Over the next two weeks, Next City will unroll short profiles of 77 people, places and ideas that have changed cities this year. Together, they make up our 2012 Disruption Index. Forefront subscribers can download the Index in full as a PDF, complete with beautiful designs and graphics by Danni Sinisi. Readers who make a $75 donation to Next City will have a full-color printed copy of the Index mailed to them.
The suburbs are important, according to Roger Keil. A professor at York University in Toronto and director of its City Institute, Keil understands that suburban development has spread so far and wide that flippantly disregarding it as inherently wrong, as so many have, ignores the reality of its impact. Keil is leading a seven-year, 50-person research effort focused on suburban developments around the world. It’s the first major research project on the “suburbanisms” that form within metropolitan areas all over the world.
Among a variety of outcomes, Keil’s project is challenging the notion of cities and suburbs being two separate and distinct conditions. Rather, it’s becoming clear that suburban areas have elements of urbanity and that cities have elements of suburbanism — from a walkable Main Street in an outer ring suburb to a 45-minute solo car commute four miles across a major city. The approach here is to document the governance structures that lead to and regulate suburban development, and to create a more sophisticated conversation about these places. Suburbs may not have the cachet they once did, but they’re certainly not going away any time soon. Keil’s work argues that it’s useless to ignore them.
Nate Berg is a writer and journalist covering cities, architecture and urban planning. Nate’s work has been published in a wide variety of publications, including the New York Times, NPR, Wired, Metropolis, Fast Company, Dwell, Architect, the Christian Science Monitor, LA Weekly and many others. He is a former staff writer at The Atlantic Cities and was previously an assistant editor at Planetizen.