Friday, December 21, 2012

Friday Grab Bag: The collapse of the nation-state? The return of the city-state?

Today is a Friday, which means it's Grab Bag day.  Here are my two intriguing thoughts for today, thoughts that will remain here as questions in need of answers.  If you've got insights, feel free to chime in:

  1. Have we entered an era where we are witnessing the collapse of the nation-state and the return of the city-state? In the developed world, are New York, Boston, San Francisco, London, Paris, Shanghai more like each other and more like ancient Athens, fortified and yet isolated by economic, political, social and demographic pressures that in effect allow them to make their own foreign policies irrespective of their national political dialogues?  Perhaps it's not just that they are allowed to, but rather that they are forced to.  If these cities are not dependent on the nations that host them but need to interact with labor markets and capital flows from across this globe, where do we go from here?  What does it say about the political divide in the United States where red and blue states seem to be marching in two very different directions at the same time?  Does that rift heal or only grow more intense in this new condition?
  2. When did our sense of architecture include the notion of a disposable building?  Did an American 150 years ago have a very static sense of the future -- life for the next generation will be largely like life is for us now?  Did a European 500 years ago assume that they had reached the pinnacle of human existence?  And, if that notion ever truly existed, that the future would look very much like today, when did it change?  I think it's fair to say that in today's advanced industrialized economies, most would accede to the statement that their lives will be very different 10 years from now.  Technology alone ensures that.  But has this notion of change applied to our buildings as well?  In the 1880s, Cambridge City Hall was designed and built to look like it would be around for a long, long time.  Presumably, that design statement was no accident. Now, buildings go up with an outer skin of glass, conveying a very different feeling about permanence and the role that building will be playing in the future. What are we in fact saying with them?
Ah, random thoughts for a Friday.