Edwin Heathcote, the architecture critic for the Financial Times, reviews Matthew Beaumont and Gregory Dart’s Restless Cities, Tom McDonough’s The Situationists and the City: A Reader and Stephen Graham’s Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism.
For more than two centuries writers have attempted to interpret the city. They have treated it as if it were a book – a complex series of interwoven and juxtaposed stories; its streets and squares, neglected spaces and crowded thoroughfares a network of systems to be analysed, filtered and distilled. Authors such as Charles Dickens, Victor Hugo, JG Ballard, Italo Calvino and Paul Auster have turned the city into a character, while we, as readers, have become used to the idea of the influence of the city on the action, psychology and mood of a novel. …
Four new books offer an intriguing collection of readings of the contemporary city. The Situationists and the City gathers the seminal texts of that mid-20th century French avant-garde group in a single, striking volume; Restless Cities compiles a series of insightful essays on aspects of urban existence; Cities Under Siege examines the creeping, sinister militarisation of the contemporary city and Naked City looks at the gentrification and corporatisation of New York. Collectively they present us with a question: how do we interpret the city today?
Read the full essay City Limits here.