Babylon Is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate

By Wolf Schneider; Ingeborg Sammet et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
A WORD IN FAVOUR OF SIZE

WE HAVE arrived at the end of our journey through seven thousand years of city history, through cities of yesterday and cities of tomorrow. Let us sum up:

Planned cities are nearly as old as the city itself. A plan was, however, dispensable as long as the growth of the city proceeded slowly and, at the same time, temples and walls were properly respected. With the temple as its heart and symbol, and the walls as a clear demarcation line, the city was a well-organized, healthy entity.

Industrialization and the population explosion have destroyed the organically growing city or have relegated it to a shadow existence. Unrestrained striving for gain during the first phase of the industrial era produced the ugliest cities and city sections in history. The free interplay of forces to date has proved incapable of bringing the city's functions into harmony, let alone giving the cities features of their own. For city planning, the designs provided by building associations or property development companies no longer are satisfactory.

If our large cities are not to suffocate or to be overrun by thundering fleets of trucks, we have to make sacrifices and invest billions in well-thought-out programmes of rehabilitation. In our day, the work of the city planner is among the most important tasks that society can entrust to anyone. The budgeting of those billions would be simplified if governments and legislatures would allow a city to share the results of its own high productivity, instead of skimming off all the collected taxes save for a very small percentage. This is one of the basic demands -- and well justified it is -- of the German Städtetag (Council of Cities). It certainly is high time to throw overboard laws and sets of values that still regard the rural community as the pillar of the state. All political parties should realize by now that the large city is no longer the exception, but is, rather, the rule in modern industrial society and, moreover, the backbone of the state.

The city planners need not only billions, but also freedom of action and trust placed in them. The American sociologist David Riesman says in his book The Lonely Crowd:

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