Babylon Is Everywhere: The City as Man's Fate

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

Chapter 5
ASPHALT AND BOREDOM

AND SO they have been streaming into the city for decades, in every country on earth. But not every kind of person is drawn to the city. The first to follow the call are the more lively, interested people, the open-minded ones, and those who respond to stimulation. And these people constantly supply the city with two qualities that are significant in the shaping of the city's character: vitality and nervousness. But even if they were not already equipped with them, the climate of the city would bring out these qualities in them.

City climate -- first of all, this has to be taken quite literally. The larger the city, the more apparent becomes the phenomenon that the city has its own weather, which is quite different from that of the surrounding countryside. Characteristics of city weather are greater warmth, less sunshine, and polluted air.

The yearly mean temperature in the centre of a city is usually two, quite often four, and in rare instances even six degrees above that of its environs. On many days, especially in giant cities, there may be differences of up to eleven degrees between the city and the surrounding country. The yearly mean for Madrid is only 6.1 degrees warmer than that of London, and Rome's is only 11.3 degrees warmer than Berlin's, but these apparently negligible differences prove to be very significant. Since climatic influences cause various body functions to mature several years earlier in southern Europe than they do in the north, it is not surprising that the difference of temperature within the same country should cause the same body functions to mature earlier in the large cities than they do in the rural areas.

Driving into a metropolitan city on a clear summer night, one can feel the dew-fresh coolness suddenly changing into the warmth of the stable. The stone buildings have absorbed the heat of the day and now are heating the streets, just as the brick that the farmer's wife has heated in the oven later warms her cold feet in bed. In winter the tall houses act even more as a heating system for the whole city. A good deal of the warmth that is generated in tens of thousands of stoves and furnaces pours out into the open from the chimneys and seeps out through walls and windows into the streets.

Factory smoke and the fumes of automobile traffic create a haze

-319-

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