the planet--from the billions of people driving cars along metropolitan highways to the energy required to either heat or cool buildings and to bring-in food, often from the opposite corner of the world. In the developed economies, it is estimated that over 50 per cent of energy is consumed by buildings and 25 per cent by transport. So, a slight change to this energy equation in cities will have a massive impact on the global stage. It has been argued that the degree of dispersion of urban forms can be related to consumption of nonrenewable resources and emissions.

A generation of urban leaders is rising to meet these challenges. In Europe, for example, many big-city mayors are implementing important urban reforms that will enable their cities to be more competitive in the global economy and smarter producers of knowledge and culture. These cities are responding to contemporary social challenges, in some cases accommodating the large-scale influx of new residents and in others managing demographic decline without imploding irreversibly.

Around the world, urban leadership is acquiring a growing momentum, from metropolitan coalitions for smart growth and growth with equity in the United States, to the big-city governments in China whose social reforms may allow for less segregated urban settlements and more integrated labour markets. Some of the most innovative urban interventions of the past twenty years have in fact come from Latin America, a region otherwise mired in macroeconomic problems and widening social inequalities. Following the exemplary case of Curitiba in Brazil, Bogota today stands out as a perhaps unexpected best practice case of egalitarian urban transformation. The effect of a series of coordinated actions by successive mayors has turned a once violent, car-dominated city facing dramatic levels of in-migration from its rural hinterlands, into a calm and well-managed city that still exudes the passions and experiences of its syncretic Latin American culture.

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From this partial and selective survey of the state of the world's cities, we see that our current urban age is problematic, and rife with urgent challenges, yet also promising, in that it offers the potential to re-think the meanings, functions, capabilities and virtues of different city forms and urban strategies. This is where architects and the design professions can and must contribute to the construction of an environmentally and socially sustainable world. Although each city faces its own particular and complex set of challenges, there is a growing consensus on some broad issues which cities in virtually every region of the world must address if they are to harness their economic potential and at the same time become more socially-equitable and ecologically sound.

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We could simplify our understanding of the situation by arguing that the basic task at hand is how to accommodate the masses of newcomers in dense conditions and with constrained resources. Yet this straightforward phrasing would mask the complex intersection of economic, social and environmental dimensions that must be tackled and the range of mutually-reinforcing interventions that need to be devised. Providing affordable and dignified shelter in areas well-connected with their surrounding urban fabric; creating safe, beautiful and well-designed public spaces conducive to social integration; generating employment with liveable wages and sound workplace conditions that stimulate creativity virtuous circles of skills generation and synergetic team work; securing cheap, fast and reliable mobility for all of the city's residents with integrated public transport networks; in sum, designing the constituent pieces of a contemporary, sustainable city. These are some of the elements of our global urban era which demand multidisciplinary analysis and intervention. Rather than proclaim a one-size-fits-all manifesto, we intend that the comparative social and spatial data, marshalled for the purposes of the 10th International Architecture Exhibition but also with wider scope, will reach architects as a call-to-action for the creation of innovative morphological practices, honed to suit the unique challenges and assets of each city system, and above all, its citizens.

Europe

Barcelona

Barcelona's current population is approximately 1.6 million, growing by nearly 200 per cent in the past century and by about 6 per cent in the last decade alone. Over the next 10 years, Barcelona is expected to add another 100 000 residents. Gross residential density is around 15 365 per sq km, a much higher average compared with other parts of Europe or the UK, yet Barcelona is considered a model of how cities can provide livable high densities supported by a comprehensive system of public spaces. Just under half (44 per cent) of the city is parkland or recreational space.

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At least two language groups--Catalonian and Spanish--coexist in Barcelona and about 16 per cent of the current population of this increasingly multicultural urban milieu was born abroad. The city's location on the Mediterranean, coupled with Spain's historical connections to Latin America and its dynamic urban economy, make Barcelona a magnet for immigration.

Barcelona is a wealthy city. Its gross city product makes up 5 per cent of Spain's economy, yet several thousand households depend on income benefits and the number of those in need of food and shelter is rising. As with many other developed cities, Barcelona is also in the process of ageing. While the city still retains a youthful population--15.6 per cent of residents are 20 years old or younger--more than one in five Barceloneses is over the age of 64.

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Barcelona today is part of one of the great corridors of European migration, and at the same time is one of the world's principal tourist destinations. At the intersection of these two very unequal flows there is the city as a space of encounters, continually changing and always unpredictable. On the one hand, an ever more opulent tourism, and on the other, an immigration that is poorer; the two together are inevitably and temporally bound up with this great phenomenon that we call the city.

BETH GALI

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Berlin

Against the prevailing trend of urban expansion, Berlin is an anomaly. Since 1900, the population has grown by a mere 72 per cent, but, more startlingly, Berlin recorded a population decrease of 1.5 per cent over the last decade. So instead of housing shortages, Berlin is grappling with a housing surplus and thousands of vacant apartments. Moreover, projected growth is expected to be fairly minimal; 25 000 over the next ten years. So while other cities are facing issues brought on by ever-increasing populations, Berlin's future throws up some quite different challenges. Ageing is another issue--almost a quarter of the population is over 65, while only 15 per cent are under 20. Current gross residential density is 3800 per sq km and nearly half the city is given over to open space.

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What Berlin teaches architects and urban planners is, above all, humility. The building and planning frenzy of the 1990s showed that architecture cannot be expected to counteract the provisional and temporary nature of this city, nor relieve its social frailty. What it can do, however, is to continue to create stages and project images. JENS BINSKY

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Istanbul

Istanbul's current population stands at 9.8 million, representing a phenomenal growth of around 900 per cent in the past 50 years, and 27 per cent in the last decade. Famously straddling both the Asian and European continents, Istanbul's informal boundaries are ever-expanding as the city grapples with the effects of inter-urban migration, a combination of suburban sprawl and increased inner-city living. Many residents have left their central neighbourhoods and relocated to the outskirts, where peripheral neighbourhoods have grown--some substantially--over the last few decades. In response to such an overwhelming human demand, it is not surprising that 95 per cent of Istanbul is urbanised, with gross residential density around 4803 per sq km. The current burden of this ever-increasing population, coupled with future projections for a further population growth of 1.5 million over the next ten years, suggest an urban and social scenario that warrants immediate attention.

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In pursuit of its dual dreams of modernity and of European inclusion, Istanbul has become embroiled in a struggle against its own true nature. Its efforts to disfigure itself with cosmetic surgery risk frightening off the foreign experts engaged in processes toward European co-operation and integration. As in most cases of lost identity, certain violent reactionary movements have emerged in an attempt to recover the paradise lost To preclude such misunderstandings, and to move forward together, it is essential to deepen the exchanges between all closed worlds.

KORHAN GUMUS & ELSA MEKKI-BERRADA

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London

After a decade and a half of significant population growth, London currently has about 7.5 million residents and projections indicate that this figure will reach 8 million within the next decade. Greater London covers approximately 1600 sq km of land area with a gross residential density of 4700 per sq km. However, almost half of this is open and recreational space. The city authorities have made a conscious decision to accommodate predicted population growth within the existing urbanised area through structural densification.

London is a notably diverse and multicultural city and the additional high volume of international visitors and flows of people that pass through it has given the metropolis the soubriquet of the world's first post-national city. In recent years, London's globally orientated, service-led urban economy has experienced an unprecedented economic bonanza. Yet a hard core of poverty lingers, particularly in its eastern and southern areas, where more than half of all children live in poverty when the city's high housing costs are included in the estimation of their disposable household incomes.

Of all daily journeys in London, 43 per cent are conducted by private cars and 34 per cent are by public transport. Improving the capacity and quality of the public transport system has been a recent public policy priority in London. At the same time the abatement of congestion has been undertaken through road pricing.

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There are whole areas of London that have lost any sense of what they once were. Wander west of Norman Foster's riverside offices in Battersea, along what were once scruffy wharves, and bus garages. Now it's a sleek glassy world of art galleries, and penthouses. It's a city that seems to have tipped from one world--or one accent--into another. London is more of a global city than it has ever been. Its house prices are now set by rootless high-earning bankers who can afford a [pounds sterling]3 million house from earned income, a fact that has an impact on every aspect of the city. It's boosting property values everywhere; the eastern fringe of London is benefiting from this refocus, reversing to some extent 200 years of emphasis on the westward expansion of the city. DEYAN SUDJIC

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City East

Urban growth catalyses a new vision for East London.

London's population is set to grow by a million people over the next twenty years. A quarter of this growth is expected to be contained in just three per cent of its area, a 32 sq km district known as City East. Located to the immediate east of London's existing centre, the City East area has long been integral to London's status as a world city--first as the nucleus of London's port, and today as the focus of its rapid growth eastwards.

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City East is home to some of London's boldest past and future urban visions, including Canary Wharf, the Millennium Dome, and by 2012, the Olympic Park.

The Mayor of London's Architecture and Urbanism Unit has developed an overview of the complex urban transformations that will shape City East. This envisages not a single project, but wider strategies to shape successful developments. Expanding public transport and public space infrastructure will play a key role in supporting higher densities, fostering a more complex mix of uses, creating a well integrated piece of city, and structuring urban change to deliver sustainable and remarkable places.

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White City

Unifying two London neighbourhoods.

This major development site, currently being masterplanned by OMA, straddles two highly polarised neighbourhoods in west London. To the east lie some of the city's wealthiest boroughs, and to the west some of the city's most notorious and deprived housing estates. This under-utilised strip of land covers 43 acres and is split into three parts. Conditions are notably unforgiving--the site is severed from its surroundings by transport infrastructure, notably the A40 motorway and the Hammersmith & City Tube viaduct.

OMA's ambition is to reverse the segregated nature of the site through physical and programmatic links. The masterplan organises the site into three clusters of development interspersed with public open spaces. Drawing on existing London typologies, each cluster seeks to create a diverse range of urban environments with a unique mix of functions. Proposed functions include commercial zones, community facilities and outdoor recreational areas.

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Milan

The current population of Milan stands at approximately 1.3 million, following a growth of 140 per cent over the past century. In the last decade, however, Milan has witnessed a population decline of about 1 per cent, and future projections confirm that this trend looks set to continue. Indeed the population of the Milan Urban Agglomeration is expected to decrease by a further 22 000 over the next ten years. Parks and recreational space account for roughly 10 per cent of the city's total area and gross residential density is about 7123 per sq km.

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Milan is unquestionably cosmopolitan--almost a quarter of its population comes from abroad, either from other European nations, the Philippines, Egypt, Peru or Africa. It is also one of the richest cities in the European Union. Compared with the average per capita income, residents in Milan earn roughly 35 per cent more than their national counterparts. Milan is one of Europe's major financial and business centres as well as a world leader in the fashion and design industries. Yet in common with other European cities, Milan has an ageing population, with almost 23 per cent of its population 65 years or older.

In the more-or-less half century of which I have direct memories, Milan transformed from a fairly austere inner-directed city to an outer-directed metropolis with some, but not too much, cosmopolitan flair. That is, just enough cosmopolitanism to awe the average Italian, but not enough to compete with truly international capitals. The Milanese mood has gone from boisterous--as in the famous parochial song Oh mia bela Madunina ('My beautiful little Madonna': the gold statue perched atop the Duomo) to plaintive--as in the banner of a candidate running for city council: 'Kiss the Toad: the impossible mission to love Milan'. GUIDO MARTINOTTI

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Africa

Cairo

Original settlements on the site of the modern metropolis of Cairo date back roughly 2000 years. Today, its population totals 7.8 million, but this figure mushrooms to almost 15 million when including the greater metropolitan area, and non-official figures are closer to 18 million. Cairo's population has increased significantly in the past century, recording a growth of about 890 per cent, explained in part by an exodus of peasants from the farmlands to the industries and commerce of the city. The current population continues to grow, albeit at a calmer rate; in the past decade it has increased by 15 per cent. Cairo's present population is extremely young: a massive 42 per cent are under 20 and only 4 per cent are older than 65.

