Delineations of Globalization: Case of "Global Cities" Exhibition

As a phenomenon, globalization escapes being foreign. More encounter it, are becoming aware of it, and a part of it. More are also engaged in making sense of it; asking questions as to what it is, what it looks like, what it means and does, or what can be done (or undone) about it. Reflections and interpretations about globalization, often made public, can renew or further generate interests in globalization as a phenomenon. More importantly, they can inform and shape how globalization unfolds, as a process. This story introduces an exhibition that showcased how a group of artists and architects looked at cities around the world, or more accurately, change in a comparative framework.

Global Cities
Tate Modern Exhibitions
June 20, 2007 – August 27, 2007

"This unique show presents existing films, videos and photographs by more than 20 artists and architects to offer subjective and intimate interpretations of urban conditions in all ten cities."


The exhibition, Global Cities, depicts changes in "cities" over time, through displays of multimedia representations. It seeks to portray how ten cities—Cairo, Istanbul, Johannesburg, London, Los Angeles, Mexico City, Mumbai, Sao Paulo, Shanghai, and Tokyo—have differently become "global." In doing so, it uses five interrelated themes of size, speed, form, density, and diversity, as points of comparison. Statistical actual data were displayed in the exhibition, which help viewers to better grasp the views projected in artistic-media representations.

[Source: All information below is taken from Tate Modern Exhibition website]


  • According to Global Cities, there are over 20 mega-city regions with more than ten million people.
  • Tokyo’s population grew 606% in the past century and about 4% in the last decade.
  • Mexico City’s public transport accounts for 79% of daily journeys.
  • Sao Paulo grew 7,400% since 1900. Its underground rail system extends for 60 kilometres.
  • London grew 10% over the last century. London’s Underground, more than a century year old, extends for 480 kilometres.


  • Shanghai, the eighth fastest-growing city in the world, adds 29.4 new residents each hour.
  • Cairo is one of the world's oldest continually-inhabited cities, geographically centered on the river Nile and its fertile basin. Its population grew by about 890% in the past century.
  • Istanbul has grown 900% over the past 50 years and 27% in the last decade. It adds 19 new residents each hour
  • London, one of the oldest world’s mega-city, took 100 years to grow from a population of 1 million to 10 million in the 19th century. It is now the 360th fastest-growing city in the world, adding only 2.3 new residents an hour (less than one-tenth of Shanghai's rate).
  • In Los Angeles, 10% of commuters use public transport and only 10% of the city is allocated to green spaces. It is growing at a rate of 10.1 people per hour - half the number of Cairo, but nearly five times that of London. Its Long Beach agglomeration is 52nd fastest-growing in the world.
  • Istanbul, Johannesburg, London, Mumbai, and Tokyo contain centrally-planned zones, but each also contains areas that have grown informally and organically. These physical structures have arisen to accommodate each city’s geographical and environmental conditions, as well as its cultural, social and economic systems.
  • In order to accommodate a growing need for housing, squatter settlements called gecekondu (‘built overnight’) have been constructed as ‘make-shift’ shelters on the outer edges of Istanbul.
  • Due to fear of crime and more freedom of housing choice in the post-apartheid era, many people in Johannesburg have moved out to the suburbs, leaving an empty heart of the city.
  • Urban form—the DNA of the city—bears the imprint of the flows and forces that shape our daily lives.
  • Mexico City: 5,800 people per km²
  • Cairo: 36,500 people per km²
  • Mumbai: 34,000 people per km²
  • London: 4,500+ people per km²
  • In London, over 300 languages are spoken across the city, and 29% of residents are from minority ethnic groups.
  • In Sao Paulo, 66% of the population is under 20 years of age. Many of the wealthy residents live outside of the city center. In 2000, only 20% of 11–14 year olds attended school on the outskirts of Sao Paulo state.


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Disclaimer: Images and facts (bullet-points) are that of, and have been captured from, Tate Modern Exhibitions website.

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Entrance (Image source:


Construction of the Seed Vault (Image source: