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Cities, Place and Cyberspace

University of Calilfornia, Berkeley
February 1st, 2001

Thank you. I am very happy to be here on this great campus to open the spring semester lecture series. Everything at Berkeley is highly organized, as all of you know, but for all of the letters and e-mails that have gone back and forth between my office and the school, no one ever did ask me what I was going to talk about, so this lecture has no official title, except for the word "Commentary," which of course can mean anything at all. I do want to do a little more than just comment in general about architecture, or about current work, and I suppose if I had been asked for a title it would have been something like "Cities and Cyberspace," or maybe "Cities, Place and Cyberspace," since what I would like to talk about in the next few minutes is the question of how the extraordinary advances in technology of the last generation have affected not just individual works of architecture but our larger sense of place, whether they have made traditional ideas of place irrelevant, or whether they have the power to do so in the future.

The notion that technological developments have the power to shape what kind of places we make, and what our whole idea of place is, is not new to our time. Beyond the obvious fact that the technology of structure and engineering of course determines what we can build, and always has, the notion of other kinds of connections has plenty of precedent. Indeed, it was almost exactly a hundred years ago – March 20, 1901, to be exact – that Frank Lloyd Wright delivered a famous lecture at Hull House, Jane Addams’s settlement house in Chicago, entitled "The Art and Craft of the Machine." Even if we were not a couple of weeks away from the centennial of this famous talk it might be useful at this time to go back and have a look at what Wright had to say.

In a sense, he saw it all coming. Wright argued in "The Art and Craft of the Machine" against the hand-crafted aesthetic of Ruskin and William Morris, and in favor of an architecture that would use the machine as an aesthetic inspiration, which is the aspect of this lecture that most people remember. He denounced what he considered the hypocrisy of embracing technology as a modern means to achieve a traditional end, which is to say he didn’t think much of using machines to make classical columns or Gothic arches. Wright believed passionately that the machine somehow had to shape the aesthetic as well; it had to be a generator of architectural form. Architecture would not only have to be made differently in the age of the machine; it was essential that it look different, too.

That point, which has been widely enough discussed, has obvious analogies to what is going on today with blobs and folded planes and everything else that can be said, symbolically or actually, to reflect the shaping of architectural form through computers. There is no question that we are at a moment of technological development as important as the dawn of the machine age, and that it will have as significant an effect on architectural form. It has already begun to. And like the architecture of the machine age, its effect will be felt in process, in materials, and in physical appearance. And also like the architecture of the machine age, the effect of technology on the way architecture looks will sometimes be a direct result of new processes and new materials, but it will just as often be a result of imagined connections – architecture that just sort of "feels" digital, regardless of how it was derived, which is not so different from a lot of the International Style architecture of the nineteen twenties and thirties that "felt" mechanical, even though it may have been drawn as carefully as a Beaux-Arts rendering, and constructed as traditionally as a Victorian church.

But I don’t actually want to spend this evening talking about digital architecture, however neatly it may connect to Wright’s polemic about the machine age, since I don’t really want to talk about the way technology affects individual buildings so much as the way the technology we have now affects our sense of urbanity, and our sense of place. As I looked back at Wright’s lecture, something else about it struck me, a passage that I hadn’t remembered. After he finished going on about John Ruskin and William Morris, Wright started talking about Gutenberg, the inventor of movable type, and he made the most extraordinary observation that the printed book was, in a sense, the first machine, and that its arrival profoundly changed architecture. It was not the printing press itself that Wright was calling a machine, it was the book. Before printed books, Wright said, "all the intellectual forces of the people converged to one point – architectureÉ.down to the fifteenth century the chief register of humanity is architecture." Wright referred to the most important pieces of architecture as "great granite books," and said that "down to the time of Gutenberg architecture is the principal writing – the universal writing of humanity." But once printing arrived, Wright says, "Human thought discovers a mode of perpetuating itself, not only more resisting than architecture, but still more simple and easy. Architecture is dethroned. Gutenberg’s letters of lead are about to supersede Orpheus’s letters of stone. The book is about to kill the edifice."

Never mind whether Wright’s theory is right or wrong, or the fact that it ignores the oral tradition of literature, which allowed words to become part of cultural history even before the invention of the printing press. Like almost everything Wright wrote, this is wildly overstated, full of Whitmanesque hyperbole. But for all of that, it is still an astonishing observation, for in a way it is the beginning of the modern connection between media and architecture. Wright was acting on the presumption that architecture was a form of communication, and that is pretty radical – architecture as media. He was viewing it as a system by which the culture preserved and extended itself – in fact, as the primary system by which the culture did this, since Wright saw art and sculpture as subsidiary to architecture, as merely tools in its arsenal of communication. Sometimes buildings literally did tell stories, as you know – the iconography of the Gothic cathedrals is the most potent example, but so, too, with Greek temples and with most classical architecture – although I think Wright was thinking not only in such literal terms, but also in the idea that the architectural experience itself, the creation of structure and space, was a form of communication, and a form of conveying cultural values between the generations. Now, as I said, architecture was not the only system of preserving culture, as Wright would have had us believe, but there is no question that it was a very powerful one, and Wright’s notion that its power was diminished by the way in which the printing press allowed an alternative means for ideas to become widely disseminated is a compelling thought.

Wright went on to suggest that the printing press so weakened architecture that after the Middle Ages architecture had no choice but to devolve into historical replication – in Wright’s view, as you may remember, the Renaissance was nothing but an elaborate pageant of classical copying. Wright’s theory was that since architecture had been robbed by the printing press of its role of conveying human thought, it turned into a poor echo of itself, an effete copy of its past, while fresh ideas were expressed in books instead of buildings. And it only got worse, century by century, Wright believed, until at the beginning of the twentieth century, when he was delivering "The Art and Craft of the Machine," by which point architecture "is but a litle, poor knowledge of archeology," Wright said, and art, too, had become essentially a form of denial, a sentimental grasping for the past. Now, it is easy to laugh at this, and indeed, some of what Wright had to say was patently ridiculous. It isn’t news to observe that Frank Lloyd Wright had a lot of fun deliberately misreading everything in architectural history from the Renaissance through the Beaux-Arts. But let’s stay focused on the machine itself, and on Wright’s realizations about it, which broke through his own wild rhetoric to some other, equally wild but I think vastly more insightful rhetoric. Wright said of the machine that it was "invincible, triumphant, the machine goes on, gathering force and knitting the material necessities of mankind ever closer into a universal automatic fabric; the engine, the motor, and the battleship, the works of art of this century!"

I love the phase "universal automatic fabric"; it almost makes me think of the Internet. Wright certainly understood that all technology does, in a way, connect, and that it feeds upon itself. But the real point here is that Wright was urging that we, in effect, take back the machine, claim it for art and architecture – that it is the reality of our time, as much as stone was the reality of the fifteenth century. Others would say similar things later – Le Corbusier most memorably, and the great Italian futurist Sant’Elia – but Wright’s view of architecture as a communications medium, and thereby vulnerable to the printing press, gives the idea of accepting the machine a whole different meaning. It made all of this much more than about generation of architectural form. And now that almost all technology seems in some way to be about information, now that technology and communication have become almost one and the same, it is difficult not to think that the relationship between architecture and technology must be even more interdependent than it was in the past.

What does this have to do with our sense of place, and with the question of the meaning of the city right now? We are torn, it would seem, between believing that the city is irrelevant in the age of cyberspace, and believing that it has more urgency than ever – or that place matters more than ever. Wright, in that same lecture, referred to the city as the first great machine, which suggests a belief in its urgency, or at least a willingness to justify its importance, that is somewhat at odds with what he was to say years later, when he looked at the effect another technological development, the automobile, was going to have upon the landscape and denounced the old, dense form of the city as a useless relic. Now that we are clearly in the post-mechanical age, of course, Wright’s calling the city a machine might be taken to suggest that it is a leftover of that finished age, an anachronism, unnecessary in the same way that mechanical things are unnecessary.

The conflict was brought neatly into focus in one of the most fascinating exchanges I have read in some time on the subject of the city, a dialogue between Tom Peters and George Gilder not too long ago in Forbes magazine on whether technology would mean an end to the city as we know it or would give it a continued future. Gilder saw no point to the old city, which he saw only as a tired relic of the industrial age; he celebrated the way in which electronic communication was rapidly making it, in his view, obsolete. You didn’t have to be there, Gilder argued, so why would you want to? It’s dark, dirty, noisy, and crowded. Talk to everyone by e-mail and look out your window at trees.

Peters took a more measured, and ultimately wiser, view, pointing out that, as he put it, there is a "fundamental human dimension" of real contact that cannot happen on the Internet, and which real cities were designed to facilitate. "The richness, the exuberant variety of cities, is the fount of economic creativity and business growth," Peters said. I agree with Peters, but I think it’s obvious that the nature of the city is changing, even if it is not, as Gilder predicted, becoming obsolete.

Actually, there’s plenty of evidence that cities are not what we want, and there is plenty of evidence that they are. New York or Boston or San Francisco, as all of you know, possess a level of vibrancy, not to mention of real-estate values, that is far greater than it was even a few years ago, and in complete conflict with what the anti-urban theorists tell us. Yet we build new places that are very different, as the urban sprawl around San Jose, or in the East Bay, or in so many other parts of this country that are both prosperous and new, bears out. Which model is the one that holds the real truth – the Silicon Valley argument that cities are obsolete in an age of mass communication? Or the Silicon Alley evidence in the old cities?

The answer is both, and neither. Both are right, and both are wrong. For many people the city is obsolete, and many cities are more obsolete than others. Some have urgent continued purpose, and others do not. And those cities that continue to have sustained and important life, New York paramount among them in this country, are not the same kinds of cities that they were fifty or twenty or even, perhaps, ten years ago.

Let me say a word about what a city at its best means. The role of the city, the role of any city, to put it as bluntly as possible, is to be a common place, to be common ground, and as such, to support us and to stimulate us. Lewis Mumford, the greatest architectural critic of the last century, gave us a description of the city that stands in stunning and eloquent contrast to George Gilder’s: "Now, the great function of the city is…to permit, indeed to encourage and incite the greatest possible number of meetings, encounters, challenges between all persons, classes and groups," Mumford wrote, "providing, as it were, a stage upon which the drama of social life may be enacted, with the actors taking their turns as spectators, and the spectators as actors."

Notice that Mumford spoke of the city not only in terms of meetings and encounters but also of challenges: he knew that the city is difficult, and did not attempt to pretend otherwise, to pretend that it is the easiest route. But he knew that in meeting challenge there is also a kind of satisfaction that cannot come from easy routes, and that the challenge the city represents can, at its best, be enobling.

The urban impulse is an impulse toward community – an impulse toward being together, and toward accepting the idea that however different we may be, something unites us. But what do we do in an age when every force pushes us away from cities, pushes us apart rather than together? As we move more and more into an age in which we do not automatically build the kind of cities we once did, we have to think hard about how the experience of being together will come to pass. In this society we desperately lack a sense of community, a sense of common ground – a sense of the public realm. In an age in which we travel from private houses in little enclosed metal boxes on wheels into private office cubicles and then back again, an age in which we are almost never in a large public place save for an occasional visit to a sports stadium, an age in which the private experience of television and the VCR has replaced for many even the limited public experience of going to the movies, there is precious little sense of shared experience in our lives, or at least precious few times in which shared experience is expressed in terms of a common physical place. We come together virtually and not physically, and I am asking what this means for architecture and for cities.

I think it is fair to say that whatever strength there may be in old cities, the traditional, dense city for which busy, active, people-filled streets are the measure of success is less and less an American paradigm. For those situations in which we actually do come together physically and not virtually, we increasingly do so in places that represent a new model, something we might call a kind of para-urbanism, or pseudo-urbanism, and it has at least as significant an impact on the evolving definition of the city as cyberspace does. This new urban model is characterized by valuing automobile access more than pedestrian accomodation, and by a desire to offer the ease and convenience of the suburbs along with the benefits of traditional cities: a variety of shops, restaurants and public gathering places; facilities for the performing and visual arts, and the general level of excitement and stimulation associated with older, street-oriented cities. Sometimes these new kinds of places, these city-suburb hybrids, get built in the actual suburbs, sometimes they get built on the edges of cities, and sometimes they happen right inside the cities themselves.

Providing some measure of urban experience without encouraging the mixing of different kinds of people might be said to be the new urban paradigm: making the city safe for the middle class. If traditional cities have always demanded engagement, the new urban paradigm seems its absolute opposite. It sanctions disengagement, even as it professes to celebrate the virtues of urbanity.

The new urban paradigm is less truly urban than a kind of blurring of the traditional differences between city and suburb. While numerous older cities now attempt to market themselves as lively, vibrant, culturally active environments, the purest examples of the new urban paradigm are surely the so-called "edge cities" that now exist on the outskirts of most large cities, combining shopping malls, hotels, office buildings and occasionally housing at a density that is greater than traditional suburban density but significantly less than that of older core downtowns. Such places as City Post Oak in Houston, Tyson’s Corners outside of Washington, Buckhead north of Atlanta, and Las Colinas outside of Dallas mix high-rise buildings with shopping malls and hotels; gleaming and relatively new, they would seem to have every quality of cities except streets. Each of these places represents an attempt to take on the more benign characteristics once associated with larger cities without acquiring any other qualities of urban downtowns. The message is obvious: urbanity is attractive, so long as it can be rendered friendly and harmless.

This new urban paradigm began as a product of the automobile, and flourishes now, of course, as a result of the explosion of technology. As I’ve already said, in an age of faxes, of computers and modems, an age of instant communication via the internet, no one truly has to be anywhere. Where we are is the result of other factors. Let us not fool ourselves: The factors that brought the traditional city into being no longer exist. If the city has a continued function – and I believe that it does – it is essential that we not naively believe that it has an automatic, market-generated right to existence.

Let me say a little bit more about the new urban paradigm, where urban values are increasingly suburban values. By suburban values of course I mean much more than matters of geography, and much more than accommodation to the automobile, though this is surely a part of it. But far more important are three much more subtle, but ultimately far more profound, aspects of suburban values: racial and economic segregation, the presumption of disengagement and, going hand-in-hand with the first two, an acceptance, even an elevation, of the notion of private space. Indeed, the truly defining characteristic of this time might be said to be the privatization of the public realm, and it has come to affect our culture’s very notions of urbanism.

Suburbs have traditionally valued private space – the single-family, detached house, the yard, even the automobile itself – over public space, which they have possessed in limited enough quantities under the best of circumstances. And most suburbs now have even less truly public space than they once did. Not only are malls taking the place of streets in the commercial life of many small towns, the privatization of the public realm has advanced even more dramatically with the huge rise in the number of gated, guarded suburban communities, places in which residential streets are now technically private places rather than public ones. In literally thousands of such communities, entire neighborhoods become, in effect, one vast piece of private property. They exist to exclude, whereas traditional cities existed to include, or at least have the effect of inclusion.

The rise of suburban values means much more than the growth of suburban sprawl, then. It has meant a change in the way public and private spaces work in both suburbs and cities. And it has meant that many cities, even ones that pride themselves on their energy and prosperity, have come to take on certain characteristics once associated mainly with the suburbs. Now in both city and suburb, expressions of urbanity, which we might define as the making of public places where people can come together for both commercial and civic purposes, increasingly occur in private, enclosed places: shopping malls, both urban and suburban; "festival marketplaces" that seem to straddle the urban/suburban models; atrium hotel lobbies, which in some cities have become virtual town squares; lobbies of multiplex cinemas, which often contain a dozen or more theaters and thus exist at significant civic scale, and office building gallerias, arcades, and lobbies. All private places, not public as we have traditionally taken that term to mean.

How did we get to such a moment, where urban experience seems to occur mainly in private space? Let me answer this by taking a step back to the mid-1960’s, and quoting from an extraordinary essay by Charles Moore, an essay I like to think of as marking the begining of that important academic discipline, the modern field of Disneyland Studies. This essay, published in 1965 in the Yale architectural journal Perspecta, was entitled "You Have to Pay for the Public Life," and within that wonderful title was the whole point: that there is a certain kind of public, communal, urban life that once took place in the streets and squares of great cities and small towns and villages, but now exists only in private places – places like Disneyland. It is a paradox of our time that the free public life now takes place in places that are not really public at all – in private cars as we pass each other on the freeway – while the truer public life goes on in private places.

"By almost any conceivable method of evaluation," Moore wrote, "Disneyland must be regarded as the most important single piece of construction in the West in the past several decades. The assumption inevitably made by people who have not yet been there — that it is some sort of physical extension of Mickey Mouse — is wildly inaccurate. Instead, singlehanded, it is engaged in replacing many of those elements of the public realm which have vanished in the featureless private floating world of southern California, whose only edge is the ocean, and whose center is otherwise undiscoverable. Curiously, for a public place, Disneyland is not free. You buy tickets at the gate. But then, Versailles cost somebody a lot of money, too. Now, as then, you have to pay for the public life."