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From desert escarpments, Cairo fans out into the valley of the Nile Delta. Its high gross residential density (36 584 per sq km) is roughly nine times that of greater London. Open public space is scarce: less than 1 sqm per person. Inner-city Cairo experiences a substantial urban and social burden from the persistent lack of low-income housing. In the past few years, soaring housing demands have resulted in an urban strategy of satellite towns in the deserts surrounding Cairo. Their success has been limited; they must compete with the Egyptian love of the inner city, and are poorly connected to the public transport systems, making them inconvenient. This unanswered need for low-cost housing has resulted in a growth of informal settlements on the edges of the city, which now house just over half of Cairo's inhabitants.

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Cairo is in many ways a city of the future, offering a glimpse of how other places might look given the pressures that are so exaggerated here. Yet the city remains resplendent in its humanity. Its longevity provides an exceptional record of human endurance and artistry, and equal evidence of our talent for repeating mistakes. The so-called 'mother of the world' is a city rich in untapped, fragmented knowledge awaiting recognition and integration. 'In the realm of greater understanding' goes a Sufi saying, 'when the work is finished the workshop is dismantled.' Cairo, it would seem, still has work to do. MARIA GOLIA

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Johannesburg

Johannesburg's current population is about 3.2 million. In the late 1990s, it is estimated that the city grew 4 per cent a year on average. Some projections predict a growth scenario in which metropolitan Johannesburg will reach close to 15 million people by 2015, so this urban core of Gauteng Province is expected to become the world's twelfth largest city-region, behind Lagos and slightly larger than Los Angeles.

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Gross residential density is low by international standards (1900 per sq km), yet the highest for all urban areas in South Africa. Densities vary widely across the metropolis, reaching peaks in both disadvantaged inner-city neighbourhoods and the peripheral township of Alexandra.

In recent years, there has been an increase of immigration from the rest of the continent to South Africa, particularly to Johannesburg. This increased diversity has visible effects on many dimensions of city life, including its economy, housing and infrastructure demands, and social integration. Life expectancy is notably low, especially when considering the city's dynamic economy and solid infrastructure: only 4 per cent of residents have reached the age of 65. On the other hand, almost one in three is younger than 20.

Creating sustainable livelihoods will be a cornerstone of the improvement of social conditions in Johannesburg. Currently, one household in five reports having no income, and unemployment hovers above 600 000 people.

Lack of physical mobility among disadvantaged groups has been apparent in the city since the apartheid era and a number of transport and land-use initiatives are now addressing this issue.

Living in Johannesburg today is a vast experiment in how to inhabit apartheid's ruins, how to live in a borderless world. What characterises the city is, in fact, its merging of different worlds that intertwine in multiple ways. Hawkers rub shoulders with Aston Martins, informal trading shelters with Armani and Louis Vuitton. Prostitutes ply their trade on snug suburban streets. Many of the newly 'economically empowered' black middle class move between worlds with remarkable ease, living their working weeks in a gated enclave in the north, but returning to their family home in Soweto over weekends, to participate in the communal street culture they still see as their own. LINDSAY BREMNER

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Asia

Mumbai

Mumbai, the capital of Maharashtra, is the most intensely populated city in India and one of the most populous metropolitan areas in the world. Inhabited from as early as 250 BC, the city has grown to approximately 11.9 million today (excluding the additional 3 million within its municipal limits). Mumbai has experienced extraordinary growth during the past century, its population expanding by 1184 per cent due to a wealth of business opportunities, originally from its docks and textile mills and latterly from a booming IT economy. Mumbai's population growth shows no signs of abating, with an increase of 14 per cent recorded in the last decade, and projections for a further increase of 2.4 million over the next.

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Gross residential density is high, at 34 000 per sq km. Space of any kind is only acquired at a premium, and cramped, relatively expensive and badly located accommodation is standard. Around half of Mumbai's residents live in slum conditions.

Like many mega-cities in the developing world, Mumbai is suffering at the hands of rapid urbanisation. Poverty, poor health and employment instability affect a huge proportion of the population. The lack of solid investment in urban infrastructure means that the city, increasingly crippled under the growing population's demands, is fast approaching breaking point. 'Vision Mumbai', a plan for the city in 2013, hints at an attempt to tackle some of these issues, and the success or otherwise of such strategies will be fundamental to the quality of Mumbai life.

