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

ASEAN Ministers Set to Push for South China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

Puerto Rico Defaults on $58M Debt Payment

Payment was due Saturday, default is first in country's 117 years as a United States possession More

Turkish Public Fears Jihadists More Than Kurds

Turkey facing twin threats of terrorism by Islamic State and PKK Kurdish separatists, says President Erdogan’s ruling AK Party 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.
Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Communityi
X
Sharon Behn
August 03, 2015 2:23 PM
A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs