News / Asia

Q&A with Daniel Brook: 'A History of Future Cities'

FILE - A man walks along a wall overlooking the central Mumbai financial district skyline.
FILE - A man walks along a wall overlooking the central Mumbai financial district skyline.
Much has been written about urbanization over time, but not so much about the role of modern cities in fostering political change. American journalist Daniel Brook has taken an interesting look at four cities that sought to gain greater importance by emulating the West. His new book, A History of Future Cities, investigates what he calls four “instant cities.” As he told VOA’s Jim Stevenson, they include two prominent entries from Asia.
 
Q&A with Daniel Brook: 'A History of Future Cities'
Q&A with Daniel Brook: 'A History of Future Cities'i
|| 0:00:00
...
 
🔇
X

BROOK:  The moment I got to Mumbai, I was struck first by the physical similarities of the city that is built to look somewhere it is not. Bombay is very consciously modeled to be a kind of tropical London. St. Petersburg is modeled as a kind of new Amsterdam. Then, digging a little deeper, it became clear to me that the psychological space that the cities occupy in the Russian and Indian mind is very similar. If you ask any Russian or Indian what is your west-facing city, where is the city where the international trends come into your country, the Russian would say of course St. Petersburg and the Indian would say Bombay, now Mumbai. From that, I thought, that was the seed of the book.
 
STEVENSON:  There is a common theme throughout the book as to whether or not a Western model is needed for a city to become great and influential like these cities have.
 
BROOK:  That’s right. I try to pivot at the end of the book. I want to describe the past. This world we begin with in the book in 1703 and continue through the Age of Empire where the West is in ascent and the rest of the world is working to catch up to it, often through these model modern cities, to today’s moment where Asia is ascendant and has many things to teach the West. Also, my hope is that we can have some equal exchange. The book ends actually not in any of these Asian cities, but in a Chinatown neighborhood in New York city where an Asian expatriate developer and architect has [placed] a multi-level urbanist building [of the kind] that you see all over East Asia. This one has a fruit stand on the bottom and a restaurant above it – the type of thing you see in Tokyo or Seoul. In New York, you see this having been imported from Asia, yet it fits New York like a glove. It is sort of a perfect urban form for this most urbanized of American cities and yet New York learns it from Asia. I see great hope in that.
 
STEVENSON:  Mumbai, or Bombay as it used to be known, is quite an interesting city, and especially one of pride among Indians.
 
BROOK:  Yes, Bombay is where India meets the world and it has been that for 150 years. This period we are in right now since the reforms of the early 1990s, Mumbai today is rediscovering many of its traditions. You have global companies flocking back to Mumbai and you have major urban development projects. Mumbai has skyscraper projects going up, it has megamalls and it has all of the satellite cities developing across the creek on the mainland of the subcontinent, but of course all linked to central Mumbai by the railroads that have defined the city really since the 1850s when the first railroad in Asia was built in that city.
 
STEVENSON:  We can’t ignore one of the other main cities that you discuss in the book, and a model even though it is not directly in our Asian (broadcast) region, it is a model for much of Asia and the rest of the world, and that’s Dubai.
 
BROOK:  Yes, Dubai is certainly a major city in the Asian imagination and an incredibly important city particularly for the business class and even the humble laborers of South Asia. There are more South Asians in Dubai than there are Arabs. There is of course this famous Indian joke that the best city in India is Dubai. But there is some truth behind the humor.
 
Dubai I chose because it is a superlative city. All of the cities I have written about have claimed that at a certain time, often in a very “Dubai” manner. It is often described as the Las Vegas of the Middle East, but all the buildings of Las Vegas are just hotels whereas the buildings of Dubai are financial offices, trading ports, all manner of economically crucial activity going on there. It really is a crossroads of the world and should be taken seriously.

Jim Stevenson

For over 35 years, Jim Stevenson has been sharing stories with the world on the radio and internet. From both the field and the studio, Jim enjoys telling about specific events and uncovering the interesting periphery every story possesses. His broadcast career has been balanced between music, news, and sports, always blending the serious with the lighter side.

