Continuous City · Sketch for a city with 1M inhabitants · Alan Boutwell, Mike Mitchell (1969)
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China announces to the international media their long-running integration project - Pearl River Delta Megacity, an urbanisation of 43 million, 26 times the geographic area of London, resulting from the integration of 9 cities.

An echo of Boutwell’s continuous city, Alsop’s supercity (1) and any number of other conceptual master plans.

What does a ‘continuous’ urbanism on this scale mean for mobility? Perhaps a high-speed rail mesh interacting closely with metropolitan subways and bus services. Imagine, for example, a single smartcard for travel throughout the region, from air flight to local buses.

An integrated regional scale plan of this kind rings a range of cautionary bells relating to the pitfalls of centralised planning; namely over-determination, inefficient budgeting and construction, and a lack of end user satisfaction. In the Chinese case, we can assume little tension between top-down and bottom-up planning. Mixing this kind of centralisation with a blistering pace of construction can be a toxic combination.

Pearl River Delta · Rough outline of the Pearl River Delta Megacity region (left) alongside Greater London (right) · Anil Bawa-Cavia (2010)

If we take the rapid expansion of the Beijing metro as an example — which has seen around 200 stations built in the last decade but still suffers from chronic congestion and reported administrative waste — we can see some of those issues playing out. Beijing is a city of 20m trying to deal with an explosion of car owners, making the job of the Subway a critical one.

More Mega: Megastructure: Reloaded is a book by Hatje Cantz.

The Harvard Design School’s Great Leap Forward is a good reference for urban plans of the Pearl River Delta region and other assorted Chinese planning projects from the 90s.

See Also: Expressway, Allometry, Shanghai 1990-2010, Civic