Unsettling Formal Power Systems

Authored by: Saskia Sassen

The Routledge Companion to Critical Approaches to Contemporary Architecture

Print publication date:  August  2019
Online publication date:  August  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138917569
eBook ISBN: 9781315688947
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9781315688947-28

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Abstract

Cities are complex systems. But they are incomplete systems whose features take on urbanized formats that vary enormously across time and place. In this mix of complexity and incompleteness lies the capacity of cities to outlive far more powerful but formal and closed systems: many a city has outlived governments, kings, the leading corporation of an epoch. Herein also lies the possibility of making—making the urban, the political, the civic. Thus much of today’s dense built-up terrain, such as a vast stretch of high-rise housing, or of office buildings, is not a city. It is simply dense built-up terrain. On the other hand, a working slum can have many of the features of a city, and indeed, some are a type of city—poor but deeply urban.

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