What is the future of big cities?

What is the future of big cities?

October 10th, 2006 | Posted in Art & Society, Millennial City

See my new article entitled Cities and the Future to explore these questions:

  1. Will people really prefer to keep living in cities?
  2. How will so many people in one economy affect the politics and economics of the future?
  3. What needs to change in infrastructure and design for places that are already so crowded to grow?

If you take a look, please feel free to drop by and add your thoughts on the topic.

About Brenda Cooper

Brenda Cooper is a writer, a technology professional, and a futurist. Brenda writes science fiction, fantasy, poetry, and non-fiction. Two of her novels, The Silver Ship and the Sea and Edge of Dark, have won the Endeavour Award for the best science fiction or fantasy book written by a Pacific Northwest author. Wilders was also short-listed for the P.K. Dick award. She is also currently the Director of Information Technology at Lease Crutcher Lewis, a premier Pacific Northwest builder. Her love of technology, science, and science fiction combines to drive her interest in the future, and she delivers keynote addresses in the future a few times a year.


  1. Brenda Cooper   |   Oct 11, 2006

    Thanks for the compliments on the site and the blog. We really like doing this.

  2. Glenn   |   Oct 10, 2006

    Notice that, in the 1960-90;s the trend was to build enclosed shopping malls. Then the trend evolved of having retail locate near, but not in, enclosed malls. Now the trend seems to be to build open air centers (aka strip centers) yet many have anchor tenants as do malls. JCPenneys is now opening free standing stores.

    These shopping centers have always been located on or near major thoroughfares usually where two or more intersect. In that respect these shopping centers are the direct descendants of trade centers that sprang up next to a crossroads, fords, or harbors thousands of years ago. Even before history it was “location, location, location.”

    Twenty years ago I had to drive all of the city to meet my shopping needs. Now I have everything I need within a five mile radius. Somethings change, somethings remain the same.



    PS I found you via the Lisa Haneberg podcast with Glen. Great site and blog.

  3. Brenda Cooper   |   Oct 10, 2006

    Thanks, Brian. I appreciate you weighing in. I agree that many cities have experienced some level of boom and bust cycles. I won’t be surprised to see that continue, although I expect that until world population starts to decline it will be mostly upward cycles. After that, there may be stiff competition, even among world-class cities, to stay truly vibrant. Some may even lose permanently.

    I like your point about decentralization. We have neighborhoods in Seattle where almost everything people need day to day can be obtained in a small geographic area. They are almost like a series of small cities aggregated to support larger venues like stadiums and concert halls as a group and grocery stores and laundry shops neighborhood by neighborhood.

    I do get involved with our economic development efforts in a sort of peripheral fashion, and it seems that clusters are still high on the list, but we tend to talk about more than one cluster at a time – supporting aerospace and high tech in Seattle, and high tech and medicine in Kirkland, etc. I think the ED community has decided that working to attract a single cluster, or even be too dependent on a single cluster, has dangers.

    Anyway, thanks again for your comments.

  4. Brian Heumann   |   Oct 10, 2006

    Hi there,

    I appreciated your article and your invitation. So here are some of my thoughts on the 3 questions above:

    as for 1.)
    Yes, I think, cities will always be attractive to people for different reasons, like work, entertainment, culture and others. But I think that there are “cycles” in the expansion of cities. In one phase people will flock to cities for work and living. However, as property, services and quality of living will become scarce and will cost more and more, people tend to go into the suburbs or satellite towns, leaving the city centers almost empty.

    Then the city is becoming cheaper again and is then reanimated again with an even larger center and attracts even more people than before. And sometimes it extends and agglomerates the suburbs. With some cities you can see satellite towns being assimilated by the city and becoing city themselves (e.g. London – Reading, Berlin – Dahlen, Manchester, Paris, Ruhrgebiet etc.). And then the next round begins… and I don’t know if there is a limit to this cycle.

    as for 2.)
    I think that clusters will shape the future development of a city or a region. These clusters will attract new talent related to the focus industry, provide education and institutions to support them etc. and therefore reinforcing the focus.

    However, while concentrating on a specific industry will be economically efficient it also has the risk of hatching all your eggs in one basket. With the decline of the focus industry the city or region will decline, too, e.g. mining and automotive industries affected Ruhrgebiet, Pittsburgh and so on.

    This can be studied quite well in post war Germany. After the WW II the country was given a strong federated political structure and with strong clusters in different economic fields, e.g. Stuttgart -> automotive, Ruhrgebiet -> mining, Frankfurt -> finances, K?ln/D?sseldorf-> trade and logistics etc etc.

    as for 3.)
    I think that the larger the area and the population, the more and more decentralization is required, e.g. having libraries in several outlets instead of having a central library. The same for other public goods like parcs, hospitals etc. The organization should be rather organic instead of centralized structures. (This also leads to a discussion of quality of service, e.g. is a “good enough” for everyone acceptable vs. “only the best” in a single place…)

    Kind regards,