Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Clapham, London


If for no other reason than I like it. And to provide the counterpoint, that yes, the convergence and density of cities can provide the platform for purposeful (Egypt) or purposeless (London) demonstration/protestation/or in London's case outright riot. It also provides the place for coming together. Would these people come to clean up the mess in their neighborhood if it wasn't for the love distilled by the same forces of togetherness and opportunity (for good and bad) that city form provides? Would this ever happen at the Potemkin Villages we build in the name of urbanity? Likely not. Two quick notes:

First, is that cities are amplifiers. Producers of both good and bad. Form, design, regulation, stewardship, etc. are all various forms of effort to (ideally) support and cultivate the good products of urbanity and eliminate or drastically reduce the bad outputs. The real issue with the London riots isn't a problem of the city, it is a problem of opportunity for a large segment of the population who have been disenfranchised. Futures mortgaged and have nothing left to lose. Treat people like animals (or consumers) and they behave like animals (or as consumers, they break into the only thing they know, and steal some shit that will be useless in 6 months anyway).

As Umair Haque tweeted today, "perhaps we need to stop thinking about what things cost and start debating what things are worth." Particularly, a human. We see education only as a cost. Humans only as consumers. Perhaps we need to remember that humans are the producers of all the good things in the world as well and education provides them that platform. There is no better investment than in a person. Lest you want to clean up after their mess when the zookeepers lose control.

London, is as good of an example as any, although any can be pointed to, of the unerringly polycentric nature of all cities. Once it grows beyond a hamlet, new neighborhoods are formed due to demand, each then has demand for new centers. Cities are collections of neighborhoods, interlaced. There is a chance of riots again tonight. Perhaps the outpouring of support as evidenced above will squelch it, at least in some areas. Areas readily identified by name, Tottenham, Croydon, Camden, Chigwell, Charlton, etc etc. They are London. And that means Joel Kotkin and his assertion that the future city will be polycentric is both right and wrong. Correct because all cities are and incorrect in the assertion that prior cities were not.