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

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter 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.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid