Cities are as ancient as civilization. They are, in fact, its wellspring. But it wasn’t so long ago that the land inhabited by humans was overwhelmingly rural. That has changed – dramatically, and only very recently.
It’s almost a cliche to say cities are always changing, but the transformation is nothing short of radical in many places as millions in the developing world move from countryside to city, or emigrate to cities in the First World. Across the world, most people now live in urbanized areas, a tipping point that happened, according to the UN, in 2007.
There is a less dramatic but no less significant sea-change in America. After years of withdrawal from our central cities, most Americans live in the netherworld of the suburb, places neither pastoral nor entirely urban. But that, too, is changing, as an urban rediscovery is underway, especially for young people who grew up in the ‘burs and for whom they are more than a bit ‘’been-there, done-that.’’ That means that we are now relearning how to live in and reshape our central cities. And we are reconsidering the suburbs, which, of course, aren’t exactly about to empty out.
What should our cities and suburbs look like? How should they function? How far can they sprawl? Who gets to decide?
These are important questions, and it’s what this blog is about. Our surroundings shape us and the way we live. Urbanista! aims to spotlight the good, the bad and the plain ugly in the urban landscape of Miami and South Florida. Look for posts on planning and development issues, on architecture new and old, on neighborhood debates, on design pratfalls as well as triumphs – there are some, sometimes. I hope to keep you up with public hearings, votes, planning sessions and community meetings, and the latest on projects, private and public, of broad impact like Miami 21, the ongoing debate over the future of Virginia Key, and the fate of all those unsold houses and condos all over South Florida.
I’m not a critic, just a reporter. I have been in Miami a quarter century, writing about urban issues since the early days of the South Beach/Art Deco revival, and I love this stuff. I have no formal background in urban planning or design. But I was lucky enough to sit in on a semester’s worth of lectures by the legendary Vincent Scully on modern architecture history at the University of Miami, and I spent an academic year at the University of Michigan’s school of architecture and urban planning, auditing classes on architectural history, historic preservation and urban planning and design theory. Just enough knowledge, probably, to get myself in trouble.
Oh, and I also like bicycles. So you may be reading some about cycling in the streets of South Florida – as well as efforts to make those mean streets a little nicer and safer for people riding bikes. I do believe that places that embrace bicycles are more humane and urbane.
Help me make this blog a success.
I’ll take submissions, ideas, news, complaints, photos and pleas for world peace -- or at least for better buildings. It may turn out that you can’t have one without the other.