Stefany Anne Golberg:
One apartment filled with dinosaurs is the talk of the town. But a city filled with them is a disaster.
Cities can't be managed, and that's what keeps them so vibrant.
We spend all this time thinking about cities in terms of their local details, their restaurants and museums and weather. I had this hunch that there was something more, that every city was also shaped by a set of hidden laws.
I don't know anything about this city or even where it is or its history, but I can tell you all about it. And the reason I can do that is because every city is really the same.
Sometimes, I look out at nature and I think, Everything here is obeying my conjecture. It's a wonderfully narcissistic feeling.
In the city's labyrinth, invisibility can quickly trump visibility.
Rulers of cities have always had an interest in visibility, both in representing their power and in controlling people by seeing them.
It would be tempting to say that if Le Corbusier embraced an emphatic, even ominous type of visibility, Jacobs insisted on the power of the invisible, the nooks and crannies, the intimate spaces of homes and private lives. But the truth is that Jacobs argued for a different kind of visibility, that of active life in neighborhoods and on busy, pedestrian-friendly streets.
Anonymity is, perhaps, the most universal experience of invisibility within the modern city.
Not to find one's way in a city may well be uninteresting and banal. It requires ignorance -- nothing more. But to lose oneself in a city -- as one loses oneself in a forest -- that calls for quite a different schooling. It is a particular and poignant form of freedom to walk a vibrant urban quarter without aim and with openness to all, unobserved, invisible, or more precisely, caught in the shifting, kinetic exchange of sights and sensations ...
The captains of industry also had ambitions to endow the pursuit of profit with noble purpose. The architecture of commercial buildings often reached for monumentality through the use of rich materials and traditional architectural elements. Department stores, those quintessential sites of the emerging urban consumer society, wrapped their truck and barter in layers of ornament and allegory. Philadelphia's Wanamaker's building, now a Macy's, features a towering pipe organ in a multistory atrium -- a Vatican of commerce indeed!
As rich in poetry and lore as had been the unreconstructed area on the Left Bank centered around the place Maubert and the place de la Contrescarpe that was forcibly gentrified in the 1960s, the real tragedy was the destruction of Les Halles, the ancient marketplace in the center of the city.
Les Halles had been a vital connection to the cycle of nature, a living embodiment of the chain of production and consumption, a tremendous social equalizer, a place where the jobless could always find pickup work and the hungry could scrounge for discarded but perfectly acceptable food, a hub with its own culture and customs varnished by nearly a millennium of use. It was often called the "soul" of Paris as well as its "stomach," and it was destroyed impersonally, by administrative decree, and eventually replaced by a nightmarish pit of a shopping mall that appears to have been designed for maximum alienation.
The fact is that Washington is and always has been irretrievably bogged down in process. And process doesn't generally make for electrifying prose -- unless you're a fan of the novels of C. P. Snow, which describe the intestinal workings of inner-sanctum power struggles conducted by micro-megalomaniacs.
At IBM, a senior vice-president once described the managerial hierarchy as "a giant pool of peanut butter we have to swim through."
Nassim Taleb, on the world in 2036:
The great top-down nation-state will be only cosmetically alive, weakened by deficits, politicians' misalignment of interests and the magnification of errors by centralised systems. The pre-modernist robust model of city-states and statelings will prevail, with obsessive fiscal prudence.