As I was working on this issue of the magazine, my mind often wandered to thoughts of the Industrial Revolution—what it must have been like to live through the transition from societies that tended farms and crafted harvests into marketable goods to a life based on hourly wages, factories, and mills—and to progress.
Maybe it’s the sight of a mule-drawn barge moldering in the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal (more commonly known as the C&O) in Georgetown, just a few steps away from ULI’s office, that makes me think of that period. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, such barges hauled goods between the Potomac River, which had access to world markets through the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean, and the mountains of western Maryland, 185 miles (300 km) farther inland. More recently the barge hauled tourists through a few working locks along the canal. But now the boat, which is a replica, is structurally unsound and soon to be removed from the canal, likely in pieces. Progress did away with the need for the C&O Canal, as steam-driven locomotives proved to be much more efficient than mules. And land uses changed, too. The old lock-keepers’ houses and warehouses still line the canal in Georgetown, but they are now the offices of lawyers and architects—and a pretty good sushi shop. The towpath is popular among runners and cyclists.
In the throes of such overwhelming change as the Industrial Revolution, our ancestors couldn’t have known how progress would reinvent practically every aspect of their lives and their surroundings. As we navigate a comparable cultural transformation now, I wonder to what degree we comprehend its extent. As Patrick Kiger writes in his story on imagining land use, which begins on page 54, construction of the urban landscape of 2050 is already underway. David W. Myers’s story on the massive San Ysidro border crossing upgrade now under construction between San Diego and Tijuana shows how the new crossing will incorporate high-tech materials to achieve traditional ends (shelter from sun and rain) and those of a 21st-century nature (solar power and surveillance). It begins on page 73.
Enrique Peñalosa, an international land use consultant and former mayor of Bogotá, Colombia, sketches out a vision for how the United States can play a leadership role in designing the city of the future. Population growth is going to be so dramatic that we will need to construct whole new cities to handle it. He argues that we should take advantage of this rare opportunity to create new cities that place human beings’ comfort and welfare as the top priority, rather than the fast movement of automobiles. His article begins on page 60.
In addition to the article on the San Ysidro border crossing, you will find several other stories about the San Diego/Tijuana area. These are a prelude to ULI’s Spring Meeting, which San Diego is hosting May 15 to 17. Among the articles is a case study of the spanking-new San Diego Central Library. This striking multiuse building is featured on our cover, with more details provided in our Back Page feature on page 164. Look for more articles on the San Diego area in Urban Land online.