Urban Futures: Critical Commentaries on Shaping the City

Urban Futures: Critical Commentaries on Shaping the City

Urban Futures: Critical Commentaries on Shaping the City

Urban Futures: Critical Commentaries on Shaping the City


'Urban Futures' brings together commentaries from a wide range of contemporary disciplines and fields relevant to urban culture, form and society.


This general introduction attempts to say what kind of book this is. It begins by outlining the book's aims, scope and organisation. Since each of its four parts has its own more detailed introduction only a brief note on the chapters they contain is given here. The major part of this introduction is then taken up in an effort to describe the terrain in which the book is situated.


The book has two main aims: first, to bring together perspectives from a range of subjects which share a focus on contemporary urban questions, so that together the twelve chapters take discussion beyond the limitations of any single discipline; and, second, by juxtaposing material which shows differing ways in which cities are shaped, to emphasise that cities are more than mere accumulations of forms and spaces, and that the processes of their future determination are open to change as well as investigation. The relation between reflection, theoretical framing, and the collation of data varies from one chapter to another, but all, it is intended, emphasise that cities are made not given, are products of human thought and action, their futures open to speculation which embodies critical understanding.

Several chapters deal with culture, either in the specialist sense of cultural production - as in art and media - or in the broader sense, established in cultural studies since the 1960s, of expression of a set of values in the acts of everyday life. In that sense, which tends to be all-pervasive, thought and action are moulded by the culture or cultures in which they are situated. But culture, too, is produced through thought and action in a continuous and simultaneous reciprocity of shaping and being shaped. Cities likewise carry the evidence of past conceptualisations of the city while endlessly modifying them in daily use and occupation. Just as the form of a language is its mundane usages as well as its rules, and both adapt according to circumstance, so cities correspond to ideas of citizenship and history, to power structures, and to predominant spatial practices. But the point is again that circumstances can be changed, are not simply given, but are a space for intervention.


As a collection of essays, some more theoretical, others more empirical but all contemporary in focus, on how the futures of cities might be shaped in the early twenty-first century, the book makes no claim to forecast social or cultural trends, nor to prescribe what cities should be like. There has been no committee to sift the findings, and neither have the authors been asked to revise

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