“Tell me what is urban for you and I can tell you who you are"
Clearly, the very notion of “urban” is arguably one of the hot topics of contemporary culture; it has become the synonym of cool and serves as a Zeitgeist indicator of lifestyle, music, food, fashion, and design.
Yet precisely what “urban” means in regard to urbanism and the city has become increasingly blurred. Depending on specific geographic, climatic, economic, and cultural conditions, there are many, and often radically conflicting implications of “urban” developments: the hyper-dense megalopolis coexists with endless sprawl; traditional street life exists side by side with massive web traffic; the hardware of architecture is augmented by the software of the event; high-speed urbanism in China happens simultaneously with the phenomenon of shrinking cities and the slow dying-out of small towns in the highly industrialized developed countries.
Even the very idea of the city as the result of planning has been deeply questioned by the roaring surge of informal favela-style housing settlements, which represent the type of urban condition that more than half of the world’s population today calls their home. As opposed to the colonial era of the 19th century, the term “urban” today no longer indexes a normative cultural concept – such as expressed, for instance, in the “European City” – but represents a cosmos of extremely varied notions determined by geographical, cultural, and individual preferences.
If we want to get a grip on what is “urban” today, we have to capture it in all its disguises, gradations, and transformations occurring simultaneously on a global scale. Hence this book takes us on a global dérive through emerging urban conditions in five continents, seen through the eyes of more than 50 international architects, urban planners, politicians, and artists including Saskia Sassen, Robert Somol, Jean-Philippe Vassal, Eyal Weizman, Teddy Cruz, Keller Easterling, Rahul Mehrotra, Enrique Peñalosa.
Title: Urban Transformation
Edited by Ilka & Andreas Ruby
Berlin: Ruby Press, 2008
400 pages. With 336 illustrations. 17,5 x 23,5 cm.