Asia Society presents; 41
No. President. This is a series of interviews with experts on Asian affairs designed to strengthen our understanding of Asian people and ideas. Your host on this transcribed series is the noted author around the world winning broadcaster Graham. Here now is Mrs. Graham we hear so much about what is wrong with American cities that we might not realize that cities the world over are in a state of crisis. And this applies just as much to the cities of ages it does developers of the United States. Now the ironical thing about this is that our cities are in trouble and yet people in Asia who look up to the United States and feel that the West is a sun symbol of great progress. May be making the same mistakes as they develop their cities that we have made in the development of our own. I don't know how extensive this is. And what we can do to
help them not to do this but we will be discussing questions along these lines on this program. Because our guest is surely an authority on the subject. He's honest won't Nagler who was a city urban planner an architect and Mr. Nadler has worked on projects whether they be housing or university buildings or cultural facilities in a number of Far Eastern countries. Including Burma Thailand Ceylon and especially in Korea. So I think he's in a position to say what is happening to their city what they want to avoid and in some way perhaps bring all of us and do it so that we might see in our own cities what troubles we could avoid in our own future. Now Mr. Nadler. People feel that. In other parts of the world I know that what the United States does must be right because we seem to have more money in larger buildings more automobiles. Is that a problem an attitude in the Far East. I would say very much in the so-called developing countries were experts are
constantly looking for. Better ways of doing things better ways of developing their economy than actually look to the so-called developed countries and tend to see things very often in a package. Where others are where they see a great deal of successful industrial activity. They assume that the transportation traffic patterns that go with this are necessary. Necessarily connected item with with the industrial activity where they see. Rapid growth in an area seemingly again providing a successful environment for people to assume that a lot of the problems that go with this are not in fact and seen as problems but as as part and parcel of the development. They may even think of them as assets I remember being in Bulgaria which of course is in Eastern Europe. But noticing that there was very little traffic on the street saying to our guide by how marvelous how you can cross the street in peace. You don't need any traffic lights in the
guide. Yes we do have traffic lights very proudly and Someday we hope to use them. I don't think that our streets are always this MPD just happens to be the weekend. Is it a crowded street was this sign of that. When I recall specific example of a project and in this regard systems project given to Burma to the traffic department of the city Rangoon which was a new system of traffic lights they had at that time this was back in the 50s. No traffic lights they use policeman traffic policeman at intersections. And what happens when the traffic signals were installed they were all very nicely synchronized as the traffic which had been moving in a sort of thin streams before suddenly began to bunch up and traffic congestion came to be where there was none before the result afterwards was that. It was very difficult to isolate some of the signals they were it was late assisting them install the wrong are connected so they had to put cardboard discs and in a lot of the signals to cut out the jamming up that occurred was really jamming up
occur because of the traffic noise the traffic lights and entirely was caused by lights collapse point. There wasn't really sufficient traffic to warrant staging the traffic in bunches which is really what happens in other words it was immune system but they didn't need it exactly it was a nice system that works or an application but not for that one would work very well then. Was the existing system which was either not control or some intersections or just stop signs or the traffic. One of the police. The thing attracted them was who that time was the idea of the traffic lights was some of the planners within Burma felt this would be a bad investment. But it was at that time the police the traffic police I felt this would be a nice thing that didn't work. Yeah this is one of the problems which we think we have in common with Asian cities is overcrowding. We know that Tokyo I think has the largest population in the world has a net. Yes at this time has passed and we hear that in your own lives is perhaps quite crowded.
We when we hear that there are cities in eight you and we use that would teeming populations. Now if they are true all the cities that overcrowded in in many cases I would say yes and no. Probably more so than ours the actual density of one took a measurement of a typical large Asian city and measure the density per square hectare per square acre one would find larger numbers of people per unit area than here. There are areas in. For example in Seoul Korea. Which lies past 4 million. That's almost doubled in the last 10 years. Just not your period time now does it follow then that they have a tremendous housing shortage. Exactly. In most most cities of Asia where urbanization has been very rapid. And there are few areas in Asia or it has not been. The housings was enormous in Korea
alone the country of South Korea's twenty eight million people. There's a shortage as of a couple years ago. The last figure recalling about a million units. So you would think about how long it's about six six million five to have to six million people where you would say then that the how of things you want it supplies but the traffic problem does not apply as yet except perhaps in Tokyo. Because Tokyo is very special in Asia as a country of it as it's enjoyed very rapid large scale economic development and rapidly increasing standard of living and lots of new consumer goods including a rather high car ownership in strong contrast to some Asian countries where car ownership is very low. So I think we would should consider Tokyo and Japan as a whole as. Having some of the very severe problems that we normally aware of in so-called Western country other countries I mean Highline things like driving transportation
rather different category there. There is much evidence of of traffic congestion problem problems of moving people around. But it is not so much due to the large number of vehicles but to reason due to two reasons one is. The not yet sufficiently developed transport system itself whether by road rail or bus whatever and the other way that the whatever vehicles they are are much more utilized much more heavily utilized than we would use them here. For example a car in a city of Seoul is utilized almost all day long the reason is that anyone who can afford a car usually has a driver goes along with it and the car is used for many errands throughout the day and serves a larger family. Yeah since Korea is the place where perhaps you've done the most work in the development of cities and you say that represents a kind of microcosm of the whole problem of urbanization in Asia. What would you say the
plan is all the city fathers of South Korea are looking for what do they think are their problems. Aside from the housing shortage which maybe is the number one problem. What else is it that they hope to do. Of course the housing shortage I think is foremost in the minds of the officials who are concerned with with the environmental condition or the social condition agree in terms of a physical problem. Industrial Development is in the forefront of everyone's thinking in Asian countries because the. When I was challenge my industrial development invariably as it increases brings with it increased urbanization concentration of people. Usually the industry tends to concentrate in already existing urban centers. One of the things that not only in Korea but in other Asian countries is planning officials are very concerned about is to find ways. Of establishing new centers in underdeveloped areas within the country areas which have had
their development thwarted. The areas where manpower has been drained off to existing centers which remain agricultural. Pattern. Where the industry becomes so concentrated in a few centers that you get tremendous migration movements towards these centers. Also areas which may have considerable resources I recall in Burma in Korea countries I know best areas that have quite a lot of natural resources they could have been exploited but weren't simply because the labor activity had moved to already existing centers and tended to keep building those up. This is a phenomenon that has happened throughout the world it's a very common one and the main reason for it is that new industries like to locate where there is already existing housing are existing.
