Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Cities, Urbanization & Lagos

I was born in the biggest city by land mass in africa- Ibadan. I grew up in Warri the oil city, which truly looked like an oil Hamlet when I arrived there. I left Warri to school in Nigeria's biggest city- Lagos. Lagos remains an urban jungle- a true eyesore and shame to the Nation, Ibadan seem stuck in time but Warri has indeed transformed in the last six to eight years. Such is the story of cities. I have always been fascinated by urbanization; the rise, making, decay and remake of cities. True, cities are people and infrastructure- it is also culture, traffic and economics. I enjoyed my regional and human geography classes back in high school so much that I considered briefly the idea of becoming an architect, regional planner or something of sort. Of course my engineering instinct drove me to Civil Engineering and then Electrical. While I might be many places remved from building parks, side walks, or designing museums and urban landmarks- urbanization, moreso the human aspects of it still enthralls me.

Today I live in Houston, a city much in the midst of urban spiral sideways. The Downtown used to be an eyesore when I first moved here, but now it is much better. Much of Houston upper middle class population stil persist in their flee to the outskirt surburbs of Woodlands, Surgarlands, Katy & Cypress but the Downtown-Midtown-Galleria areas appear to be re-opening to the upper class. The never ending cycle of occupy-decay-flee-gentrify-bidup seems to be in progress. Midtown is slowly regaining its strenght as the never ending traffic and influx of Mexican drivers to Houston road is increasingly discouraging young professionals to follow in the parent's footsteps to live in the surburbs. So in many ways, the same fleeing instinct breed the need to return to the city center when all is said and done. It so interesting to watch except of course you are the poor who is continously bidded out of the city as the property prices shoot through the moon roof. Between the inner loop and the outer loop now lies the low middle class with pockets of ghettos in it- this of course is now being squeezed on both sides. What gives will only be known with time.

This weekend, I was in the state Capital- austin. It is a more beautiful and scenic city in many ways than Houston but is also undergoing similar changes but less so as a result of immigration influx- legal or illegal. On 6th street rave scene there are more Latino clubs than it used to be . Heck, the Mexicans took over Exodus and Vicci on Saturday night. Overall though, the convivial Lake Travis or austin set against the hill sides makes this a cleaner, and more easy on the eyes city than Houston. The crowd is also younger and more liberal of course thanks to Univ. of Texas than you will get in this Deep Red state.

Talking about cities, a friend sent me an email with Lagos supposedly of the future. Dreams aside, something need to be done fast to save that city. Even though I know the omo Eko crowd are quick to defend their crumbling city, the recent collapse of the legendary Ikorodu bridge is foretelling the absolute collapse of infrastructure the city under seige faces if it is not rescued from the crutches of under investment and over population.


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