Mumbai is the biggest, fastest, richest city in India, a city simultaneously experiencing a boom and a civic emergency; an island-state of hope in a very old country. Because of the reach of Bollywood movies, Mumbai is also a mass dream for the peoples of India. If you take a walk around Mumbai you'll see that everything--sex, death, trade, religion--is lived out on the sidewalk. It is a maximum city, maximum in its exigencies, maximum in its heart. SUKETU MEHTA

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Shanghai

Shanghai can be understood as a city-state, extending over 6300 sq km with more than 18 million inhabitants. Though its traditional city boundaries demarcate an area of 289 sq km in which 6.5 million people live at very high residential densities, most of Shanghai's territory is now considered urbanised and reaches an average density of 2900 per sq km, arranged in a seemingly chaotic patchwork of agricultural, residential and industrial land uses. As this sprawl pushes outwards, the urban core is experiencing a profound and complex restructuring process. Structural densification, improvement of overcrowded conditions and expanded provision of public and green spaces are one side of the coin, with residential displacement, housing affordability problems and traffic congestion the other. Other social issues that Shanghai needs to tackle include the rise of long-term unemployment and the ageing of its population--17 per cent of residents are now over 65.

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Shanghai's streets are never empty. Instead, they are inhabited by hyper-dense residences. Streets have blurred the boundaries between public and private. They are populated but not public; they are communicative but not commercial. 'Shanghai's street' is something that cannot be found in other Chinese or Western cities. QINGYUN MA

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Tokyo

The current population of Greater Tokyo is approximately 12.6 million. Tokyo is also part of the Kanto region, which, with approximately 35 million inhabitants, is perhaps the largest and most integrated urban region in the world today. Despite suffering major natural disasters and man-made catastrophes, Tokyo's population grew dramatically during the twentieth century. After the Second World War, the urbanised area expanded and newcomers flocking into the thriving capital were accommodated in medium-density suburbs connected to employment and commercial centres by railway links. Lacking a significant high-density residential inner core, Tokyo's gross residential density flattens out at 5660 per sq km, but less than five per cent of the city's area is dedicated to green space. Given Japan's low demographic dynamism and the policies to curb growth, Tokyo is not expected to expand much in the near future. However, it faces the challenge to produce a more balanced urban structure and a more sustainable and livable environment for its millions of residents.

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The sheer size of Tokyo and the fact that it does not maintain a historical city centre preclude the possibility of an urban discourse along European lines of public versus private and political versus personal spaces. The city should rather be understood as an overlay of different flows, a composite flux. Beneath Tokyo's chaotic appearance lies a complex yet consistent assemblage of urban systems whose interactions cannot be fully regulated. MOMOYO KAIJIMA & YOSHIHARU TSUKAMOTO

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Bogota

With a population of around 6.8 million, the Colombian capital of Bogota is the largest city in the country. Bogota's rate of growth has been phenomenal; the current population represents a tenfold increase since the 1960s and the city is around 25 per cent larger than a decade ago. Recent growth, however, has slowed to a current annual rate of 2 per cent. Gross residential density remains fairly low at around 4150 per sq km.

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Poised over 2600m above sea level, Bogota is divided into 20 districts. Neighbourhoods to the north and north-east are fairly wealthy, while those to the south and east are poorer, with some squatter areas. Over the past 30 years, Bogota has undergone a disorganised urbanisation process that has increased the number of informal, illegal settlements in areas prone to landslides and floods. A landbank programme set up in 1999 has helped to reduce and contain squatter settlements. The murder rate has also dropped (22.9 per 100 000 residents), but has still some way to go to match European levels.

Over the past 10 years, the city has made investment in public transport a priority ahead of road infrastructure. Private car use has dropped from 17 per cent in 1997 to 12 per cent today, and three-quarters of daily journeys are now conducted by public transport.

Bogota also boasts one of the largest dedicated bicycle networks (ciclorutas) covering 330km, which are used by 400 000 people each day.

