Last Wednesday night, Joel Kotkin--a futurist and (sub)urban historian--squared off in a debate against Christopher Leinberger, a developer, consultant and proponent of "walkable urbanism." The topic: "America 2050: What Will We Build." The pair tangled on four key issues: demographics; housing supply & demand; transport; and density. Kotkin was in hostile territory: a roomful of Manhattan architects and academics belonging to the Forum for Urban Design.
Kotkin, author of The Next Hundred Million, is commonly labeled an apologist for sprawl, he’s more like its Gorbachev, seeking to reform an unsustainable institution from within. He believes that sheer population growth will save the economy as America adds another hundred million people in the coming decade, mostly through immigration. While China ages disastrously and Europeans die off, young immigrants will more than offset the earnings of the retiring Baby Boomers, replenish the heartland, and resuscitate our moribund construction industry.