answer qustions about readings

i need you to answer each question 1 paragraph from the readings i will attached here :1. What is a city for Mumford, and what is it for Harvey? – try to find a metaphor for each2. Is the city “purely physical fact” for Mumford? What constitutes the city outside of its physical position?3. Is there a way to describe the city as a social institution using Harvey’s and Mumford’s texts?4. What, according to Mumford, should determine such limiting factors as size, density, area and layout of a city?5. What kind of community does Mumford advocate for in the city/cities?6. How can, according to Mumford, a city achieve the necessary social concentration for social drama?7. What place that you know comes close to Mumford’s ideal?8. What place comes close to Harvey’s ideal (What is Harvey’s ideal)?9. Do you think that a city should be considered like a human theatre? Or do you think a city should just be for commerce and functionality only? And if it is for commerce and functionality only does that kill a sense of art and beauty and “theatre” that is an essential ingredient in making urban society attractive and meaningful? What do you think?10. Who has the right to the city, who does not?11. Do you agree with Harvey, why, why not?12. How would you regulate Harvey’s call for residents tohave the right to make changes to already existing spaces? Do you agree with that call (why/ why not?)13. Does the city serve all or is it reserved for a select group? Is it socially just or are the rights of one group more important than the rights of another?14. What does it mean to for a space and place to be “socially just?”


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city reader-5th-02-c
Page 91
“What is a City?”
Architectural Record (1937)
Lewis Mumford
Editors’ Introduction
Lewis Mumford (1895–1990) has been called the United States’ last great public intellectual – that is, a scholar
not based in academia who writes for an educated popular audience. Beginning with the publication of his first
book The Story of Utopias in 1922 and continuing throughout a career that saw the publication of some twentyfive influential volumes, Mumford made signal contributions to social philosophy, American literary and cultural
history, the history of technology and, preeminently, the history of cities and urban planning practice.
Born in Brooklyn and coming of age at a time when the modern city was reaching a new peak in the history of
urban civilization, Mumford saw the urban experience as an essential component in the development of human
culture and the human personality. He consistently argued that the physical design of cities and their economic
functions were secondary to their relationship to the natural environment and to the spiritual values of human
community. Mumford applied these principles to his architectural criticism for The New Yorker magazine and his
work with the Regional Planning Association of America in the 1920s and 1930s, his campaign against plans to
build a highway through Washington Square in New York’s Greenwich Village in the 1950s, and his lifelong
championing of the environmental theories of Patrick Geddes and the Garden City ideals of Ebenezer Howard.
In “What is a City?” – the text of a 1937 talk to an audience of urban planners – Mumford lays out his fundamental
propositions about city planning and the human potential, both individual and social, of urban life. The city, he writes,
is “a theater of social action,” and everything else – art, politics, education, commerce – serve only to make the
“social drama . . . more richly significant, as a stage-set, well-designed, intensifies and underlines the gestures of
the actors and the action of the play.” The city as a form of social drama expressed as much in daily life as in
revolutionary moments – it was a theme and an image to which Mumford would return over and over again. In The
Culture of Cities of 1938, he rhapsodized about the artist Albrecht Dürer witnessing a religious procession in
Antwerp in 1519 that was a dramatic performance “where the spectators were also communicants.” And in “The
Urban Drama” from The City in History of 1961, he reflected on the ways that the social life of the ancient city
established a kind of dramatic dialogue “in which common life itself takes on the features of a drama, heightened
by every device of costume and scenery, for the setting itself magnifies the voice and increases the apparent
stature of the actors.” Mumford was quick to point out that the earliest urban dialogue was really a one-way
“monologue of power” from the king to his cowering subjects. Such an absence of true dialogue, he wrote, was
“bound to have a fatal last act.” But real dialogue developed slowly but irresistibly in the forum, the agora, or the
neighborhood. In the end, said Mumford, great moments of urban civilization often found expression in theatrical
and literary dialogues – in everything from Plato’s Republic to the plays of Shakespeare – that sum up the city’s
“total experience of life.” It is an arresting insight and leads us to wonder what movies, television shows, popular
websites and video games say about the quality of our present-day urban civilization.
Mumford’s influence on the theory and practice of modern urban planning can hardly be overstated. His “urban
drama” idea clearly resonates with an entire line of urban cultural analysts. Jane Jacobs, for example, talks about
“street ballet” (p. 105). William Whyte (p. 510) says that a good urban plaza should function like a stage. Allan
city reader-5th-02-c
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Jacobs and Donald Appleyard (p. 518) urge planners to fulfill human needs for “fantasy and exoticism.” The city,
they write, “has always been a place of excitement; it is a theater, a stage upon which citizens can display
themselves and be seen by others.” And Mumford would no doubt have approved of economist Richard Florida
(p. 143) and his argument for the importance to urban culture of a “creative class.”
As a historian, Mumford’s emphasis on community values and the city’s role in enlarging the potential of the
human personality connects him with a long line of urban theorists that includes Louis Wirth (p. 96) and many others.
The City in History (1961) is undoubtedly Mumford’s masterpiece, but an earlier version of the same material, The
Culture of Cities (1938), is still of interest. The Urban Prospect (1968) is an outstanding collection of his essays
on urban planning and culture, and The Myth of the Machine (1967) and The Pentagon of Power (1970) are
excellent analyses of the influence of technology on human culture. The magisterial The Transformations of Man
(1956) invites comparison with V. Gordon Childe’s theory of the urban revolution (p. 31). And Mumford’s ideas
about urban regionalism and his advocacy of Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City (p. 328) are foundational to the
theories of Peter Calthorpe (p. 360) and other New Urbanists.
A sampling of Mumford’s writings is included in Donald L. Miller (ed.), The Lewis Mumford Reader (Athens,
GA: University of Georgia Press, 1995). Mumford’s illuminating correspondence with Patrick Geddes is contained
in Frank G. Novak, Lewis Mumford and Patrick Geddes: The Correspondence (London: Routledge, 1995). His
correspondence with Frank Lloyd Wright is contained in Bruce Brooks Pfeiffer et al., Frank Lloyd Wright and Lewis
Mumford: Thirty Years of Correspondence (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 2001), and his writings for
The New Yorker are contained in Robert Wojtowicz (ed.), Sidewalk Critic: Lewis Mumford’s Writings on New
York (New York: Princeton Architectural Press, 1998).
Mumford is now being rediscovered by a new generation of environmental planners. Examples of books applying
his perspective to current ecological issues are Mark Luccarelli Lewis, Mumford and the Ecological Region: The
Politics of Planning (New York: Guilford, 1997) and Robert Wojtowicz, Lewis Mumford and American Modernism:
Eutopian Theories for Architecture and Urban Planning (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).
Biographies of Lewis Mumford are Donald L. Miller, Lewis Mumford: A Life (New York: Weidenfeld & Nicolson,
1989), Thomas P. Hughes and Agatha C. Hughes (eds), Lewis Mumford: Public Intellectual (Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1990), and Frank G. Novak, Lewis Mumford (New York: Twayne, 1998). An excellent bibliography
of Mumford’s writings is Elmer S. Newman, Lewis Mumford: A Bibliography, 1914–1970 (New York: Harcourt
Brace Jovanovich, 1971).
Most of our housing and city planning has been
handicapped because those who have undertaken the
work have had no clear notion of the social functions
of the city. They sought to derive these functions
from a cursory survey of the activities and interests
of the contemporary urban scene. And they did not,
apparently, suspect that there might be gross deficiencies, misdirected efforts, mistaken expenditures
here that would not be set straight by merely building
sanitary tenements or straightening out and widening
irregular streets.
The city as a purely physical fact has been subject
to numerous investigations. But what is the city as a
social institution? The earlier answers to these questions, in Aristotle, Plato, and the Utopian writers
from Sir Thomas More to Robert Owen, have been on
the whole more satisfactory than those of the more
systematic sociologists: most contemporary treatises
on “urban sociology” in America throw no important
light upon the problem. One of the soundest definitions
of the city was that framed by John Stow, an honest
observer of Elizabethan London, who said:
Men are congregated into cities and commonwealths for honesty and utility’s sake, these shortly
be the commodities that do come by cities, commonalties and corporations. First, men by this
nearness of conversation are withdrawn from
barbarous fixity and force, to certain mildness of
manners, and to humanity and justice . . . Good
behavior is yet called urbanitas because it is rather
found in cities than elsewhere. In sum, by often
hearing, men be better persuaded in religion, and
for that they live in the eyes of others, they be by
example the more easily trained to justice, and
by shamefastness restrained from injury.
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And whereas commonwealths and kingdoms
cannot have, next after God, any surer foundation
than the love and good will of one man towards
another, that also is closely bred and maintained
in cities, where men by mutual society and companying together, do grow to alliances, commonalties,
and corporations.
It is with no hope of adding much to the essential
insight of this description of the urban process that
I would sum up the sociological concept of the city in
the following terms:
The city is a related collection of primary groups
and purposive associations: the first, like family and
neighborhood, are common to all communities, while
the second are especially characteristic of city life.
These varied groups support themselves through
economic organizations that are likewise of a more or
less corporate, or at least publicly regulated, character;
and they are all housed in permanent structures, within
a relatively limited area. The essential physical means
of a city’s existence are the fixed site, the durable
shelter, the permanent facilities for assembly, interchange, and storage; the essential social means are the
social division of labor, which serves not merely
the economic life but the cultural processes. The
city in its complete sense, then, is a geographic plexus,
an economic organization, an institutional process,
a theater of social action, and an aesthetic symbol
of collective unity. The city fosters art and is art; the
city creates the theater and is the theater. It is in the city,
the city as theater, that man’s more purposive activities
are focused, and work out, through conflicting and
cooperating personalities, events, groups, into more
significant culminations.
Without the social drama that comes into existence
through the focusing and intensification of group
activity there is not a single function performed in the
city that could not be performed – and has not in fact
been performed – in the open country. The physical
organization of the city may deflate this drama or make
it frustrate; or it may, through the deliberate efforts
of art, politics, and education, make the drama more
richly significant, as a stage-set, well-designed, intensifies and underlines the gestures of the actors and the
action of the play. It is not for nothing that men have
dwelt so often on the beauty or the ugliness of cities:
these attributes qualify men’s social activities. And if
there is a deep reluctance on the part of the true city
dweller to leave his cramped quarters for the physically
more benign environment of a suburb – even a model
garden suburb! – his instincts are usually justified: in its
various and many-sided life, in its very opportunities
for social disharmony and conflict, the city creates
drama; the suburb lacks it.
One may describe the city, in its social aspect, as
a special framework directed toward the creation
of differentiated opportunities for a common life and
a significant collective drama. As indirect forms of
association, with the aid of signs and symbols and
specialized organizations, supplement direct face-toface intercourse, the personalities of the citizens
themselves become many-faceted: they reflect their
specialized interests, their more intensively trained
aptitudes, their finer discriminations and selections: the
personality no longer presents a more or less unbroken
traditional face to reality as a whole. Here lies the
possibility of personal disintegration; and here lies
the need for reintegration through wider participation
in a concrete and visible collective whole. What
men cannot imagine as a vague formless society, they
can live through and experience as citizens in a city.
Their unified plans and buildings become a symbol
of their social relatedness; and when the physical
environment itself becomes disordered and incoherent,
the social functions that it harbors become more
difficult to express.
One further conclusion follows from this concept of
the city: social facts are primary, and the physical
organization of a city, its industries and its markets, its
lines of communication and traffic, must be subservient
to its social needs. Whereas in the development of the
city during the last century we expanded the physical
plant recklessly and treated the essential social nucleus,
the organs of government and education and social
service, as mere afterthought, today we must treat
the social nucleus as the essential element in every
valid city plan: the spotting and inter-relationship of
schools, libraries, theaters, community centers is the
first task in defining the urban neighborhood and laying
down the outlines of an integrated city.
In giving this sociological answer to the question:
What is a City? one has likewise provided the clue to
a number of important other questions. Above all, one
has the criterion for a clear decision as to what is the
desirable size of a city – or may a city perhaps continue
to grow until a single continuous urban area might
cover half the American continent, with the rest of
the world tributary to this mass? From the standpoint
of the purely physical organization of urban utilities
city reader-5th-02-c
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– which is almost the only matter upon which
metropolitan planners in the past have concentrated –
this latter process might indeed go on indefinitely.
But if the city is a theater of social activity, and if
its needs are defined by the opportunities it offers to
differentiated social groups, acting through a specific
nucleus of civic institutes and associations, definite
limitations on size follow from this fact.
In one of Le Corbusier’s early schemes for an
ideal city, he chose three million as the number to be
accommodated: the number was roughly the size of
the urban aggregate of Paris, but that hardly explains
why it should have been taken as a norm for a more
rational type of city development. If the size of an
urban unit, however, is a function of its productive
organization and its opportunities for active social
intercourse and culture, certain definite facts emerge
as to adequate ratio of population to the process to
be served. Thus, at the present level of culture in
America, a million people are needed to support a
university. Many factors may enter which will change
the size of both the university and the population base;
nevertheless one can say provisionally that if a million
people are needed to provide a sufficient number of
students for a university, then two million people
should have two universities. One can also say that,
other things being equal, five million people will not
provide a more effective university than one million
people would. The alternative to recognizing these
ratios is to keep on overcrowding and overbuilding a
few existing institutions, thereby limiting, rather than
expanding, their genuine educational facilities.
What is important is not an absolute figure as to
population or area: although in certain aspects of life,
such as the size of city that is capable of reproducing
itself through natural fertility, one can already lay down
such figures. What is more important is to express size
always as a function of the social relationships to be served
. . . There is an optimum numerical size, beyond which
each further increment of inhabitants creates difficulties
out of all proportion to the benefits. There is also an
optimum area of expansion, beyond which further
urban growth tends to paralyze rather than to further
important social relationships. Rapid means of transportation have given a regional area with a radius
of from forty to a hundred miles, the unity that London
and Hampstead had before the coming of the underground railroad. But the activities of small children are
still bounded by a walking distance of about a quarter
of a mile; and for men to congregate freely and
frequently in neighborhoods the maximum distance
means nothing, although it may properly define the
area served for a selective minority by a university,
a central reference library, or a completely equipped
hospital. The area of potential urban settlement has
been vastly increased by the motor car and the airplane; but the necessity for solid contiguous growth,
for the purposes of intercourse, has in turn been
lessened by the telephone and the radio. In the Middle
Ages a distance of less than a half a mile from the city’s
center usually defined its utmost limits. The blockby-block accretion of the big city, along its corridor
avenues, is in all important respects a denial of the
vastly improved type of urban grouping that our fresh
inventions have brought in. For all occasional types of
intercourse, the region is the unit of social life but the
region cannot function effectively, as a well-knit unit,
if the entire area is densely filled with people – since
their very presence will clog its arteries of traffic and
congest its social facilities.
Limitations on size, density, and area are absolutely
necessary to effective social intercourse; and they are
therefore the most important instruments of rational
economic and civic planning. The unwillingness in the
past to establish such limits has been due mainly to
two facts: the assumption that all upward changes in
magnitude were signs of progress and automatically
“good for business,” and the belief that such limitations
were essentially arbitrary, in that they proposed
to “decrease economic opportunity” – that is, opportunity for profiting by congestion – and to halt the
inevitable course of change. Both these objections
are superstitious.
Limitations on height are now common in American
cities; drastic limitations on density are the rule in
all municipal housing estates in England: that which
could not be done has been done. Such limitations do
not obviously limit the population itself: they merely
give the planner and administrator the opportunity to
multiply the number of centers in which the population
is housed, instead of permitting a few existing centers
to aggrandize themselves on a monopolistic pattern.
These limitations are necessary to break up the functionless, hypertrophied urban masses of the past.
Under this mode of planning, the planner proposes
to replace the “mononucleated city,” as Professor
Warren Thompson has called it, with a new type of
“polynucleated city,” in which a cluster of communities,
adequately spaced and bounded, shall do duty for the
badly organized mass city. Twenty such cities, in a
city reader-5th-02-c
Page 95
region whose environment and whose resources were
adequately planned, would have all the benefits of a
metropolis that held a million people, without its
ponderous disabilities: its capital frozen into unprofitable
utilities, and its land values congealed at levels that
stand in the way of effective adaptation to new needs.
Mark the change that is in process today. The
emerging sources of power, transport, and communication do not follow the old highway network at all.
Giant power strides over the hills, ignoring the
limitations of wheele …
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