In 1900, there were only 16 cities with populations over 1 million. By 2000, there were 417. In 1950, there was only one city in the world with a population of 10 million; today there are 19 of these 'megacities'. Currently, half of the world's population resides in urban areas, and it is estimated that this will increase to 60 percent by 2030. Rapid urbanization is placing new strains on natural resources, taking food-producing agricultural areas out of production, and intensifying already critical global environmental challenges. Yet urbanization also has provided new economic opportunities, raised standards of living, and spurred technological innovation and entrepreneurship.
Modern cities are not only growing larger, they are growing differently. Foreign direct investment and the arrival of multinational corporations has spurred demand for office parks, gated residential developments, and high-rise complexes that are making cities less physically dense and more aesthetically homogeneous. Consumer affluence has increased car ownership. Flows of people, capital, and ideas across cultures and continents have fundamentally altered human conceptions of space and distance. Public policies encourage the growth of new urban landscapes that bear little resemblance to the old.
Made up of faculty and students from Stanford, Yale, and the University of Washington, this research group is exploring these transformations over time and space. Our chief project is a comparative study of three regions where globalization and its attendant urban changes have hit home forcefully: the San Francisco Peninsula in the United States, home of Silicon Valley; the Pearl River Delta of southern China; and Bangalore, India. Related research considers broader historical shifts in land use patterns, housing markets, industrial and commercial development, agricultural production and consumption, and the role of universities in urban development. Our work has been sponsored by Stanford's Woods Institute for the Environment, the UPS Foundation Endowment, the National Science Foundation, and the University of Washington Department of History.
This site contains a range of information related to the project:
- Interactive MAPS of the three case study areas that show urban growth patterns over time and the location of home, work, and infrastructure.
- A series of THEMED ESSAYS written by student researchers that explore some of the drivers of urban form in these knowledge cities: economic and trade policy, foreign direct investment, higher education, technology, consumption, topography and biodiversity
- LINKS to work by our faculty and to the work of other scholars and thinkers about how world cities are growing and changing.