What should Europe learn from the dynamic, fast developing countries of Asia?
That you need to let some things go in order to make space for the new.
Not all traditions and building are good to preserve. Plus, to make everything into “memorial” is not a proper way to face aging.
If you look at many European cities, the focus of development has been on preserving the old city centres, and grow from there a periphery.
After some years, prices in centres have raised. Lower middle class households have been pushed out, leaving only tourists and higher incomes. Peripheries on the other hand often remains unpractical, having to rely on infrastructures built for the old centres.
Spatial - and therefore social - inequalities keep increasing because nurturing the old is conceived at the expense of developing the new.
There could have been other ways to design cities. A good example that is often seen in Asian metropolitan areas is “polycentric” cities, with different districts with their own centres (old or new) that function independently from each others.
The problem is that now that cities are built, someone have to decide how you make space again. This usually takes a violent upheaval. In the 19th century, Haussmann did to Paris roughly what Chinese planners did to Beijing during the last decade. Destroy most of the city, rebuild it differently and keep some small parts of the ancient city to tie in some grant historical narrative.
Europe today has to decide how to reframe its past to provide a way towards the future. Asia underwent a similar situation in the 20th century, which lead to enormous human and cultural costs.
Europe could take a good look into Asian experiences to learn how it can manage to change without reaching such extremes.
This text was originally published in quora.