Greg Lindsay's Blog

May 06, 2020  |  permalink

The Big Rethink: Beyond Megacities — Rethinking Density


On May 5th, I hosted the fifth episode of The Big Rethink: Cities After COVID-19, NewCities’ Webinar series on how the virus has impacted cities. Joining me along with 500+ attendees were former Bogotá mayor Enrique Peñalosa, placemaker and author Jay Pitter, and URBZ co-founders Rahul Srivastava and Matias Echanove. Click to watch the replay above; the episode description is below.

Location, location, location. Repeat twice daily to justify some of the most troubling trends in modern urban development. We use location – and the idea that there’s a scarcity of lively, walkable, employment-rich city centers – to champion density as simply good urbanism, while rarely stopping to consider what “density” really means. The pandemic has revealed the stark contrast between density sheltering affluent residents in locations with an abundance of amenities, and crowding designed to trap forgotten residents on the peripheries of cities — density that’s deadly. Future-proofing our cities after COVID-19 demands a more nuanced conversation than heralding the triumph of the mega-city. Grappling with the densities of banlieues, favelas, slums, and legacy cities requires understanding how these places actually work, acknowledging what they lack — adequate housing and healthcare, both contributors to the spread of disease — and helping residents help themselves.

On this episode of The Big Rethink, we explore density’s role in the pandemic and how to better protect marginalized residents on the edges — the ones who were out of sight and out of mind until they started dying. We’ll discuss what constitutes good urban density, how to prioritize vulnerable populations, and whether COVID-19 could mark a turning point toward more polycentric urban development.


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Greg Lindsay is a journalist, urbanist, futurist, and speaker. He is the director of applied research at NewCities and director of strategy at its mobility offshoot CoMotion.  He is also a partner at FutureMap, a geo-strategic advisory firm based in Singapore, a non-resident senior fellow of The Atlantic Council’s Foresight, Strategy, and Risks Initiative, and co-author of Aerotropolis: The Way We’ll Live Next.

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