1 April 2011

The evolution of cities — a mental process

Today more than 50 per cent of the world’s population live in cities. What do they need to manage the future lack of resources and environmental problems? A new book looks to history for the answers!

According to Paul Sinclair, professor of African and Comparative Archaeology at Uppsala University, if you want to build sustainable cities you have to take into consideration the thoughts and values of the the city’s inhabitants.

40 researchers
In a large research programme with initial support from Mistra, 40 researchers from several countries spent two years studying the global evolution of city living — from the first urban buildings dating back 10,000 years and looking forward.

‘This work would not have been possible without the innovative framework we received from Mistra,’ says Sinclair.

Urban mind

The project resulted in the 600-page book Urban Mind — Cultural and Environmental Dynamics, which shows how cities are the result of the mental processes of their inhabitants, a motley group of people from different cultural backgrounds.

The researchers focused on green areas, not just as a place for biological and cultural diversity, but also as a space for urban farming.

‘In Istanbul, for example, there are green areas that are also an important base for food production, but linguists discovered that the area was also tied to Roma who had taken temporary refuge there — in other words, a cultural mosaic,’ says Sinclair.

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