Shaping Cities?


This morning began well, with Zaha Hadid’s guest-editorship of BBC Radio 4’s Today programme spooling some wonderful reminiscences and thoughts from Peter Cook onto the wireless and the web, including this audio slideshow about the work of Archigram.

One of the things floating in the back of my mind at the moment is the reality of the technological reshaping of our engagement with cities contrasted with the 1960s utopias of Archigram.

It’s a mix of mobile phones, practical ubicomp, twittering infrastructures and building-sized blogjects that skirts the framing of The Hill/Greenfield/Shepherd Scenario (that sounds like a ubicomp free-jazz combo!), but is a bit more BLDGBLOGgy too – stranger and more situationist in flavour.

More on this will float out soon I hope.

Then, next, with: more from The SpimePope’s yearly commencement speech:

So the model polity for local urban resilience isn’t Russia. I’m
inclined to think the model there is Italy. Italy has had calamitous
Bush-levels of national incompetence during almost its entire 150-year
national existence.

Before that time, Italy was all city-states — and not even “states,”
mostly just cities. Florence, Milan, Genoa, Venice. Rome. They were
really brilliantly-run, powerful cities. (Well, not Rome — but Rome
was global.) Gorgeous cities full of initiaive and inventive genius.
If you’re a fan of urbanism you’ve surely got to consider the cities
of the Italian Renaissance among the top urban inventions of all time.

And cities do seem in many ways to respond much better to
globalization than nation-states do. When a city’s population
globalizes, when it becomes a global marketplace, if it can keep the
local peace and order, it booms. London, Paris, New York, Toronto,
they’ve never been more polyglot and multiethnic.

In my futurist book TOMORROW NOW I was speculating that there might
be a post-national global new order arising in cities. Cities as
laboratories of the post-Westphalian order.

However… okay, never mind the downside yet. Let’s just predict
that in 2009 we’re gonna see a whole lot of contemporary urbanism going
on. Digital cities. Cities There For You to Use. Software for
cities. Googleable cities. Cities with green power campaigns.
Location-aware cities. Urban co-ops. “Informal housing.”
“Architecture fiction.” The ruins of the unsustainable as the new

A President from Chicago who carried the ghettos and barrios by
massive margins. Gotta mean something, I figure.”

I wonder if Cook and Sterling could be convinced to team up and write “Shaping Cities: towards a new spimurbanism”…

Software for cities, and practical citymagic. That’s something I’m resolving to dig into this year, especially for WebStock.

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2 thoughts on “Shaping Cities?

  1. Just thinking on this, and the previous post: while the physical reshaping of the world (Archigram model, terrorism [not equating the two]) is big and splashy at the time, it’s the non-physical, noumenal stuff (ubicomp, financial crises) that redirect the world in the long run. (That may be rubbish.)

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