Moore went on: "Disneyland, it appears, is enormously important and successful just because it recreates all the chances to respond to a public environment, which Los Angeles in particular does not any longer have. It allows play-acting, both to be watched and to be participated in, in a public sphere. In as unlikely a place as could be conceived, just off the Santa Ana Freeway, a little over an hour from the Los Angeles City Hall, in an unchartable sea of suburbia, Disney has created a place, indeed a whole public world, full of sequential occurences, of big and little drama, of hierarchies of importance and excitement, with opportunities to respond at the speed of rocketing bobsleds or of horse-drawn streetcars. An American Main Street of about 1910 is the principle theme, against which play fairy-tale fantasies, frontier adventure situations, jungles, and the world of tomorrow……Everything works, in a way it doesn’t seem to any more in the world outside."

It is absolutely true, of course – it is in the theme park, within this contained, private world, that we play at urban life, since the real world we have around us offers so few chances for acceptable public life any more. Charles Moore was right: To many people, real cities are noisy, dirty, crowded, tense and dangerous. They may not be worse in this respect than they were in the 18th and 19th centuries, but we believe them to be, and that is all that matters, for we no longer trust them – we no longer trust cities to work for us, to protect us and to energize us. We have too many easier, safer, and blander ways of doing this.

Long before cyberspace, technology was pushing us away from public places and public experiences. Think back, if you will, to the great ages of urban life – at least we like to think of them as the great ages of urban life – say, Paris in the 19th century. "Street life" was a sign of the city’s health; the public life was lived in cafes and on the streets, and as you know a sophisticated person-about-town was even called a "boulevardier" – a presence on the boulevards. The term underscored how important the street, the public place, was in the value system of the time. Contrast it with our phrase today, "street person" – a euphemism for the homeless, the down-and-out at the bottom of the social ladder.

Charles Moore’s observation that Disneyland serves as a kind of replacement for the urban experience explains a lot of the subliminal appeal of Disneyland, and now of so many other places. We like to play at urbanity, without getting ourselves messed up in it. We want controlled environments, because that is what we have become used to in a world of private space, and it is what the computer has made us even more accustomed to. And we call this urbanism.

Surely by now most of you have seen CityWalk, that pseudo-city in Los Angeles produced by Universal, which raises the curious question: is it a city street masquerading as a theme park, or a theme park masquerading as a city street? We are not quite sure, and that is precisely how the designers of this place want it. CityWalk is a perfect metaphor for the city at this moment.

Of course you can always say that such places prove that there is at least some sort of urban impulse at work, however feeble, and I am the first to admit that all of this clearly serves people’s needs, or it wouldn’t exist. I guess on some level it is better to have a Barnes & Noble bookstore taking over the functions of a public square than to have no public square at all. Better to have an art museum behaving as an entertainment center than no art museum at all. But what makes a city live most of all is the quality of its public places, and that the greatest and most important public places, the ones that really show how well a city works, are not parks or squares or enormous piazzas or entertainment centers, but plain, old-fashioned streets, vibrant and not entirely controllable streets throbbing with life.

The essential truth about great and even not-so-great cities is that they are deeply, profoundly, absolutely and utterly public. Public means for everyone, and it also means, by implication at least, that they are not entirely controllable. In a real city we accept messiness as part of the deal – unevenness, disarray, complexity, a mixture of people and things, a certain amount of chaos, are all a part of the price we pay for the extraordinary creative energy that emanates from real cities, for the way in which they continually reinvent themselves like organic objects, for the presence of what I described earlier as true common ground, and, most important, for that elusive, difficult to define quality we might describe as a sense of authenticity.

We are in an age in which it is easy to think that artifice well executed is the only authenticity that matters – or at least the only authenticity our time is capable of creating. Certainly as technologies such as virtual reality continue to develop, and the entertainment impulse and the urban impulse continue to blur, it is hard not to think that authenticity in the urban environment is one of those old-fashioned values that holds no weight today. Sense of place? Why should anyone care about such a tired value? What does it when we can see the Eiffel Tower at Walt Disney World, when a new Las Vegas mega-hotel includes a reproduction of the New York skyline, not to mention a mini Venice and, for those who can’t get to Walt Disney World, another Eiffel Tower?

