A Federalized World Based on Global Cities


I have not been as diligent in my blog-keeping as I should be. Between my new job, my wife expecting, and me getting wrapped up in a long and tedious project, I haven’t kept up. But I’ll take this time to share my personal project with you, and then hopefully I can get back on a more regular schedule.

As I have written about before, I think that many of our political boundaries, especially in North America, are not drawn in such a way that they reflect social realities on the ground. In my most recent project, this has intersected with my interest in the concept of global cities.

Global cities are cities of international importance, whether financially, culturally, religiously, or otherwise, and is largely self-sufficient as far as resources. There are a number of ways to rank a global city, but I’ve gone with the Global and World Cities (GaWC) system. They classify cities as Alpha, Beta, Gamma, High Sufficiency, and Sufficiency world cities, and further divide the first three into plus, neutral and minus groups (i.e. alpha+, alpha, alpha-, etc.). In addition, two cities, London and New York, are so far ahead of anywhere else in international importance that they are given the rank of Alpha++. All in all, there are 296 cities that the GaWC consider global cities.

All the world cities.

All the world cities. As with all the following maps, this file was enormous and I had to shrink it to make the blog run smoothly. Click to enlarge.

My thought then became, what would the world look like with a federal system based on the rank of the nearest global city? This would mean that, first, the world would be divided in half between London and New York, the two Alpha++ cities.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

These would then be subdivided into smaller Alpha+ regions, as London is subdivided into London, Hong Kong, Paris, Singapore, Tokyo, Shanghai, and Dubai; and New York is divided into New York, Chicago and Sydney.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

These Alpha+ regions are then subdivided into Alpha regions (e.g. London is divided into London and Amsterdam):

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

then into Alpha- regions (e.g. Dublin breaks off from London):

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

then Beta+ regions (e.g. Hamburg and Copenhagen break from Amsterdam):

Click to enlarge

Click to enlarge

then Beta regions (e.g. Manchester breaks from London):

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

then Beta- regions (e.g. Birmingham breaks from Manchester):

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

then Gamma+ regions (e.g. Glasgow and Edinburgh break from Manchester while Bristol breaks from Birmingham):

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

then Gamma regions (e.g. Leeds breaks from Manchester):

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

then Gamma- regions (e.g. Southampton breaks from Bristol):

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

then High Sufficiency regions (e.g. Liverpool breaks from Manchester and Newcastle from Leeds):

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

and finally individual sufficiency regions (e.g. Sheffield breaks from Leeds, Aberdeen from Edinburgh and Nottingham from Birmingham).

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

From here, regions could be administered as outlined in Alexander’s “A Pattern Language.” Cities of higher level regions would be capitals for the smaller regions. So just as the United States currently has a capital in Washington, DC, each state has a capital, and each county has a seat, so London would be the capital of its Alpha++ region, Paris the capital of a smaller Alpha+ region under London’s administration, Amsterdam over an even smaller Alpha region, etc. I tried to put it all on one map, below, but the labels, especially in dense areas like Europe, got really messy, so I only used the lowest-level labels. Please cross-reference the maps above.

Click to enlarge.

Click to enlarge.

Is this a viable solution in the short term? Are straight lines the perfect boundaries? does this necessarily reflect cultural lines on the ground as best as they could be drawn? No, but it does reflect something of the reality of urban and regional hierarchy that exists in the world, which could be one element in creating a world that better reflects its economic and cultural realities.

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About Dave Munson
This blog is about architecture, cities, and myself.

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