Why should we continue to think about vital, interactive cities today? Why not accept the consequences of the evolving dispersed city as desirable, simply on the logic that a million individual decisions have added up to one broad societal decision to abandon intense urbanism?
To many, the dispersed city is the future, fulfilling the dreams of millions of people. Rising on the urban peripheries of Washington, DC, Chicago, Toronto, Vancouver, Los Angeles, and Dallas, millions of square feet of office parks, high-tech industrial plants, shopping malls, suburban housing tracts, and hotels extend along America's highways. These places have been described with excitement as a "New Frontier" 1 by author Joel Garreau, and as "multitudes of experimental communities of tomorrow" 2 by theorist Edward Soja. If these new "Edge Cities," as Garreau has argued, will soon be entirely self-sufficient, and if, as Soja describes, these are the incubation places for tomorrow's environment, then striving to maintain and foster the interactive downtown is of secondary importance. If jobs, culture, education, medical care, and shopping are provided effectively and richly in these new Edge Cities, why then bother with the center? Congested, often dilapidated, a concentration of economic pathologies, the historic core might best be abandoned, or at least pushed to the sidelines as a priority.