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Bogota's urban colour is anything but perennial, and its metamorphosis both reflects and accompanies the shifting soul of the city. The sad and solemn musical rhythms of the bambuco or the pasillo, inherited from the Spaniards, may remain in the memory of the colonial grey, while the warm notes of the Caribbean Colombia, with its African influences, have also been appropriated by the city and bring it closer to the colour of the sun. So this is how, when listening and dancing to the cumbia or the vallenato, cold Bogota warms up and gets tinged with red, giving way to the incredible mirage of an Andean city at an altitude of 2600 metres finding its emancipation in the flare of the Caribbean. ARMANDO SILVA

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South America

Caracas

Since its foundation in the mid sixteenth century, the population of Caracas has expanded dramatically to a current level of 3.8 million. Growth during the twentieth century was particularly rapid, with a staggering 1900 per cent increase from 1900 to 2000. Over the last decade, however, growth rates have slowed and the city's population increased by a mere 1 per cent. This trend is predicted to prevail, with little growth anticipated within the city's political boundaries (160 000 over the next ten years). It is around the city limits, in the satellite cities along expanded metro and train routes, where the population is predicted to swell, rising to 4.25 million by 2015. Current gross residential density is 13 980 per sq km.

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Caracas follows the contours of the narrow mountain valley in Venezuela's Cordillera de la Costa. Though more than a third of the city is public open space, inaccessibility and crime rob such green enclaves of their appeal. Such social problems are rooted in the city's extreme and pervasive poverty. More than four-fifths of Caracans subsist on less than $2 per day and 40 per cent of the city's population live in informal settlements or barrios. Since many poverty-stricken residents cannot participate in the city's formal economy, the informal sector is heavily relied upon as a source of income.

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The people of Caracas thrive on disorder and on ever-present hazards. Instead of peace based on clear societal principles, we prefer excitement and daily astonishment; the feeling of potential and freedom emerges out of precariousness and chaos. If I had to describe my experience of Caracas through a single emotion, it would most likely be awe; awe in the broadest sense of the word, from the jolt in the face of the unexpected, unforeseen or absurd, through to the fear of, or fascination for, instability and change. The genius loci of Caracas feeds a peculiar appetite for the irregular and the intermittent; it summons the bizarre. AXEL CAPRILES

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Mexico City

The current population of Mexico City's Metropolitan Area is estimated at a phenomenal 18 million, of which 8.6 million live within the central Federal District. Both the population and urbanised area of Mexico City have expanded dramatically since the mid twentieth century, and both continue to grow and evolve in complex physical and socio-economic patterns. Whereas the urban core has regained some population, suburban sprawl continues apace, fuelled by low-cost mortgages and a lax regulatory framework.

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The Federal District covers about 1488 sq km. In the urbanised northern sector, open and recreational space is scarce, with gross residential density around 20 894 per sq km. In this high-density area, increasing the amount of recreational space and the number of cultural facilities is considered a fundamental priority among many Mexican urbanists.

Almost half of the population living in the Federal District was born somewhere else. Lured by the promise of economic opportunities and the glamour of city lights, people from all over Mexico have migrated to the capital, bringing with them their cultures, hopes and conflicts. This urban promise has yet to materialise. It is estimated that two out of three households in the city live in poverty, and more than a quarter of the city's population is made up of children under 14.

The Federal District has turned into a bearded lady of sorts in the freak show portrayed by the international press. The city parades its eloquent faults to fascinate them: press reports target pollution, the lack of security, earthquakes, and the manifold menaces to digestive tracts, in which our traditional cooking sauces, of dubious reputation, play no small part And yet we are incapacitated to sever the umbilical cord that joins us to the city--according to one etymological interpretation, the word Mexico means 'moon navel'. Lunatic and Oedipal, we resemble the libertine in The Rake's Progress--just as Auden's libretto indicates for the opera by Stravinsky, we end up in love with the bearded lady. JUAN VILLORO

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San Paulo

Though Sao Paulo's current population is approximately 10.6 million, the larger metropolitan region records a figure approaching 20 million, making Sao Paulo the most populous city in the southern hemisphere. During the last 45 years its population has almost doubled, with growth over the past decade standing at 9.2 per cent. Gross residential density is currently 6993 per sq km. The limits of the city are in a constant state of flux as the population continues to expand.