We call existing infrastructure existing transportation rail road and in other menu it UPS will go from the west tourists from the United States Canada and Europe like to go to the Far East because they think that I will be delighted by the exotic kinds of beauty they'll see. But wouldn't you say that it would be a mistake for the cities if you transform transform themselves too much and remove this style and character. I mean what sort of transformation do they want to undergo. Unfortunately we see what transmission they want I want I want one would have to say that and I think this is unfortunate that most of them would like to see a transformation very much in the direction of what they see has happened in the West and why don't look like Detroit. I think one can say this. Yes I think it was as one example Detroit by not another's. I think that. The image of productivity is very much connected with an image of what
a Western city is or what a Japanese city has become. There are of course in Asian countries always who are people who are very concerned with preserving. Values that may be expressed in the environment physically in the buildings in the layout of towns new sectors of towns or new towns and we believe that there are ways of doing this by designing physically designing a and urbanization pattern trying to guide an organization by which best reflects the climate of a particular country and the kind of activities that take place and when it's not me it's very old as these cities which are the evolution of a great culture. What can you really do. I always think of urban design and planning as applying only to a new piece of land which you are about to create diversity how much work could you do on an ancient city.
Of course working with existing cities is always much more difficult than working in the so-called new town kind of setting. The problems are much more complex because you have to interweave with existing piping you have to find ways of maximising the use of what's already there. On the other hand it's a much more fascinating problem and I think that it's a problem that has been more discouraging about than there should be. What can be done. One of the most obvious things of course is conservation and preservation in those areas very often. Carefully selecting the important focal points within an ancient city which have not only shortened visual appeal but a strong symbolic value as to the identity of the culture. A careful selection of those things can play a larger role in giving a character to a city that is being renewed even very much but also there are ways of
identifying what is particular to a particular culture and to a particular climate of example. Burma is a largely although many variant in the country is a hot humid climate. This calls for a certain kind of architectural approach. This in turn calls for a certain kind of grouping of buildings and structures. There are certain lifestyle patterns that may be different from ours. I think one of the strongest ones which may eventually lessen but as of now I think the thing for a long time is that generally people in Asia tend to walk much more now only because they have to but because they they often want to even when they have the choice of using a vehicle and the importance of the of a delightful pedestrian movement system or something. It should be in the forefront very much in design Asia anywhere of
course but it's often been said that planners of physical designers who attempt to develop a very nice pedestrian movement system in a Western country or city and city in the state might find it's underutilized because Americans have forgotten how to walk me use the car so much if they have the opportunity. When we are in the subways the block him as it is New York City. And they showed it you can when you want one. I think more and more of this I mean you know I walking yet it was New York maybe a case where the need for walking and the motivation and maybe a strong is in some Asian countries. But if we take a very extreme examples of Villa's Angeles and other areas you know you might want to go scot even if one provided a pleasant pedestrian movements system people might choose to do right. I found that in many Asian countries there are some very strong cultural patterns such as that just the pleasure of walking the temple of life is different of course and people seem to. Find ways of
integrating things like like taking a walk more into the daily life cycle. MS When she was rushed and we are here you meet would you say that another problem we might have been common that is shortage of housing and there certainly is that he at least have middle income and low income housing. Would you say that there is an encroachment on the part of Office commercial building upon the city. Is that happening in Asia. Well it's an interesting question the way you put it in terms of encroachment. Well that's the way it was a good one. One gets the feeling in some Asian countries where the most dramatic activity new construction seems to be large office buildings for example in Seoul the only massive housing visible building activity visible in that city which is going so very rapidly it's had almost 10 percent annual increase during the last 10 years on average per year 10 percent and most obvious really I think has been office buildings.
