Mine is probably only found on the shelves of the library but these theoretical meanderings are one of my muses. One of my favorites is the online journal Urban Reinventors. In the latest issue, Celebrations of Urbanity, the introduction by Alessandro Busà “deconstructs the rhetoric of urbanity”.
Busà suggest that “In a new, after-modern era wherein the notion of urbanity is widely celebrated, bill boarded and squeezed into an often narrow iconic vision by realtors, private enterprises as well as by entrepreneurial administrations, our first aim must be to question, challenge and re-discuss urbanity.”
Busà then describes some of the existing models
We have the archetypal Jane Jacobs’ urban model of Manhattan’s West Village, with its narrow lively streets, its short blocks, its mix of old and new architectural styles, its density of smallscale retail and its pedestrian friendliness.
We have the “dirty” urban model of places such as Jackson Heights in New York’s borough of Queens, where urbanity results from the crowding of people of all races mingling together in a multicultural, chaotic, untidy and extremely lively environment.
We have the selective urbanity of the gentrified city, home to Florida’s “creative class”, such as the new downtowns in Berlin Mitte, in Paris’ Le Marais or in London’s East End, with their array of Starbucks cafés, lounge bars and trendy commercial streets.
We have the “urban renaissance” model, such as the new Covent Garden in London, where a brand new urbanity made of polished architectures, fine stores and coffee tables in the streets are mostly catering to gentrifiers and tourists, and where a strong surveillance through cameras and police guards is constantly needed.
We have the “festival marketplace” model of a nostalgic, inauthentic urbanity, invented or reinvented as a commodity for mass tourism.
We finally have the New Urbanist model, with its brand new, if often historicist, architectures, its pedestrian oriented environments, its dense urban fabric, its promises of an urban quality of life unknown to most US dwellers.”
What is important here is to investigate whether urbanity may be the answer to our concerns of social inclusion, tolerance, quality of life, individual and collective fulfillment. And if so, what kind of urbanity do we stand for?