What are the unintended consequences of building the city of tomorrow?
Orinio Opinaldo had been watching his West Adams neighborhood change for years. Throughout the 1990s, the area had gradually filled in with apartment buildings and higher-end housing. Opinaldo saw neighbors kicked out of rental units or bought out of homes by developers looking to reposition their properties. The pace of change quickened with the 2012 phase-one opening of the Expo Line light rail train connecting downtown, USC and Culver City.
Recent earthquake response efforts in Haiti showed how comparing satellite imagery could help to identify physical changes in the damaged country and assist rescue workers. That same sort of imagery could play a similar role for urban planners.
January 11: buildings and roads. January 12: rubble.
The massive earthquake that struck the Caribbean nation of Haiti last week toppled buildings and littered the capital city of Port-au-Prince with the crumbled concrete and shattered glass of a broken metropolis. The images beamed across the Internet show the grisly result of the devastating earthquake.
But then, a different kind of image popped up. Google Maps released a series of satellite images of different parts of the city, showing in the same scale Haiti's urban landscape shortly before and immediately after the earthquake.
Without comparable scales for mapping, development and design, cities can’t truly communicate.
For cities to operate well, city functions need to operate at the same scale. Mismatching scales create broad problems for the “system” of a city, and especially for those trying to manage the city form.
James Higgins, a regional manager at the mapping software firm ESRI cites the example of Doha, Qatar. This is a middle-eastern city that is undergoing a huge wave of growth. He showed a picture of downtown Doha, with dozens of high-rises under construction. The problem is that the infrastructure for each of these buildings was constructed at different scales...