I’m reading legendary city planner Kevin Lynch‘s article “The Pattern of the Metropolis,” in sociologist Charles Tilly‘s collection, An Urban World.  Lynch theorizes about several development patterns that can bring forth the greatest “potential for metropolitan life.” One of them we might call sprawl (“the metropolitan region would rapidly spread over a vast continuous tract, perhaps coextensive with adjacent metropolitan regions”), though he did not use such a term in 1961 when he wrote this.   

As you might surmise by the fact that I’m blogging right now, I don’t find this chapter especially capitivating.  I’m not sure who might be reading it other than this insular world of erudite planners and scholars in which I orbit.  (Though of course, it’s highly possible I’m underestimating his popularity among urban design junkies like my friend Shannon.)  Belying the expansive homes all my professors seem to live in (mostly in Brookline and Newton, no less), the prospects of prosperity are not what draws most of us to academia (despite our universal, contrary notion that our thoughts and opinions are priceless).  So, imagine my amusement at Lynch’s example that contrasts the benefits of present city life, versus the proposed sprawl he describes.  I can’t imagine who he envisioned as his target audience.  

He writes:

“Thus communication in the sense of purposeful trips (‘I am going out to buy a fur coat’) might not be hindered, but spontaneous or accidental communication (‘Oh, look at that fur coat in the window!’), which is one of the advantages of present city life, might be impaired by the lack of concentration.”

Personally, I have yet to find the right fur to match my NPR tote.  And getting the length right so the coat won’t catch in the spokes of my bike as I commute to Cambridge – now that’s just a bitch. 

Fortunately, while our capital reserves may be low, the intelligentsia’s sardonic, self-satisfied wit is forever in rich supply.


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