And so one gets the feeling that. The city being taken over the office building. But it's not so much encroachment generally those office buildings are going pretty much in the area where they should be which is in the Central. Zone central business district where the people who use Office Buildings want the maximum communication with each other. Well even though it seems so dramatic Scuse me so mad because there's been very little housing and that's what I'm doing along with it and some contrast it seems that the only thing that's happened is it's not at the office buildings are more visible. It's that they are about the only more reasonable because the only thing it's visible in in any large scale there's always so much more volume than when you're out and doing these things. You must've given advice Mr Naik on the fact that something has to be done for the House and the people. What was the attitude of the government or the government in any Asian country. Do they realise it but they say there is not enough money for what. There's always the issue of insufficient funds. I think everyone and any of these countries where there's a housing
shortage everyone's aware of the shortage because it's something that is always in the forefront that's being talked about being written about and it's very obvious it's very easily seen especially in those Asian countries where you have where the shortages so severe that you actually have squatters coming in and building their own front from whatever scraps they can find building their own shacks on whatever land may be available to them. Sometimes unbilled land somewhere in the center. They allowed was a day you are in the outskirts and the policy of course varies from country to country but generally they're not for long and some countries intend is made to legalize their position on a piece of land and to encourage them to help in converting there. Temporary abode into something more permanent but usually they don't have the means to do this in the case of Korea with the approach we try to take as it did a study a nationwide survey of the housing shortage of course but also the kind of housing that has been built traditionally by
people as they move into the cities for the first time. And of course found that even the housing is terribly substandard and very cold in winter and kind of miserable all around that they have made very imaginative use of whatever material they could pick up such as old oil drums that they've beaten flat on cardboard tar paper scraps and have put together in these shacks a kind of environment that somehow works for them. And we've actually had people going out in teams and studying. The way these things were put together and then using that as an input into our design proposals. And the reason we did this is to try to come to more realistic proposals that could be implemented. What would happen before the government had tried a large scale housing effort which really didn't make a dent in the housing shortage would it in fact is to provide a limited stock of new housing for middle or upper income income groups. But it simply wasn't anywhere within reach when we
had down here the most. So we're trying to design a more modest How young is needed I guess you know would like to covering more territory so forgive my interrupting you. Where would you say that capital comes from for the most part for new housing now the capital for commercial buildings is generally what private capital. Yes I know where do you only compromise with government loan assistance. We don't get people with private money want to invest in housing in these countries. Countries will receive less. I'm probably right about in some in some countries yes but and many most of the countries where the population pressure has been very great land values and urbanization. Consequently is a very great land values tend to jump up very fast and you get patterns where people rather than developing housing would rather hold their land undeveloped for speculation. Again in Korea we're most familiar with this aspect I would say that there's been very little activity in terms of the private developer
coming in to large scale housing or any significant housing and I know like many localities have enough money to offset those and the government does not. Put very much money into this area what limited amounts they have put in and have gone into a few demonstration projects which have been of some help would have been sufficient No change the major change there which I think is very promising is that housing bank was established taking whatever money had been available for it and they approach now is instead of putting that into building a few units that is being used to support the high interest rates and such and they were to subsidize interest rates with that with that money in order to encourage more private capital. So exciting about housing bank getting people to bring more private capital in for a guaranteed return. So using that money as seed money to encourage more housing rather than building directly. Well
to put it another way this very little possibility of building directly with with the limited funds available. Yes I think that's almost the problem of capitalism and real estate which is beyond the scope of this discussion. So what might we end with with this question what city of all those you visited in Asia do you think would be most comfortable for a person only then so that it might be your favorite city and why. It's of course a bad question I read and I imagine a very difficult question because why would we talk about Asian and one thing I imagine. Anyone who's truly must feel and that is that the difference is we tend to think of Asia as a group of countries pretty much the differences are quite remarkably strong between the way of life and country a country that the cultural patterns the very. General feeling but I'd like to pin you down to a city. And so we have my wife and I living and sometimes have have and some of these cities have built a rather
strong feelings for different ones for different reasons. I see and it's hard to just pick one on a particular criteria that we have that we cannot get that hard. I mean it's hard for ourselves after a trip to Asia which city might be the most attractive and comfortable. Anyway I appreciate your being here Mr. Nadler and your views on what is wrong with cities the world over seems to be a common problem so that the West does not escape these problems in the east perhaps may have them triple fold. Let's hope that that worked out with our help and not without mistakes. Our guest has been on this program Mr. Nadler is an architect and city planner. And this is Lee Graham saying goodbye but reminding you that if you would like to know more about the Asia Society which brings these programs to you you could write me directly at the station on which you're hearing this program. Now be very happy to see what that information is sent to you. Thank you and goodbye.
That concludes tonight's edition of the Asia Society presents with Lee Graham. Please write to Mrs. Graham out WNYC New York City 100 0 7. I make a note to join us again next week at this time for another edition of the Asia Society presents. This is the national educational radio network.
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