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(Audrey E.) Another topic linking past and present could be the history of 'urban' planning. I use the term urban loosely so that it could possibly extend to the ancient 'cities' that might not be considered urban by today's standards. What factors were important in planning then, what is important now? What natural resources (mostly water) made some geographical areas more popular than others for city establishment, and do different factors come into play today? Has the availability of modern technology allowed land-locked cities to thrive, or do they still generally fare poorer than their coastal counterparts? Also think about the effect of industrialization... and has technology changed the relationship between a cities' production/economic exports and what it is able to extract from the surrounding land? (Modern cities with the largest economies rarely thrive off Earth-derived products... what is the source of their economic wealth?)
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(David Graham) I can't say that I know much about the topic, but I would certainly be interested in participating in such a group. I think that using Jane Jacobs' book might be a good idea, regardless of the fact that she won't be joining us (I checked it out, but I'm ashamed to say I've not cracked the cover yet). Although I like the idea of a Durham group, I think that there is a real potential perhaps to instead use Durham as a case study for the urban planning group--here I'm thinking about the effects of industrialization and then the reversal, and how Durham has adapted, i.e. American Tobacco ...