Frank Lloyd Wright once described cities as both ‘our glory and our menace’. With more than half of the world’s population now living in cities, architects are becoming increasingly interested in their origins. Many fields of historical, geographical, and spatial research are devoted to exploring the evolution of cities, revealing a set of similarities across the globe. In a recent video, Wendover Productions described a common set of characteristics linking some of our largest cities, six of which we have outlined below.
Taking the six factors below into account, where is the perfect ‘world city’? Watch the video after the break:
1- The Ten Mile Rule
If you measure the distance between two adjacent pre-industrial American towns, you will likely find it to be 10-15 miles. Before the advent of cars, people in rural settings could only walk a maximum of five miles to the nearest town in a single day for work and supplies. As a result, towns developed a five-mile sphere of influence, creating a common 10-15 mile distance between each medium-sized settlement.
2- Spheres of Influence
The Ten Mile Rule is a building block for the spread of cities across a country. While most small towns had common, everyday services such as banks, food stores, and pharmacies, not every town needed specialized facilities such as hospitals. Therefore, certain towns increased in size to accommodate more people and services within their spheres of influence. As this process continues, we eventually see the creation of large cities equipped with airports, universities, and other highly-specialized facilities, with spheres of influence stretching hundreds of miles.
Fourteen of the world’s largest fifteen cities are located close to the sea. Oceans have always been the most feasible, cost-effective, enduring method of transporting heavy goods over long distances. Therefore, for a city to remain economically efficient, it must locate itself in close proximity to either an ocean or major river.
Natural resources will allow cities to prosper as manufacturing, trading, and transportation hubs. However, as modern technology allows for lucrative resources such as oil and gas to be transported over long distances, we have seen the growth of cities such as Dubai which benefit from administrating resources, despite not being physically located near them.
For cities, mountains can be both a help and hindrance. Whilst mountains can be a barrier to trade and transport, they form a natural line of protection from invasion. Therefore, many ancient cities thrived when located near mountains, with the reduced risk of attack affording them time to grow and prosper. Coupled with the bounty of minerals and natural resources often found in mountains, these benefits can outweigh the economic disadvantage of being in an inaccessible location.
6- Continents and Climate
Why are only 32 of the 220 largest cities in the world located in the Southern Hemisphere? One interesting theory centers on the fact that continents in the Northern Hemisphere have a wide east-west span, rather than a long north-south span. The climate across large stretches of land will, therefore, remain the same, a condition which allowed ancient empires such as the Mongols to conquer vast spaces of land with the same animals and equipment. As a result, a disproportionate number of major settlements to this day are located in the Northern Hemisphere.
News via: Wendover Productions.