Monday, March 26, 2012

Human Architecture

The fundamentals of human life in these first cities did not differ greatly from ours today.  From the love of good food expertly cooked and enjoyed with friends and family, to the need to work and the pleasures of shopping, their daily live mirror ours...  By 2000 BC, as Mumford has said, 'most of the physical organs of the cities had been created.'  These were recognisably cities in the modern sense of the word.

P.D. Smith: Cities, A Guidebook For the Urban Age
If the fundamentals of human life, and the cities which reflect those fundamentals, have not changed in 4000 years, will they have changed 2000 or 4000 years in the future?  And how will those changes (if any) affect the cities our far-future descendants inhabit?


Anonymous Keith Ferrell said...

bsctoNice to see Smith invoking Mumford, a good thinker and writer too little read today.

In his later books, Mumford was pressing toward a clearer understanding of whether or not the modern (post-August-1945) age was indeed different, or has simply provided our fundamentally unchanged natures with different tools. His Myth of the Machine and Pentagon of Power remain provocative today.

I think that the most obvious shift, and the real break with that continuum of cities stretching back 4,000 years, is the one Mumford saw taking shape: cities becoming more aggressively artificial, designing and shaping themselves to the processes their inhabitants depend upon, rather than to the creation of environments more suited to the nature of those inhabitants.

For Mumford, the central prod to this shift was the automobile and the highway. Electrification, too.
Both of them long since to the point at which any serious interruption in transport or power can devastate and all too easily doom a city.

How will cities change in the next 2,000 or 4,000 years? Depends on whether the power stays on and the roads continue to, as it were, roll.

Too easy an answer, I guess, and far too long a drone of a post, but, as always, your blog, not to mention the readings you share, gives much to think about.

Thanks, Paul.


March 28, 2012 10:45 pm  
Blogger Paul McAuley said...

Thanks for the details on Mumford, Keith. Very science-fictional idea, re technology shaping us, rather than vice versa. Ballard would have approved. Good point about the end to cities. I often think science fiction prefers ruins...

March 30, 2012 6:00 pm  

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