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Cities, streets, public space and survival. Alan Powers Cultural Context ENVT1036 2005. James Howard Kunstler, The Long Emergency , Atlantic Books, London 2005.

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cities streets public space and survival

Cities, streets, public space and survival

Alan Powers

Cultural Context ENVT1036



Kunstler quotes a professor of geology from Princeton University, Ken Deffeyes, who predicted recently that the peak of oil production would occur on Thanksgiving 2005, with “an uncertainty factor of only three or four weeks on either side.”

"The fifth revolution will come when we have spent the stores of coal and oil that have been accumulating in the earth during hundreds of millions of years... It is to be hoped that before then other sources of energy will have been developed... Whether a convenient substitute for the present fuels is found or not, there can be no doubt that there will have to be a great change in ways of life. This change may justly be called a revolution, but it differs from all the preceding ones in that there is no likelihood of its leading to increases of population, but even perhaps to the reverse."
  • Sir Charles Galton Darwin, 1952
American Vice-President Dick Cheney said in 1999, ‘By some estimates, there will be an average annual growth in global oil demand over the years ahead, along with, conservatively, a three percent natural decline in production from existing reserves.

‘That means by 2010 we will need on the order of an additional 50 million barrels a day.’


Photograph by Sarah Leen Blissfully free from bumper-to-bumper tie-ups, Tori Carman and Olivia Jeffery cruise down their cul-de-sac in Alpharetta, Georgia, about 20 miles (32 kilometers) north of Atlanta. Developments like this one, with their acres of single-family homes that are miles from the nearest retail strip, drive opponents of sprawl crazy. But Kim Jeffery, Olivia’s mom, says seclusion was the whole point. “We wanted to live on a cul-de-sac,” she says, “so the kids could ride their bikes and scooters and play out front.”

Standing Their Ground
  • Photograph by Sarah Leen
  • Why have Citizens for Responsible Growth (CRGC) in Clemson, South Carolina, mobilized to stop Wal-Mart from opening yet another store in their area? For one thing, the proposed development—a 204,000-square-foot (19,000-square-meter) retail monolith—would be larger than all of the retail space in Clemson’s downtown shopping district and, as a result, would crush local businesses. Plus, there are already three other Wal-Marts within 15 miles (24 kilometers) of Clemson. “We know the land is going to be developed,” says Jim Witte, CRGC’s President. “But that kind of big box store doesn’t belong there.”
The areas required to supply a city with food and forest products and to absorb their output of wastes, and particularly their output of carbon dioxide

‘Everyone is now in everyone else’s backyard’

Carl Folke


Kunstler predicts a return to ‘the small town or city and its supporting agricultural hinterland. Those towns and cities will have to be a lot denser. Most of the towns and small cities of America are in a coma today. The luckier ones, which are generally tourist towns, have had a residue of boutique commerce barely holding the downtown buildings together. Typically, though, downtown buildings in small towns are unoccupied above the ground floors because the landlords will not invest in expensive renovation under strict building codes while new, suburban style garden apartments pop up on the fringe. The unluckier small towns of our nation – and they are the majority – lie in various stages of dereliction and ruin, their industry gone, their populations aged or idle, the infrastructure rotting. Even solid brick buildings fall apart in a few years when they are not inhabited. Once the roof leaks, all bets are off.’

pedestrianisation in copenhagen
Pedestrianisation in Copenhagen
  • Strøget, the old main street, was pedestrianised in 1962.
  • People said ‘Using public space is contrary to the nordic mentality’
The street now carries an average of 25,000 people between 10.00 and 18.00 in winter, and up to 55,000 in summer.
  • It was the beginning of a network of car-free squares and streets
We need to learn how to live in cities again, reducing the ecological footprint to a ‘one planet lifestyle’.
  • The skills and understanding of design and construction professionals can help to make this happen.
11 October Alan Powers: London – understanding the growth of a city
  • 18 October Ken Worpole (author): Public parks - What they can do for People and Cities
  • 25 October 2005 Susan Parham (Chairman, Council for European Urbanism): The Life of the Street
  • 1 November 2005 Site visit
  • 8 November 2005 Bill Dunster, (Zedfactory Architects): A holistic approach to green building and living
  • 15 November 2005 Daniel Moylan (Deputy Leader, Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea): Kensington High Street, Sloane Square and Exhibition Road
  • 22 November 2005 Louise Thomas (Director, Urban Renaissance Institute, University of Greenwich): What is Urban Renaissance?Hand in for Field Study Work
  • 29 November 2005 Review of Group Project work
  • 6 December 2005 In-class assessment
  • 13 December 2005 No Cultural Context. Sustainable Construction 9-1.