Edited by Timothy Beatley
Introduction: Why Study European Cities?
We are living on an increasingly urban planet. In 2008 we passed the halfway mark—50% of the world’s population now live in cities, and that percentage is projected to increase to 70% by 2050. There is no turning back the urban trend. Yet ironically we have as a species yet to successfully design and plan cities that will accommodate our economic and demographic needs while uplifting and elevating us, and protect, restore, and nurture the planet and its natural systems. That we need new models of urbanization—that is, sustainable urbanization—is especially clear here in the U.S. Where to look for new models is always a question, and as this book argues, European cities remain a powerful source of potent ideas and inspiring practice. The chapters to follow, chosen to highlight the practices of some of these most innovative European urban exemplars, are written by experts and local planners who know these cities well. Where we look first should be determined by a combination of those places with basic similarities—cultural, economic, political—and places employing a rich array of innovative tools, strategies, and ideas. And of course we should also look at cities that have already been successful at bringing about, and maintaining over a long period of time, the urban qualities and conditions we admire. This is an especially promising time to think about and promote the environmental role of cities. There has been considerable attention paid in the last decade to how notions of sustainability begin to apply at local and regional levels. Many communities around the U.S. (and the world) are struggling to develop and implement a wide variety of initiatives and programs to make their communities more sustainable and livable.