The trend towards urbanization is permanent and steady. The millennia-old concept of the city is proving to be consistent and resilient. In times of climate change, digitalization, and demographic change it provides the blueprint for the development of green cities of the future. In his guest article, Prof. Dr. Tobias Just, Chair of Real Estate Management at the International Real Estate Business School (IREBS) of the University of Regensburg, explains what has always made cities attractive to people and which factors will shape the way we work, shop and live together in urban spaces in the future.
Urban development: What makes cities attractive to people?
The history of humankind has been closely connected with the history of cities for thousands of years. Few developments have been as permanent and steady as the trend toward urbanization. Although people sometimes refer to the present day as the age of cities, the process of urbanization began much earlier – during the Neolithic period, to be precise. As early as 5,000 years ago, up to 80,000 people lived in Uruk, the world’s largest city at the time, and Rome had already reached a million inhabitants 3,000 years later.
Countless cities flourished and once again disappeared over the ages – even Uruk, Thebes, Carthage, or Angkor, i.e. the metropolises of their respective epochs, are no longer filled with traders or producers today, but instead only a handful of highly specialized archaeologists. Nevertheless, not only did the idea of the city remain alive and transcend these rises and falls, but most cities survived catastrophes much more severe than the current coronavirus pandemic: wars, natural disasters, countless epidemics, and, last but not least, blatant mismanagement. So in 2021, when there is a renewed search for the elements that constitute a resilient city, we can state in advance that the concept of the city itself seems to be extremely resilient. This is apparently because a city’s advantages permanently outshine its disadvantages. What makes cities so appealing to people?