• Distant Cities: Thoughts on an Aesthetics of Urbanism

    Author(s):
    Arnold Berleant (see profile)
    Date:
    2012
    Subject(s):
    Urbanism, Aesthetics, City
    Item Type:
    Book chapter
    Tag(s):
    urban experience, aesthetics of urbanism, suburbs, ruburbs
    Permanent URL:
    http://dx.doi.org/10.17613/wqjp-dy93
    Abstract:
    The city does not exist. The city is a fiction, an abstraction rooted in history and mythology. For how can we identify it? However it is identified or defined, the city is an environment of experience before it is anything else. Urban experience, in fact, is perhaps one of the most important and powerful of the complex dimensions that constitute the city, whatever it may be. I call this talk "Distant Cities" because I want to inquire into urban experience from a different, perhaps unfamiliar direction, urban experience as encountered from the outside, from a distance, as it were. How is the city seen and understood not by its inhabitants but by an outsider who may occasionally enter into the urban sphere for visits of limited duration? The question of urban experience is as complex, intricate, and elusive as its material condition, the city. Here we encounter massiveness – the physical mass of the urban conglomerate of skyscrapers, institutional edifices, commercial monoliths; urban regions, districts, and neighborhoods. We not only encounter massiveness; we face spatial extent, as the urban consumption of the landscape spreads across whole geographical regions, such as the megalopolis of the eastern seaboard of the United States stretching from Boston to Washington or the amoeba-like spread of construction across huge distances and often overlapping state lines, as in the Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, St. Louis urban conglomerates. From this uncommon external perspective on urban experience, I want to consider what it can tell us about the possibilities of an aesthetic of urbanism. In particular, I want to recover the humane and civilizing possibilities of the city. This leads me finally to an unabashed sketch of how a responsible environment might be now understood.
    Notes:
    Paper given at the International Institute of Applied Aesthetics (IIAA) international summer school in environmental aesthetics and philosophy on Urban Spaces, Everyday Experience and Well-Being, Lahti, Finland, 19 June 2006. Chapter 10 in Arnold Berleant, Aesthetics beyond the Arts (Farnham, UK & Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2012), pp. 105-115. ISBN 978-1138255487.
    Metadata:
    Published as:
    Book chapter    
    Status:
    Published
    Last Updated:
    1 month ago
    License:
    Attribution-NonCommercial
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