Rapid urbanisation in Asia is destroying much of the region’s urban heritage. But as well as changes to the built environment, the intangible culture of the area is changing. So how can cities in Asia and elsewhere respect their heritage whilst continuing to evolve?
How lots of cities used to be (and some still are!)
“John Snow was a local doctor working in Soho in the 1850s. London was then the biggest city the world had ever seen. It was a pretty unpleasant place by all accounts – cess pools in basements and cows in attics created a fetid environment. And it wasn’t just the smell; the lack of hygiene resulted in low life expectancy and disease, including cholera epidemics.”
New building inside the shell of an old building on Artillery Lane in east London.
“Urbanization has lured more people to bustling metropolises, but precious little thought has been given to what happens when these cities fail. Over time, the underlying systems and processes of civilization - from lead mining to offshore drilling to car commuting - slowly poison us. Power grids brown out, the climate heats up, and industrial accidents ravage ecosystems and cities alike. For all the famed cities with thousands of years of continuity - Paris, London, Cairo, Athens, Rome, Istanbul - most cities just stop.”
“Pattern books receded in use after World War II, when the building industry ramped up for the mass production of homes, increasing its efficiency by standardizing production, erecting swirling whirls of identical houses winding along side roads off major roadways. Developers - not homeowners or communities - decided how homes would look.”
“Cities have always had a magnetic pull. Even in their early days, they had to surround themselves with walls for protection against immigration. Anyone not living in the city felt like a second-class citizen. This is how it was in ancient Rome, where wars were even waged over citizenship. People living in cities have always enjoyed more freedom and possibilities for development than those living outside them.”
Wolfgang Nowak, Managing Director of the Alfred Herrhausen Society, the International Forum of Deutsche Bank