More than half of the world’s population lives in cities, and this number is continuing to rise. As more and more of us are crammed into these cities at ever increasing densities, there is an urgent need for innovative ideas that enable us to live together happily in comfort and good health. To achieve this, city planners are increasingly turning to science and technology for what are sometimes called smart city solutions.
As part of Techweek 2018, on Monday 21 May, Christchurch City Council’s Smart Cities programme will be hosting the 2018 Smart Cities Innovation Expo at Novotel Hotel, Cathedral Square Christchurch. Entry is free, and from 10am – 4pm visitors will be able to see a wide range of interactive exhibits showcasing local and national cutting-edge ideas for improving city life, from urban augmented reality, autonomous vehicles, and smart sensors, to rapid earthquake response systems, cycling innovations, and interactive apps. In anticipation of this event, I’ve put together a list of books that explore the many ways that science and technology can help us to understand cities and make them better places to live. Enjoy!
Books about how science and technology help us to understand cities and make them better places to live
Aerotropolis – A look at one possible future for the world’s cities
Built – This fascinating history of structural engineering from ancient times to the modern day
Built on Bones – What happened when we started living together in cities? – the archaeological evidence
Christchurch: Our underground story – A brilliant locally produced “lift-the-flap” book for children about what lies underneath our feet here in our very own city.
Darwin Comes to Town – Why cities are the best places to study evolution
The Endless City – A look at the future of cities around the world from the Urban Age Project at the London School of Economics – also check out the sequel – Living in the Endless City
Feral Cities – A fascinating account of urban wildlife around the world and how animals are adjusting to city life
Happy City – A travelogue the looks at the psychology of urban life around the world and how we can make cities happier places to live
A History of Future Cities – A fascinating look at how four global cities have each developed and embraced modernity in their own unique ways.
View more titles in the full list
There’s speculation out there that city planners can make a happy city. As a citizen of a city about to be rebuilt it would great to think so. On the other hand I was around in the 60s and 70s when similar claims led to developments that are now a byword for social failure (think high rise housing estates and Milton Keynes in Britain)
However, recent research looking at ten international cities suggests it can certainly contribute to it. According to The Sustainable Cities Collective:
A Gallup study examined a number of questions directly related to the built environment, including the convenience of public transportation, the ease of access to shops, the presence of parks and sports facilities, the ease of access to cultural and entertainment facilities, and the presence of libraries.
All were found to correlate significantly with happiness, with convenient public transportation and easy access to cultural and leisure facilities showing the strongest correlation.
Other studies have shown the need for social connectedness and suggested that long commutes and
car‑dependent neighbourhoods outside urban centres are much less trusting of other people than people who live in walkable neighbourhoods where housing is mixed with shops, services and places to work.
They have suggested this may explain the decrease in happiness in some western countries despite an increase in income.
Other exciting ideas relate to the use of green spaces. The BBC recently featured a wonderful range of suggestions as to how green spaces may contribute to our wellbeing in future – in ways you’ve never imagined.
It’s all food for thought and I find myself hungry for some more detail as to how these principles might be put into place in Christchurch.
I love Yarn bombing or Yarn Storming as it’s also known. It has so many great aspects to it. It is artistic, relaxing and creative. But it can also be confronting, anarchic and has a hint of the non-permanent grafitti artist about it and I think Christchurch could do with more!
What is it? It’s the art of creating knitted or crochet art works for public spaces. It often involves stealth and surprise, with creators putting their works in public spaces under the cover of darkness anonymously to surprise the public. They cover natural forms such as trees and rocks or man made items such a statues, bike stands or lamp posts.
I had a go at mushrooms myself, but I loved them so much they have ended up in my garden. I have seen creations pop up around Christchurch, pre and post quake. Abandoned buildings have been adorned, as have metal security fencing, statues and empty sections.
There’s plenty of inspiration in books available in the library collection, but if you can make a square of knitting or crochet, or even make the old style finger chains we did as children, you can Yarn bomb.
Knit the City is a British book whose creators adorn statues, bridges, telephone boxes and buildings with knitted animals, pirates and even a whole book’s worth of characters, such as Alice in Wonderland. Yarn Bombing is also an inspirational book, with patterns that even tell you how to knit disguises so you can go about your work without being recognised.
So, why not make this a winter project, get creative and adorn our bare city with colour, humour and a touch of pizazz! If you’re not brave enough to decorate the city, how about a knitted mushroom or three by your letterbox to bring a smile to your neighbours? Perhaps tell us where you have seen some yarn bombing around Christchurch.
A lot of correspondence has appeared in the local press about building density and the destruction of local landmarks.
Here’s what happened in the UK. A combination of greedy property developers, indifferent and/or corrupt councillors, the worship of the private car, changes in taste and the effects of the war meant devastating changes for many British cities. There’s a definite lesson here for New Zealand as these photographs show townscapes that should have been preserved rather than destroyed. Read Britain’s Lost Cities and weep.