Many of us in this room believe it does matter, I suspect, but will others? Will they care? I am not entirely sure. But I do know that our sense of authenticity has to change, powerfully, as a result of such things. For all we believe in the traditional city, it will do us no good to pretend that its physical form and its meaning will not change and evolve as a result of the technological world in which we live. In fact, the refusal to admit this – the insistence on believing that what once was is better than anything than can come – feeds directly into the idea of the theme park. Not the least of our problems in urban design today is the tendency on the part of those who love traditional cities to believe that they can, and should, be recreated precisely as they once were. The results, the so-called neotraditional cities and neighborhoods and projects we see all around us today, may be better than the sprawl they seek to replace – but they are often sentimental, and sorely lacking in authenticity. They show that we have learned one lesson, which is about the failure of the suburban model, but not that we have learned another, which is that you cannot build only out of sentimental yearning.

Even though I’ve complained about the way in which the urban impulse and the entertainment impulse have become almost the same thing in our society, yielding places like CityWalk, not to mention a hundred zillion malls everywhere, in another way this merging of these two impulses is keeping our weak form of urbanism alive. After all, once entertainment was entirely public: fairs, music halls, circuses, theaters, cinemas. If we go back enough in time we might add strolling minstrels and street pantomimists to this list. About all anyone consumed at home was a book.

Recorded music, then radio, then television, then the VCR, shifted the balance, and made it possible to consume more and more other kinds of entertainment in the privacy of home. And now there are more and more options ahead — the 500-channel systems, the systems by which we can magically order up any kind of film or program and have it digitally produced and transmitted to our own television sets or computers. All of this can happen, and much of it has already. We do not need public space for basic communication, in the same way that, as I said at the very beginning of this talk, we do not need the city to do business in the same way that we once did. So perhaps the fact that we are using it for entertainment is not entirely bad.

People do not always want to sit in their houses. Give them 50 or 500 or 5,000 channels on their televisions and 50 million sites on the Internet and they will still want to go outside. I do not believe that people will stop wanting to be with each other, however enticing the technological imitations of communal experience can become. There will always be a place for a true public realm. If there were not, it would have died long ago, for the car, the telephone, the fax, the computer, the television, have already made it technologically out of date.

But if we do not need the city in the same way we once did, why should we want it? The city has to make itself desirable – that is the key. When it competes with virtual space, real space has to show where it can be superior. The city may not be economically necessary in the way that it once was, but it is more culturally necessary than ever, because it is the place that shows us the model of how to live. The city is where common ground is formed, and the place that stands as a physical reminder, all the time, of what community means. Communities formed in private, across lines of fiber optic cable, are not the same thing as communities that exist in real space. They are more difficult, but they are urgent, unless we want to spend our lives in isolation in front of computer screens.

And for all that the traditional city might appear to be antithetical to the way we live and the way we build and the way we think today, in a metaphorical sense it is absolutely of this moment, for I think of the city not as opposite to the Internet, but as absolutely like it. In a sense, it is the original Internet, the original hyperlink – since cities are places in which random connections, rather than linear order, often determines what will happen. Cities aren’t linear, even though they exist in real space. Random connections are what make them work, and surprise and a sense of infinite choice is what gives them their power. Maybe that is the most important reason of all that old-fashioned cities aren’t obsolete – because their very physical form is itself a series of hyperlinks in real space. Paradoxically it is the theme park that is linear, and the old city that represents the new way.

There is another, final reason that cities matter, and it involves history, and in the idea of commitment to a place. That is a part of the urban idea that I have not yet talked about, but perhaps it is the most important part of all: belief in a place, and a willingness to stake ourselves to our cities because they are there, because they exist. Sometimes I wonder if no other reason is necessary. The city is what we have and what we are. We may deny it, but it is so – it is where we have invested our lives as Americans, if all too rarely our hearts.

How we will express the urban impulse for the next generation, while still making civilized living environments in which we can all somehow function together, is the crucial question for us all. It is the real city that makes things new, that challenges us and enlivens us. If the real city is doing its job, it stimulates and excites us in a way that leaves the theme park and the Internet in the dust. It is not as easy as the theme park, and it certainly isn’t as easy as sitting alone in front of a computer, but its rewards go deeper by far, for it makes us look forward, not backwards, and outwards, not inwards. The city is the common ground we have been seeking; its physical form connects us, brings us together, and makes concrete the ideas of community that we all seek. That is the real authenticity. That is why we need cities – to make manifest our ideas of community, which so many technological and economic forces in our time work against.

We cannot function alone – no matter what technology brings us, we will not want to be alone all the time. We want to get outside, to be in public, to take the risk of doing what only the real city can do – which is to energize and uplift and inspire us and, yes, challenge us with the sense, as Lewis Mumford put it, "that we are all, each and every one of us, simultaneously actors and spectators on a stage."

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