Fifteen years ago, veteran writer Neal Peirce co-founded the Citistates Group, a network of journalists and civic leaders that uses research, writing, and events to advocate sustainable development of the 21st century city. Among its benchmark moments was the 2008 release of the acclaimed Century of the City, a book based on the Rockefeller Foundation’s 2007 Global Urban Summit. While the book made strides in sparking dialogue, Peirce believes more needs to be done. “Global media tends to cover wars, conflicts, [and] scandals … quite thoroughly but does a poor job writing about [urban] innovations,” he says. “Cities live in news silos and don’t know what’s going on.”
Peirce and fellow Citistates contributor Farley Peters want to close that media gap with their latest venture, Citiscope, a nonprofit online news service launched in collaboration with the World Urban Campaign and with help from UN-Habitat and the Cities Alliance. The site, now in its beta phase, went live in March at the World Urban Forum in Rio de Janeiro and aims to highlight thoughtful urban ideas and experiments via reportage from on-the-ground professional journalists. Among the early articles is one by Anthony Flint on the challenges of coastal cities and a piece by Brazilian writers on a new model tool kit to improve housing for the poor in São Paulo.
The goal of Citiscope is not only to offer valuable information and lessons from other places, but also to coalesce a global network of journalists. Building that network is one of the organizers’ top priorities. “It is important to us ... to have journalists who provide objective coverage, not P.R. articles,” Peirce says. Ultimately, he hopes that the site will have the financial wherewithal to pay contributors a “competitive rate” and mentor young writers into seasoned beat reporters capable of covering complex urban issues.
Peirce and his team are now fundraising for the website’s next phase. When it’s in full swing, the plan is to have one or two major news stories a week. There will be additional commentary and analysis, but this isn’t going to become The Huffington Post of urban planning; Peirce wants researched, quality journalism. And since the site is all about information exchange, article sharing is wholeheartedly encouraged. All pieces originating on Citiscope are free to reprint under the Creative Commons license.
The AIA has launched KnowledgeNet, where members can connect with other architects, tap into the institute’s Knowledge Communities, and add their thoughts to discussion threads.
In its search for ways to use digital media as part of its reporting, the BBC has developed Dimensions. This website allows visitors to see how large important events, places, and things are in comparison with where they live (or anywhere on Earth). Choose a subject—the area in Pakistan affected by August’s terrible floods, for example—and type in a city, address, or ZIP code. Result: A Google Map displays an outline of the region atop that place. Now we know that if it were centered over architect’s Washington, D.C., offices, Pakistan’s flooded area would stretch from South Carolina to Montreal.
AEC consultancy Lerch Bates, which we wrote about in December 2009 (“Upwardly Mobile”), has started a blog. Keep up with advances in elevator technology, get tips on better materials management, and more.
The byline of British urbanist Joe Peach can be found on planning- and design-focused websites such as Smarter Cities, Planetizen, and Sustainable Cities Collective. Peach collects links to all of his articles and essays—including a series for Australian firm Zouk Architects on the role of Asian culture in architecture—and posts additional thoughts on metropolitan issues at his own site, This Big City.
Everyone’s favorite toy plotter, the Etch A Sketch, turned 50 over the summer. If you feel like engaging in a little creative downtime, but whipping out the familiar red-and-gray tablet at your desk would raise eyebrows, draw things more discreetly with the virtual version of the Ohio Art Co.’s best-seller, available for use online or as a download for PCs.