Thursday, September 25, 2008

Super China

Mckinsey Global Institute (MGI) issued a report in March of this year on the growth of China’s cities by the year 2025. The figures are pretty astounding. Here are the figures straight from the report:

350 million
Will be added to China’s urban population by 2025—more than the population of today’s United States

1 billion
People will live in China’s cities by 2030

Chinese cities will have one million + people living in them—Europe has 35 today

5 billion
Square meters of road will be paved

Transit systems could be built

40 billion
Square meters of floor space will be built—in five million buildings

Of these buildings could be skyscrapers, the equivalent of building up to ten New York Cities

5 times
--the number by which GDP will have multiplied by 2025

Simply amazing. Furthermore, MGI studied five scenarios for how this growth could take place (and they produced some pretty interesting infographics to animate the scenarios as well): the first follows current trends, then four hypotheses based on different growth models: distributed, hub-and-spoke, townships, and finally MGI’s economically preferred model: the SUPERCITY option:
MGI's analysis suggests that China should tailor policies that would shift urbanization toward a more “concentrated” shape of urbanization. This pattern of urbanization could produce 15 supercities with average populations of 25 million people or spur the further development of 11 urban “clusters” of cities, each with strong economic networks and combined populations of 60-plus million. (highlights mine)
15 Supercities at 25 million or more people!! That’s 15 cities larger than any city we currently have on the planet at this time according to the ranking by the City Mayor institute.
This is essentially one giant experiment—urbanization at this scale and this speed has never occurred anywhere at any moment in history. Will the challenge be met or will the same status quo development continue to occur? Chinese planning has not been able to keep up with the rapid pace of development in the last couple of decades. Can they now leapfrog development’s lightening speed, get ahead of the curve, and control how this growth will occur? That in and of itself is one of the biggest challenges, let alone producing quality places for people to live, work, and play.
Which beg the questions—how are we going to design and construct these cities ? What forms should they take? How do we make them environmentally benevolent? Do SUPERCITIES require SUPERSTARS? (I’m tempted to venture into BLDGBLOG style conjecture at this point, but I’m not as talented and I’d rather you use your own imaginations)
It is easy in this context to understand why China is so provocative for all types of architects and urban designers—entrepreneurs, utopian dreamers, and dystopian prophets alike—in this day and age, the challenges and opportunities are endless.

No comments: