Jeb Brugmann

Welcome to the Urban Revolution: How Cities Are Changing the World
by Jeb Brugmann

An excerpt from Chapter 11

The Strategic City: From Global Burden to Global Solution

Precisely because so many of the world’s problems now arise from the poor design, weak governance, and mismanagement of cities, it is imperative that we learn how to transform our cities into centers of the world’s solutions. This brings the issue of urban strategy into focus. Urban strategy is a practice not only for the political leaders, planners, and builders of cities, but also for industries, corporations, civil society organizations, and governments that build their advantage in cities and depend on them. Urban strategy also addresses the larger question of how to develop the City into a more stable system, politically, economically, and ecologically; and how that system can increase equity, inclusiveness, sustainability, and resilience in the world.

…In the last section we explored basic city-building approaches—ad hoc, master planning, city model—and local practices of urbanism… Urbanism was distinguished from building. An urbanism is a way of designing, building, using, and living in the city in reinforcing ways to make its economics, politics, social life, and ecology coherent with consensus aspirations and values. Urbanism results from effective urban strategy: the alignment of erstwhile individualistic and competing interests behind a common approach to building and sustaining [urban] advantage.

Urban strategy therefore has a very clear purpose: to ensure that the many necessary practices of an evolving urbanism can be consistently advanced and ultimately consolidated in the face of external trends and powerful, competing interests. The proposition is simple. Much as military and diplomatic strategy are required to advance the interests of nations, and much as corporate strategy is required to establish and maintain market position in an extending City economy, urban strategy is required to advance the interests of our cities, and our common interest in the global City, during the Urban Revolution’s final phase…

…Barcelona, Chicago, and Curitiba ha[ve] each mastered the three main faculties of the Strategic City:

  • A stable governing alliance with the power and resources to align interests in pursuit of a common advantage, willing to set new standards, discipline markets and private development, and negotiate the city’s co-creation.
  • An explicit practice of urbanism, understood and accepted in all parts of the city, for translating the alliance’s goals and standards into more productive, efficient, and livable forms of building and design.
  • A set of dedicated institutions, with the technical talent and administrative power to develop and implement these new practices of urbanism, establishing the solutions needed to make the urbanism work in every space and aspect of the fast-changing city.

…Urbanisms, and not just plans and building, are the method of an advanced urban society. They empower even divided and downtrodden communities, as in the recent histories of Barcelona, Curitiba, and Chicago, to transform their cities into livable, efficient, creative agents of global change. Urbanisms are the foundation of healthy urban civilizations, with the capacity to realize their aspirations…

© 2009 James E. Brugmann. All rights reserved.

Published in the United States by Bloomsbury Press (May 2009): http://

Published in Canada by Penguin/Viking Canada (May 2009):,,9780670068050,00.html?WELCOME_TO_THE_URBAN_REVOLUTION_Jeb_Brugmann

Published in Australia by University of Queensland Press (August 2009):

Also in India (HarperCollins India), China (Mandarin translation by Cheers Books/China Renmin University Press), the Netherlands (Dutch translation by Business Contact).