Preparing for an Urban Age: Alex Krieger lecture, October 25, 2016


On Tuesday night at the Portland High School auditorium, Alex Krieger discussed the migration habits of civilizations from cramped urban predefined centers to spacious undeveloped suburbs . . . and back. Krieger is an urban planner with NBBJ, though his work involving city trends, population migration, and local cultures seems more anthropological. A brief history of the US from the 1900s shows urban expansion was mostly horizontal. Then, with the invention of the skyscrapers, inner-city density increased drastically. Krieger quoted Aristotle on the situation up to the 1950s: people came to the cities for security, but stayed for a higher standard of living. Americans slowly started migrating away from the cities in search of more space to raise families. Citing Levittowns as a better option than the city, Krieger spoke of “life by the acre” for young families as opposed to urban “life by the square foot." All of this changed in 2008, which marked the turning point in the American population migration. Populations started uprooting their suburban ideals for a better life in the city. Young and elderly people tend to be willing to sacrifice the space for better restaurants, medical facilities, transportation, and economic opportunity, though most new parents still want to raise their children away from the daunting megalopolis. Cities all over the world began a massive urban renewal campaign to bring residents back. Krieger lists his 8 indicators of urban health: 1. Living first (affordable housing) 2. The appeal of urban life (who does the city speak to?) 3. Density is a positive (reuse existing spaces/building over preservation 4. Compact development (perpetuity/longevity) 5. Invest in a diversity of culture (cities should be engaging) 6. Alternative form of mobility (public transit/bikes) 7. Greener cities (13 mature trees negate the effects of 1 car) 8. Work at it! (Develop unique situations/plans for a city) Krieger cites cities such as Seoul, Vienna, and Boston as examples of successful urban transformation. Here in Portland, ME, we are following the lead of Boston in exploring options to break up Interstate 295, which separates Back Cove from the Peninsula (see graphic above). Keegan Carmichael, AIA, NCARB, LEED AP BD+C, CPHC