Urban Studies

How Low (on Energy and Carbon) Can Buildings in China and the U.S. Go?

Cities consume 70% of global energy, with building construction and operation creating the largest energy footprint. Buildings are energy hungry in both the United States and China, using 40% and 20% of urban energy, respectively. In the United States and China, the real estate and construction sectors generate 40% of each country’s carbon emissions.

Assessing and Managing Risk along the Mississippi River Corridor

The Mississippi River Valley has been hit by droughts, floods, extreme heat, and tornadoes that resulted in damages totaling over $50 billion since 2011. From 2005 to 2017, that total eclipses $200 billion with each effected state incurring a minimum $5 billion in damages. One positive result in reaction to those natural disasters was the formation of the Mississippi River Cities & Towns Initiative (MRCTI), a coalition of mayors focused on resilience and adaptation programs.

Performing Community 3: Short Essays on Community, Diversity, Inclusion, and the Performing Arts

In 2012, the Urban Sustainability Laboratory began posting short essays by Director Blair A. Ruble about the themes of community, governance, and transparency in cities. By 2015, a sufficient number had appeared to be gathered in Performing Community: Short Essays on Community, Diversity, Inclusion, and the Performing ArtsThis first collection included twenty-one essays focusing on the role of the performing arts in community building around the world.

The Future of Cities

Blair Ruble at World Affairs Council: Conversations That Matter

Urban Risk or Resilience? Improving Informal Settlements in Urban Africa

“Most risk in African cities is not catastrophic. It's not even episodic, but it is every day,” said Mark Pelling, a professor at King’s College, London, at a recent event on urban risk and resilience in sub-Saharan Africa.

History of Place: Barry Farm/Hillsdale, An African-American Settlement in Washington, DC

This presentation is about an African American settlement that originated in Washington, DC right after the Civil War in 1867.  Approximately 40,000 African American refugees came into the city during the Civil War. They were destitute when they arrived, and the majority of them had to settle first on the streets and later in makeshift housing built from discarded materials. The Freedmen’s Bureau decided to create a settlement on the southeast side of the city to help the newly arrived immigrants build their homes.

Economic Development in Our Nation’s Cities: A Conversation on Growing Jobs through Investment, Education, and International Trade

On October 18th, The Wilson Center’s Women in Public Service Project and Urban Sustainability Laboratory along with the Association of Women in International Trade (WIIT) held a conversation with two of our nation’s leading mayors to discuss their role fostering urban growth with equity. The discussion was moderated by Dr. Blair Ruble, Vice President for Programs and Director of the Urban Sustainability Laboratory at the Wilson Center. Mayors play a critical role in ensuring their city continues improving while retaining its distinctiveness uniqueness.

Storm-Torn Cities Can Come Back More Dynamic than Ever

This hurricane season is already brutal. As Harvey and Irma rolled across the Gulf Coast, reports of urban devastation piled up. In part, the constant attention to smashed cities is an expected consequence of cities being where the people are and, perhaps more important, where TV stations are most likely to be found.

Moreover, cities — as the largest and arguably most complex product of human enterprise — are those places most likely to lose a concentrated battle with Mother Nature. As cities are made by humans, they necessarily are imperfect.

What to Do With Diversity in a Society

One very dark December morning in the early 1990s I found myself shuffling my boot-clad feet, trying to keep warm as I waited on an ice-covered rail platform 150-odd miles northeast of Moscow. As a Russian colleague and I began to conclude the train would never arrive, he quietly explained that we were standing atop hundreds of bodies. The prison trains leaving Moscow during the 1930s arrived in these very same switching yards and, as they were divided up to head to different labor camps, those who hadn’t survived were simply tossed into a pit by the tracks.

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