“In the beginning was the city. Before mankind existed, before even the primeval sea had fully receded from the land, Marduk, the creator of everything, made the city…the name of the first city was called Eridu.” This was written on a clay tablet dating back 2,5000 years. It was written in Babylonian as well as the older Sumerian language. It is a real place outside of Iraq.
Purchased out of curiosity, I immensely enjoyed City, A Guidebook for the Urban Age. I anticipated it would cover the evolution of our cities but was pleasantly surprised by how thorough the research would be. So many insights into all the actual components of a city: the building of skyscrapers which make up glorious skylines, the particular design and organization of city streets, the construction of theater and art venues for entertaining dwellers, the sculpting of parks for reprieve and calm inside the hectic chaos, and of course the markets, origins of shopping malls and all other sorts of commerce. There is history on city walls such as in China, once in Berlin, or to make the ghettoes, even the origins of graffiti. Did you know Central Park was originally designed to be driven through, and considered a venture for the wealthy since they were the only ones with vehicles at the time? The book concludes on reviewing various old sic-fi books and what was once foretold; very cool. It finally wraps up by high-lighting which cities will have the most high-tech industries and scientific research institutes, dubbed as ‘open-data cities’, and how South Korea is creating an electronic central nervous system. The entire city of Seoul is a wifi hotspot already. Finally it ends on our population growth, and how using green energy and sustainable development will be necessary to sustain this; which cities are doing what…
This one is so well researched, with a slight narrative bias towards London (the place of the first one-way street), as the author is from England. (I follow him on twitter; how i came across the book originally) If you are into architecture or history, this is a great choice. Even keeping it on the coffee table, you can open it up to any random page and learn something. Fun fun!
I will always be a city girl. There is a palpable energy, especially in a walking one like New York or Paris that feeds my soul. I don’t mind vacations away, and technology means we are always tapped-in, but I can’t imagine not living in a big metropolis environment. Even if one wants to sit in a coffee shop and enjoy it all voyeuristically, it feeds the individual all sorts of cultural diversity and vocational opportunity. No place like it.
A spectacular view from the tallest skyscraper in Dubai