#18 cities
Frederik Caselitz / Eva-Maria Spiller / Raphael Thelen / Maren Zeidler


Dear Readers,

We are witnessing a fascinating, worrisome and inspiring process that will mold the 21st century: the urbanisation of the world’s population.

Today more than half the people on our planet live in cities – and numbers are on the rise. According to some estimates, 64% of the earth's inhabitants will be urban dwellers by 2050. As demographics shift, cities will increasingly be at the center of future discussions about development, well-being, and ensuring a good life for everyone in urban areas. This fall, the Habitat III conference in Quito will tackle the core questions of how to combat poverty and climate change and increase quality of life. The conference will draft the “New Urban Agenda”, which will define how the global community sees the role of cities within the context of the global development agenda. Given the increasing importance of the world’s urban areas, DDD has chosen to devote issue #18 to the topic of cities.

Worldwide there are more than 1,000 cities with a population greater than 500,000. Each has its own specific realities, opportunities and challenges. Rather than offer a confusing variety of diverse examples, DDD’s 18th issue focuses on five cities, each of which illustrates one of five topics. We also go beyond the specificity of each individual city to explore the lessons it can teach and how these could be applied to other cities worldwide. In the run up to the conference, we selected five topics that revolve around the heart of the discussion planned for Habitat III: housing, security, migration, city planning and the environment. We then virtually roamed the globe to identify the cities that best embody each topic, ultimately selecting the five listed below because they are either facing a huge challenge, or offer inspiring examples. To fairly represent the world, we chose a city from each of the five world regions defined by Habitat III.

Nairobi – for Housing

Mexico City – for Security

Beirut – for Migration

New Orleans – for City Planning

Delhi – for Environment

We were forced to turn down some very inspiring articles from cities we did not include, and were pleasantly surprised by the variety of perspectives we uncovered on each of the cities chosen.

Issue 18 opens with an extensive introductory chapter that places our five examples in the broader debate on urbanisation. We are very grateful to Germany's State Secretary of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development Thomas Silberhorn, who agreed to open this issue by highlighting the importance of cities for development.

In other exiting DDD news, we have changed our format to invite more reader participation. Over the next three months, we will publish one or two articles a week. Please feel free to get in touch if you feel you have something to contribute to one of our chapters.

Join in on our journey through Delhi, Nairobi, Beirut, New Orleans and Mexico City, and take inspiration from the people we were lucky to meet along the way.

Bring along your colleagues and friends, and be part of the debates!


Frederik Caselitz, Eva-Maria Spiller, Raphael Thelen, Maren Zeidler

Photo: “Busy street” by SØ JORD
2014 - licenced under Creative Commons Attribution (2.0)

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