ADVICE | Exploring the urban condition

Posted on 01/08/2011

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John Rennie Short’s The Urban Order: An Introduction to Cities, Culture and Power ends with advice to the aspiring urbanist. After lengthy and comprehensive discussions about the various geographies of the city, he entreats the reader to explore the urban condition. On this single page (p. 493), he notes a suite of suggestions:

Look. Examine with your eyes … See the changes and the stabilities … Television and news converage, movies and drama
Listen. To what is being said about cities and by whom, understand why.
Read. Books, Theoretical works, journals, media reports. The city itself is also a text, to be read and reread.
Write. Keep a journal. Describe the city in your own words … Writing gives shape and structure to your ideas
Participate. We are all citizens. There is no surer ways of understanding the city than by being an active participant … Understand the city by changing it.

In other words, he advises the aspiring urbanist, to develop and inquiring relationships with the urban environment. Cities are best understood using all the senses and intelligences we can muster. This not only challenges us and our own capacities but also ensures that we don’t become complacent in the work of urban change.

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