What is the City?
This question will be familiar to the Block Radius-faithful. Founder/co-creator/contributor Hank Felsman and I have been asking — and attempting to answer — this question for years. We’ve tackled the question metaphorically, literally, philosophically, even pseudo-scientifically. And yet, the answer has thus far managed to evade us.
In all likelihood, there is no comprehensive way to answer the question “what is the City?” Enlightenment-style thinking, be damned! This is the era of post-post-modernism, of Trumpism, of post-truthism! No single answer could be large enough, streamlined enough, enveloping enough to capture the vast amount of human, cultural, scientific, mathematical, artistic, historic, and millions of other inputs whose outputs form the cities in which we live. The City is so many things, and each potential answer to the question “what is it?” Branches off into new questions, which themselves bloom and germinate and leave us even further from certainty than we were when we started.
Given the impracticality of sufficiently describing the City in words then, I asked myself a new question: Are words the only way to describe the City? The drawing above, which I’ve titled “The City,” is my humble, insignificant, futile attempt at an answer to these questions. That said, here are a few clues to the mysteries of the City that I hope my drawing hints at:
The City is (or can be) fun.
Beauty, ugliness, riches, and squalor can coexist in near-perfect harmony in the City; they can also stand in stark, yet harmonious contrast.
What is garish to some might be gorgeous to others.
Euclidean zoning was probably the worst thing to happen to land use planning since…land use planning began(?)
Surface parking is the devil’s land use.
Watch out for giant octopi; there may be one trying to burrow into your building…
I hope this brief description of my drawing — and of course the drawing itself — can be a starting point for you, dear readers, in your own investigations of the City. I am excited to see (and hear and smell and taste) what you discover! Don’t forget to stray outside of your own Block Radius every once in a while…
As always, and with much love, Z Nalwayko.