The Future Cities project

challenging risk-aversion and the precautionary principle

» Development & Environment

Venice: Myth and Reality

‘Venice in Environmental Peril? Myth and Reality’ by Dominic Standish; University Press of America, 2012. 318pp

Reviewed by Elisabetta Gasparoni | 2 November 2012

You cannot help but wonder how the ancient Venetians managed to create such stunning architecture Read more…

How to win the long jump

Martin Earnshaw | 17 September 2012

Who now regards Athens as a world beating Olympic city? Today, the horror stories of abandoned stadia and rubbish strewn swimming pools, though disputed, are commonplace in media accounts of what happened to the Olympic site. Read more…

As China is getting bolder the West is losing confidence

Austin Williams | Monday 3rd September 2012

LIVING and working in China – where I teach urban design to eager architecture students – is a constant adventure. Unlike the UK, where we seem to spend our time discussing what, how or even whether to build, it is exciting to be in a country that is actually doing it. Read more…

Emerging Africa

‘Emerging Africa: how 17 countries are leading the way’ by Steven C. Radelet; Center for Global Development, 2010. 169pp

Reviewed by Joel Cohen | 22 August 2012

On the 50th anniversary of the publication of Things Fall Apart, Nigerian author Chinua Achebe was asked “Are things really falling apart or are they starting to come back together in Africa?” Read more…

The Power Broker

‘The Power Broker: Robert Moses And The Fall Of New York’ by Robert Caro; Knopf, 1974. 1344pp

Reviewed by Michael Owens | 31 March 2012

Robert Caro’s epic account of the life of Robert Moses, the man central to shaping the physical fabric and governance of twentieth century New York, is both scholarly and highly readable. Read more…

City migration as a development problem? It’s the ultimate urban myth

Alastair Donald | 17 February 2012 (The Guardian)

Rather than portraying rapid urbanisation in terms of overconsumption, we should be celebrating it.  Read more…

Green Philosophy

‘Green Philosophy: How to think seriously about the planet’ by Roger Scruton; Atlantic Books, 2012. 464pp

Reviewed by Austin Williams | 2 February 2012

Last year, Green MP, Caroline Lucas launched the “Home Front” initiative, which used the language of the Second World War to hark back to the joys of a war economy. Read more…

This Christmas, let’s all lift a glass to mark the birth of Homo sapiens urbanus

Alastair Donald | 21 December 2011

The real problem today isn’t Eastern slums but the low horizons of Western urbanists.  Read more…

The Energy Report

The Energy Report by WWF, Ecofys and AMO; January 2011, 253pp

Reviewed by Austin Williams | February 2011

If you enjoy reading end of year accounts, or poring over corporate brochures, you will love The Energy Report – the eco-equivalent of a BP audit statement. Written by a huge number of people from WWF, together with some from Ecofys (a Dutch renewable energy consultancy), it has been designed by AMO, the consulting arm of Rem Koolhaas’s OMA.  Read more…

Two Cases for the (Floods) Defence

‘Atlas of the New Dutch Water Defence Line’ (010 Publishers) & ‘Facing up to rising sea levels (Building Futures, RIBA)

Reviewed by Austin Williams | February 2010

Contrary to the implication in its title, the Atlas of the New Dutch Water Defence Line has nothing to do with global warming and flood management. The book is a historical assessment of the network of watercourses known as the Nieuwe Hollandse Waterlinie (NHW) Read more…

Building Resilience

‘The Everyday Resilience of the City: How Cities Respond to Terrorism and Disaster’ by J. Coaffee, D. Murkami-Wood and P. Rogers; Palgrave/Macmillan, 2008. 304pp

Reviewed by Alastair Donald | 28 September 2009

Whether through ecological breakdown, terrorism, pandemics or crime, cities are now widely perceived as permanently ‘under threat’. Consequently, creating ‘resilience’ has become a key concept in public policy, and increasingly in urban design too. Read more…

“Carbon psychosis”

Austin Williams | 24 September 2009

On the 70th anniversary of Sigmund Freud’s death (23 September 2009), it is tragic to realise that many people are still debilitated by the affliction known as Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD). Read more…

Dongtan: the eco-city that never was

Austin Williams | August 2009

It was nice while it lasted, but now, it seems, the dream is over. The long-awaited, much-feted eco-city of Dongtan – described by environmental campaigner, Herbert Girardet as ‘the world’s first eco-city’ – has bitten the dust. After four years of presentations, proposals and puff, the universal praise has proven to be a little premature. Read more…

Selling out the 'bottom billion'

‘The Bottom Billion: why the poorest countries are failing and what can be done about it’ by Paul Collier; Oxford University Press, 2007. 224pp

Reviewed by Daniel Ben-Ami

Africa evokes strong emotions. In many ways it shows humanity at its poorest and most wretched. Every year millions of Africans die needlessly of easily preventable or curable diseases. Many more are locked in seemingly pointless but bloody conflicts. Read more…

FILM: Slumdog Millionaire

‘Slumdog Millionaire’ directed by Danny Boyle and Loveleen Tandan, 2008

Reviewed by Siddharth Rajan | 8 February 2009

Danny Boyle has created a masterpiece in “Slumdog Millionaire”. With some great technical work and a rather unique storyline (based on the novel Q&A by Vikas Swarup), Danny has created what some are suggesting the best movie of 2008 worldwide. Read more…

Dan Dare or Dan Daren’t

Austin Williams | 3 October 2008

Whatever happened to the jet-pack; the monorail; the personalised Lear jet; Maglev taxis; automated highways; long-haul flights by space shuttle? All of these strange and wonderful transport ideas were commonplace Utopian ambitions for the future as seen by the Sixties’ generation. Read more…

What did regeneration ever do for us?

Austin Williams | July 2008

At a preview of the British Museum exhibition on the life and times of the Roman Emperor, Hadrian, one architecture critic claimed that Hadrian was the first ‘urban regenerator’ because of his involvement ‘in the minutiae of neighbourhood politics.’ Read more…

The Pessimists: Putting the brakes on India and China

Austin Williams | 15 May 2008

Notwithstanding the fact that the president of the Economic Strategy Institute in Washington, Clyde Prestowitz, says excitedly that visiting China is ‘always an epiphany’ (1), in general, when considering the Chinese ‘economic miracle’ (2), the West has developed a nagging cynicism about that country’s rapid rate of development.  Read more…

Ken’s war economy

Austin Williams | 30 March 2008

Ken, the consummate political hack, has learned that you only need to mention carbon emissions these days and it is enough to stifle criticism. Read more…

Dictionary of Environment and Conservation

‘Oxford Dictionary of Environment and Conservation’ by Chris Park;  Oxford University Press, 2008. 522pp.

Reviewed by Austin Williams | March 2008

The first word in the Oxford Dictionary of Environment and Conservation is “aa” – a Hawaiian word, pronounced “ah-ah”, defined here as volcanic lava rock. This opening definition seems to be there solely to distract the reader from the banality of the second entry, “abandoned well”, Read more…