The poverty of much urbanist thought can be traced to a persistent fallacy: that the city, or Metropolis, expresses itself preeminently in its physical form and that it is amenable to analysis and intervention as a finite concrete object alone. The city, however, is not this but rather a perpetually organizing field of forces in movement, each city a specific and unique combination of historical modalities in dynamic composition.
Thermoelectric Power Plant Cooling Towers, Tuzla, Bosnia and Herzegovina, David Kitching (2008)
The transformations affecting cities in the postwar era have been extraordinary—even unprecedented—but as a rule have yielded more readily to literary, photographic, and especially cinematic documentation than to traditional scientific (quantitative) analysis. To grasp the underlying shaping processes, to make them available to perception or intuition, seems to require a more oblique approach, one that recognizes the wildness of the compositional forces that subtend the city’s existing forms, activities, and practices. Cities are always epiphenomenal: they are the expressions of broader and more remote developments and sets of forces, specifically economic and social ones.
Indeed, the organization of a given economy and society—as mutually engendering domains—is what first invented and now drives and shapes the concrete constellations that we call cities. This organization may be thought of as the DNA of the city, its scaffold, its ultimate infrastructure. Perhaps more than anything else, these infrastructures constitute the historical element of cities and are their preeminent engines of change.
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