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THE IDEAL CITY


To change life, we must first change space”
- Henri Lefebvre, French writer

Ever since Ancient Egypt, civilizations have attempted to plan cities in order to make them work better. Planners seek to organize a city so that it benefits all its inhabitants. They do things such as build housing, construct infrastructure like roads and plumbing, provide public services like electricity and garbage collection, coordinate commerce, provide recreational facilities such as parks, stadiums and museums, and facilitate transport.
These days, planning is not a simple job suited for one department or group. More and more, the cooperation of a number of government departments, local organizations and private citizens is needed to make a city, even a neighborhood, function healthily. Nevertheless, a coherent vision of what is necessary, what is good and what works is needed if cities are going to survive in the future. The students’ job is to construct that vision.
In groups or as a class, students should form an “Ideal City” committee. Over the course of several weeks student committees will be designing their ideal city. Each week’s activity helps students build up their knowledge of cities and the things necessary to have a healthy, successful city. At the end, they will be ready to design their ideal city. The ideal city can be drawn, built (3-D model) or written up—the teacher will help decide which approach to take.
Before getting started, or as you go along, you may want to consult the “Doing Good” folder, which lists some of the cities that have made great improvements in one or more respects.
Good luck and make sure you enjoy your city—that’s essential for its health and yours.
Note: The teacher should keep in mind that, while the first two activities are simple and essential, the later ones become more difficult. Teachers of lower grades might think about (i) collapsing activities 3 and 4 into a single activity; (ii) simplifying activity 6 by asking students to design the city without considering the final suggestions and discussing those concerns (advantages and disadvantages, correlation with goals) at a later date.

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