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Open Access Citying in the Anthropocene

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Historically, cities have been the repository and medium for our collective works, aspirations, and celebrations, driven by the promise of prosperity, well-being, and societal accord. Contemporary cities are technologically mediated in a manner that is reconfiguring the spatial and temporal conditions of the urban realm at an unprecedented scale and pace. We are experiencing a substantial transmutation of the material, utilitarian, everyday, spectacular, and symbolic reality of the urban, and with it, our capacity to be urbane, together. Although the design, construction, and operation of cities is seen as chiefly a practical and technical challenge, the “how” must be guided by questions of a fundamental, axiological nature – that is to say, questions concerning the values, ethics, qualities, political and aesthetic experience of urban life.

Such qualitative values are most potently expressed in the artefacts and events of a meaningful and productive cultural life. Understanding the relationship between variously formal and informal modes of urban collectivity – referred to in this paper as citying – and the formal practices of city-making as a sophisticated cultural and technical enterprise motivates this inquiry. Furthermore, it will be argued here that such questions concerning culturally defined notions of values are inseparable from our ever-present awareness of humanity's role in whole-scale environmental degradation otherwise known as the era of the Anthropocene. Thus, a triad is formed – culture–technology–environment – that fundamentally defines the way in which we make and inhabit contemporary cities.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 December 2015

More about this publication?
  • Architecture_MPS is the academic journal of the research group AMPS (Architecture, Media, Politics, Society). It addresses the growing interest in the social and political interpretation of the built environment from a multi-disciplinary perspective. It engages with architecture, urbanism, planning, sociology, economics, cultural studies, visual culture, new medias and technologies. It draws on experts who bring emerging issues of international importance to the reader. Its publications are linked with a wide range of research programmes and conferences to further raise awareness of the social importance of architecture.

    This is an Open Access journal, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (CC BY). This licence permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited. For more information see:

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