The vertiginous "infinity pool" at the Marina Bay Sands resort offers a sweeping view of Singapore, a country that's achieved success while building up instead of out.
At the time of Jack the Ripper, a hard time for London, there lived in that city a mild-mannered stenographer named Ebenezer Howard. He's worth mentioning because he had a large and lingering impact on how we think about cities.
Howard was bald, with a bushy, mouth-cloaking mustache, wire-rim spectacles, and the distracted air of a seeker. His job transcribing speeches did not fulfill him. He dabbled in spiritualism; mastered Esperanto, the recently invented language; invented a shorthand typewriter himself. And dreamed about real estate. What his family needed, he wrote to his wife in 1885, was a house with "a really nice garden with perhaps a lawn tennis ground." A few years later, after siring four children in six years in a cramped rental house, Howard emerged from a prolonged depression with a scheme for emptying out London.
London in the 1880s, you see, was booming, but it was also bursting with people far more desperate than Howard. The slums where the Ripper trolled for victims were beyond appalling. "Every room in these rotten and reeking tenements houses a family, often two," wrote Andrew Mearns, a crusading minister. "In one cellar a sanitary inspector reports finding a father, mother, three children, and four pigs! … Elsewhere is a poor widow, her three children, and a child who had been dead thirteen days." The Victorians called such slums rookeries, or colonies of breeding animals. The chairman of the London County Council described his city as "a tumour, an elephantiasis sucking into its gorged system half the life and the blood and the bone of the rural districts."