We’ve stripped out the street names and lost the labels – but can you still recognise the cities from their aerial views?
Digital resources to strengthen the quality and quantity of geography education in classrooms the world over.
Curated by Seth Dixon
We’ve stripped out the street names and lost the labels – but can you still recognise the cities from their aerial views?
This is a fun map quiz that is part memory, but also relies on pattern recognition to see if you can understand the urban morphology that shaped these places. I got 11 out of 13...can anybody top that? I'm sure someone can; give it a shot.
It’s become difficult to afford urban living in places like San Francisco, New York or even Portland, but there is an alternative. In Rust Belt cities like Pittsburgh, Buffalo and Cincinnati, you can buy or rent for about 1/10th the price.
I've discussed Cincinnati's gentrification several times here, but this video adds the personal touch where you can see into the mind, ethos and motives of those moving in to poorer neighborhoods with hopes to renovate a community where the logic of 'disinvestment' has prevailed for decades. Gentrification is often criticized for displacing the urban poor, but this shows how some are eager to tie themselves into the fabric of the neighborhood as the neighborhood is changing; they aren't just wealthy people buying out the poor.
"In communities across America, lawns that are brown or overgrown are considered especially heinous. Elite squads of dedicated individuals have been deputized by their local governments or homeowners’ associations to take action against those whose lawns fail to meet community standards."
This is a great podcast from 99 Percent Invisible that shows not only the environmental aspects of America’s obsession with well-manicured lawns, it also nicely explored the cultural norms that police our behavior to create the stereotypical suburban landscape. This is my favorite quote from the podcast: “There’s a paradox to the lawn. On the one hand, it is the pedestal on which sits the greatest symbol of the American Dream: the home, which people can ostensibly govern however they wish. And yet—homeowners often have almost no control over how they should maintain their lawn. Grass may be a plant, but a lawn is a designed object.”
"When the well's dry, we know the worth of water." ~Benjamin Franklin
"Tourists and locals experience cities in strikingly different ways. To see just how different these two worlds are, have a look at the map of Washington D.C. above based on where people take photos. The red bits indicate photos taken by tourists, while the blue bits indicate photos taken by locals and the yellow bits might be either."
It amazes me how the same city can provide such diverse experiences to so many people. Growing up in San Diego, going to the zoo was only our family's radar when company was over and they wanted to "see San Diego." Their vision of the place, what is iconic and what is quintessentially symbolic of that place, was different from my own.
Questions to Ponder: What are some other ways (besides local/tourist) that a place can be experienced by other groups? How many of these 136 cities can you identify from these tourist/local patterns?
"Like many cities in Central Europe, Warsaw is made up largely of grey, ugly, communist block-style architecture. Except for one part: The Old Town. Walking through the historic district, it’s just like any other quaint European city. There are tourist shops, horse-drawn carriage rides, church spires. The buildings are beautiful—but they are not original."
This is a compelling 99 Percent Invisible podcast linking architecture, heritage, political ideology and the built environment. How we preserve and create place is put on trial as to when something is benign, fabricated, authentic, or simply a complicated balance between opposing forces.
Air conditioners have made architects lazy, and we've forgotten how to design houses that might work without it.
A hundred years ago, a house in Florida looked different than a house in New England. The northern house might be boxy, have relatively small windows, almost always two stories with low ceilings, and a big fireplace in the middle.
In Florida, the house might have high ceilings, tall double-hung windows, and deep porches. Trees would be planted around the house to block the sun.
Today, houses pretty much look the same wherever you go in North America, and one thing made this possible: central air conditioning. Now, the United States uses more energy for air conditioning than 1 billion people in Africa use for everything.
The recent demographic shift to the "Sun Belt" in the U.S. coincides with the mass availability of air conditioning (among other factors). Our homes are less regionally distinct and in terms of the human/environmental interactions, our answer is greater modifications as opposed to regional adaptations...this article is a call for more architectural improvements instead of more energy consumption to beat the heat. In Europe however, they see the United States as "over air-conditioned" in the summer.
In an edited extract from his new book, Danny Dorling, professor of human geography at the University of Sheffield, argues that the idea of the population bomb is a fallacy and that the human population is checking its rise without the need for a grand plan
This essay is written by a critic of Thomas Malthus and could serve as a bridge to discuss issues in a population unit and an urban unit. In a nutshell, Dorling feels that that Malthusian-like fears and assumptions about the proliferation of slums are unfounded; this is a good reading that can spark some conversation in a college seminar.
A big portion of China's economic boom the last few decades has been linked to the transformation of what used to be a predominantly agrarian civilization to an economic engine fueled by rapid urbanization. This 2011 video from the Economist is still highly relevant today.
This is a great juxtaposition of communal identities. Before becoming a part of Canada, this was the Cathedral of St. James. As a part of the British Empire, places such as Victoria Square became a part of the Montreal landscape. In what appears to me as a symbolic strike back against the British Monarchy's supremacy, this Cathedral is renamed Marie-Reine-du-Monde (Mary, Queen of the World). The fact that the Hotel Queen Elizabeth is looming overhead only heightens the tensions regarding whose queen reigns supreme; this isn't the real issue. The dueling queens served as a proxy for tensions between British political control and French cultural identity in Quebec several generations ago.
I was recently in Montreal; my last few Instagram posts aren't the prettiest pictures of my time in Canada. I tried to select images that represented geographic concepts and would be the things I'd mention if we were on a walking tour of the city.
Two French photographers immortalize the remains of the motor city on film. Pictured above is the Packard Plant; luxury-auto maker Packard produced its last car here in 1956. To see more work by Yves Marchand and Romain Meffre, visit their website.
"When tourists visit sub-Saharan Africa, they often wonder 'Why there are no historical buildings or monuments?' The reason is simple. Europeans destroyed most of them. We only have a few drawings and descriptions by travelers who visited the places before their destruction. In some places, ruins are still visible. Many cities were abandoned when Europeans brought exotic diseases (smallpox and influenza) which started spreading and killing people. Most of those cities lie hidden. In fact the biggest part of Africa history is still under the ground."
This article is a good introduction to historical African urbanism. It is also a powerful reminder that the landscape does not only teach us based on what we see--the landscape can be a powerful witness by reminding us of the what is glaringly absent.
TELEVISION DOCUMENTARY: Examines the slum areas of Cincinnati, Ohio, and provides extensive views of substandard housing in various parts of the city. Describes the problems of the uneducated and unemployed who cannot escape from poverty, but finds a "ray of hope" in a young school child. Offers no solution for eliminating urban poverty, but states that everyone "must try."
Let's make "10 not 12!" a new mantra for saving our cities and towns.
[12 foot lanes] are wrong because of a fundamental error that underlies the practice of traffic engineering—and many other disciplines—an outright refusal to acknowledge that human behavior is impacted by its environment.
"Nowhere else in Cincinnati is contrast more evident than this one block of Republic Street. Rich and poor. Black and white. Dark past and vibrant future."
The Over-The-Rhine neighborhood is very close to the APHG reading site, and the urban renewal here is quite controversial. Many point to the economic positives and infusion of investments, while other see social displacement of the poor. No matter your perspective, it is a place where there are very visible social boundaries.
|Suggested by Ariel Juarez|
"What, exactly, is a city? Technically, cities are legal designations that, under state laws, have specific public powers and functions. But many of the largest American cities — especially in the South and West — don’t feel like cities, at least not in the high-rise-and-subways, 'Sesame Street' sense. Large swaths of many big cities are residential neighborhoods of single-family homes, as car-dependent as any suburb.
Cities like Austin and Fort Worth in Texas and Charlotte, North Carolina, are big and growing quickly, but largely suburban. According to Census Bureau data released Thursday, the population of the country’s biggest cities (the 34 with at least 500,000 residents) grew 0.99 percent in 2014 — versus 0.88 percent for all metropolitan areas and 0.75 percent for the U.S. overall. But city growth isn’t the same as urban growth. Three cities of the largest 10 are more suburban than urban, based on our analysis of how people describe the neighborhoods where they live."
Beginning in the 1950s, cities demolished thousands of homes in walkable neighborhoods to make room for freeways.
At the time, this was seen as a sign of progress. Not only did planners hope to help people get downtown more quickly, they saw many of the neighborhoods being torn down as blighted and in need of urban renewal. But tearing down a struggling neighborhood rarely made problems like crime and overcrowding go away. To the contrary, displaced people would move to other neighborhoods, often exacerbating overcrowding problems. Crime rates rose, not fell, in the years after these projects. By cutting urban neighborhoods in half, planners undermined the blocks on either side of the freeway. The freeways made nearby neighborhoods less walkable. Reduced foot traffic made them less attractive places for stores and restaurants. And that, in turn, made them even less walkable. Those with the means to do so moved to the suburbs, accelerating the neighborhoods' decline.
Later this month I will be in Cincinnati (pictured above) and will see firsthand some of the urban changes that freeways have had on the landscape, neighborhoods, and the lives of residents. This article has some "swipe" aerial photography on Cincinnati, Detroit, and Minneapolis for your analysis.
"We have a myth today that the ghettos in metropolitan areas around the country are what the Supreme Court calls 'de-facto' — just the accident of the fact that people have not enough income to move into middle class neighborhoods or because real estate agents steered black and white families to different neighborhoods or because there was white flight. It was not the unintended effect of benign policies, it was an explicit, racially purposeful policy that was pursued at all levels of government, and that's the reason we have these ghettos today and we are reaping the fruits of those policies."
We've grown good at making many things in the modern world - but strangely the art of making attractive cities has been lost. Here are some key principles for how to make attractive cities once again.
While we can't objectively measure beauty, in this video from the School of Life, London-based Swiss writer Alain de Botton offers a cheeky, thought-provoking, six-point manifesto on the need for making beauty a priority in urban architecture and design. Alain de Botton feels that tourism can be seen as helpful proxy variable for what the general public perceives as good urbanism that makes for beautiful cities. The six main points of this article are:
The more we slap concrete down all over the state, the more we trigger devestating consequences, like the million-dollar flooding in Cranston last September.
We often ignore the environmental impact of the cities we build. When we build a road, building or sidewalk, we usually cover the ecosystem's natural mechanisms for absorbing rainfall with impervious surfaces. This award-winning environmental article in RI Monthly was written by a geography professor with an eye on the human and environmental interactions between community land use choices and watershed quality. The RI governor announced for Earth Day that it will be investing funds to tackle the storm water pollution problem.
"London completely dominates the political, cultural and economic life of the U.K. to an extent rarely seen elsewhere. That imbalance has been an issue in the run-up to Thursday's election."
The problems with primate cities are hardly unique to London (see here resources for teaching about primate cities using the example of Mexico City). The lack of a balanced urban hierarchy that we would see in countries where the rank-size rule applies is a political problem as stated in this NPR podcast. This additional BBC article bemoans Britain’s lack of a true second city, arguing that London’s shadow looms too large for sustained national development outside of the primate city.