You May Like

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

Physically and culturally close to Western Europe, Lviv feels solidarity with compatriots in country’s east but says they need to decide own future More

West African Women Disproportionately Affected by Ebola

Women's roles in families and the community put them at greater risk for contracting the disease, officials say More

Video NASA's MAVEN Spacecraft Arrives at Mars

Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution craft will measure rates at which gases escape Martian atmosphere into space More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbiti
X
September 22, 2014 9:20 PM
NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video NASA’s MAVEN Probe Enters Mars Orbit

NASA’s newest Mars probe, called MAVEN, has successfully entered its designated orbit around the Red Planet. Scientists will use its sophisticated instruments to try to learn what happened to the atmosphere Mars had a few billion years ago. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video For West Ukraine City, Conflict Far Away Yet Near

The western Ukrainian city of Lviv prides itself on being both physically and culturally close to Western Europe. The Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of the country are 1,200 kilometers away, and seemingly even farther away in their world view. Still, as VOA’s Al Pessin reports, the war is having an impact in Lviv.
Video

Video Saving Global Fish Stocks Starts in the Kitchen

With an estimated 90 percent of the world’s larger fish populations having already vanished, a growing number of people in the seafood industry are embracing the concept of sustainable fishing and farming practices. One American marine biologist turned restaurateur in Thailand is spreading the word among fellow chefs and customers. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from Bangkok.
Video

Video Chinese Admiral Key in China’s Promotion of Sea Links

China’s President last week wrapped up landmark visits to India, Sri Lanka and Maldives, part of a broader campaign to promote a new “Maritime Silk Road” in Asia. The Chinese government’s promotion efforts rely heavily on the country’s best-known sailor, a 15th century eunuch named Zheng He. VOA's Bill Ide reports from the sailor’s hometown in Yunnan on the effort to promote China’s future by recalling its past.
Video

Video Experts Fear Ebola Outbreak ‘Beyond Our Capability to Contain’

Each day brings with it new warnings about the deadly Ebola outbreak already blamed for killing more than 2,600 people across West Africa. And while countries and international organizations like the United Nations are starting to come through on promises of help for those most affected, the unprecedented speed with which the virus has spread is raising questions about the international response. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from Washington.
Video

Video Natural Gas Export Plan Divides Maryland Town

A U.S. power company that has been importing natural gas now wants to export it. If approved, its plant in Lusby, Maryland, would likely be the first terminal on the United States East Coast to export liquefied natural gas from American pipelines. While some residents welcome the move because it will create jobs, others oppose it, saying the expansion could be a safety and environmental hazard. VOA’s Deborah Block examines the controversy.
Video

Video Difficult Tactical Battle Ahead Against IS Militants in Syria

The U.S. president has ordered the military to intensify its fight against the Islamic State, including in Syria. But how does the military conduct air strikes in a country that is not a U.S. ally? VOA correspondent Carla Babb reports from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Iran, World Powers Seek Progress in Nuclear Talks

Iran and the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council plus Germany, known as the P5 + 1, have started a new round of talks on Iran's nuclear program. VOA State Department correspondent Pam Dockins reports that as the negotiations take place in New York, a U.S. envoy is questioning Iran's commitment to peaceful nuclear activity.
Video

Video Migrants Caught in No-Man's Land Called Calais

The deaths of hundreds of migrants in the Mediterranean this week has only recast the spotlight on the perils of reaching Europe. And for those forunate enough to reach a place like Calais, France, only find that their problems aren't over. Lisa Bryant has the story.
Video

Video Westgate Siege Anniversary Brings Back Painful Memories

One year after it happened, the survivors of the terror attack on Nairobi's Westgate Shopping Mall still cannot shake the images of that tragic incident. For VOA, Mohammed Yusuf tells the story of victims still waiting for the answer to the question 'how could this happen?'
Video

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

The International Whaling Commission, meeting in Slovenia, has voted to uphold a court ruling banning Japan from hunting whales in the Antarctic Ocean. Conservationists hailed the ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.Colonel Steve ‘Spiros’ Pisanos left Greece and came to the U.S. to learn to fly. He flew fighters for the Allies in World War II, narrowly escaping death multiple times.

AppleAndroid