Berlage Institute (Rotterdam, NLD)
19 April 2012

OMA partner Reinier de Graaf gave a lecture at the Berlage Institute about Megalopoli(tic)s.

De Graaf started by arguing that thinking big is compulsory when thinking about 'the green cause'. One needs to think in a global context, like Buckminster Fuller did with his Spaceship Earth and Doxiades' global Ecumenopolis city (1967). By showing different mappings of urban growth, De Graaf showed that the Ecumenoplis is, in fact, not that far way. These developments take place, not in the old Western metropolitan areas, but in the megacities of the South and (Far-)East.

To understand this growth, De Graaf looked at the rise of global economic liberalization. It is generally assumed that this started in the West with the simultaneous election of Margaret Thatcher in the UK and Ronald Reagan in the US. De Graaf argued that it started in China with the coming to power of Deng Xiaoping and the introduction of the ‘Open Door Policy’. De Graaf maintained that economic development is inextricably linked to urbanization, questioning if urbanization is a consequence of economic development or a means to economic development.

The problems that accompany rapid urban growth were historically addressed by (Western) thinkers writing about urbanization, but when Asia became the main setting for urbanization, these Western thinkers ceased thinking and writing about the topic. The visions of tomorrow’s city, are now being seized by consultancy firms. ‘Master plans’ are now created by technology giants like Siemens and home products companies like IKEA.

De Graaf closed his lecture by arguing that the prominence of cities is detrimental to the state of a nation; ‘third world’ cities like Sao Paolo and Mexico City have a GDP as comparable to ‘first world’ countries, such as Sweden and Australia. But these cities still have less political power than their respective nations. While the city (polis) was the birth place of politics, the Megalopolis calls for Megalopolitics…

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