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Somewhat at odds with this inexorable upward trend, the city centre and western areas have witnessed a steady population decline since the 1970s. Crime and decay have eaten away at the traditional business district and almost a fifth of centrally-located houses lie vacant. The fact that the population, projected to total 11.1 million by 2015, is growing most substantially in the areas least well served by infrastructure of any kind is a critical urban issue. Pollution is also a major problem.

Though Sao Paulo prides itself on being the financial centre of Brazil, poverty, unemployment and crime still predominate. Immigrants fleeing the poorer northern states of Brazil now constitute a large proportion of the poorly paid service workers. Almost a fifth of the heads of Sao Paulo's households have an income below or equal to minimum wage, and nearly 20 per cent of the population is unemployed. In Sao Paulo, extremes of rich and poor are most acutely evident in the contrast between the well-off neighbourhoods and the favelas. As with mega-cities across the globe, the polarisation between the haves and the have-nots remains a powerful fact of contemporary urban life.

The flight of the elite continues to segregated quarters with bucolic names: Villa this, Garden that, and so forth. This elite will spend even more time snarled up in the traffic getting to their bunker refuges. They will not use their studies abroad, their resources or ideas to find solutions for a city swamped with problems, but which can and must react. Inside their closed quarters, this elite is a long way from the best restaurants, art galleries, museums, theatres and cinemas. And unable to relish the chaos, energy and enjoyment that only a metropolis of 18 million Brazilians can offer. RAUL JUSTE LORES

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North America

Los Angeles

Los Angeles grew relentlessly during the twentieth century, multiplying its population by a factor of 10 to become the urban core of the second largest metropolitan region in the United States. The city's current population is approximately 3.9 million, with a gross residential density of 3041 per sq km. Yet the city that has historically viewed itself as a collection of low-density suburbs now faces demographic pressures and the need for structural densification. In stark contrast to the image of a green city on the California coast, many communities in South Los Angeles are badly lacking open and green spaces.

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Americans often use Los Angeles as shorthand for ethnic and racial diversity, evocative of both its promise and its predicaments. Adding to the city's complexity, about 40 per cent of its current population was born outside of the USA and many are relatively recent immigrants. A multitude of subcultures inhabit and feed off the city, producing a visually eclectic urban landscape and a maelstrom of cultural products, fashions and fads.

Yet socio-economically, the wide urban scope of Los Angeles assumes a noir tone. Home to some of the wealthiest people in the world, the city also has more than one in five families living in poverty, with 10 per cent of Los Angeles families scraping by on less than $ 1000 a month. Private cars are the prevalent transport mode, with public transport accounting for just 10 per cent of all daily journeys.

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What is Los Angeles? Colonial city. Captured city. City of edges. City of amnesiacs. City of mestizos. Anxious city. This city of the angels, of thoughtless belief and so faithless. And when this city proved disappointing and the city we wanted failed to appear, our longing cast off a succession of provisional cities. Some were real; some mythic, some are cruelly near to hell. Los Angeles is an archipelago of cities ... cities of desire now deemed unnecessary. They crowd the bright landscape ... cities that are epitaphs for the future. D.J. WALDIE

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New York

For the first time in its history, New York City's population passed the 8 million mark in 2000, following a decade of strong growth. Since then, the city has continued to expand and this trend is expected to continue over the next 10 years. New York covers approximately 830 sq km, with around a quarter of this area given over to open and recreational space. With a gross residential density of 8400 per sq km, New York is the USA's most densely populated city, but residential densities vary widely from peaks in parts of Manhattan to the relatively low densities of the outer boroughs, which have a notably suburban character. Though New York is one of the world's richest cities, a fifth of its residents are still dependent on some form of income support.

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Even though it is primarily immigration that is feeding the city's current population expansion, the pull of New York to the fashionable and the would-be fashionables, to artists, writers, and musicians, and simply to cosmopolitans who savour the joys of urbanity does not diminish. Tales abound of immigrants living five to a room, recalling the days at the turn of the last century when European refugees crowded the lower East Side. SUSAN S. FAINSTEIN

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Article Details
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Title Annotation:10th International Architecture Exhibition
Author:Burdett, Richard
Publication:The Architectural Review
Geographic Code:4EUIT
Date:Sep 1, 2006
Words:6942
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