Building the World

City as Demo-graphic


Norris, Tennessee was built for TVA worker housing as a way to showcase uses of electricity. Image: Library of Congress.

Build it and they will come, perhaps thought Senator George W. Norris of Nebraska, United States, a proponent of public energy. Known as “father of the TVA,” Norris championed use of a new source of energy: hydroelectricity.Taking advantage of the necessity for Tennessee Valley Authority worker housing, Norris built a new town, designed around electricity. It was a success: people liked refrigerators, especially in the summer. The vision of “city as demo” may have been part of a swerve to an electricity-centered culture that created new industries, such as entertainment and home appliances, computers and smart phones, all things plug-in. Another example of city as demo might be Cyrene, where silphium silphium grew so popular the government put the plant’s image on currency; coins circulated, drawing people to the region. Does the city as demo still hold promise? Currently, many urban centers face expensive upgrading of aging infrastructure: why not take a leap into the future? Another opportunity might be building new capitals (with advanced systems including transport, energy, water) in areas vulnerable to earthquake. As urban landscapes are upgraded, or built anew, might some cities choose to be centers of smarter technologies, for a better environment?

Building the World Blog by Kathleen Lusk Brooke and Zoe G Quinn is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.

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