A city is not a man-made thing. Rather, it emerges from the actions of its inhabitants, who interact in unpredictable yet orderly ways. Under the right conditions – the right “rules of the game” – what arises is vital, creative, radically unpredictable, and profitable: the living city.
Neither can it be inefficient, because that too presupposes a system-wide plan. Both efficiency and inefficiency presume that we know how things ought to be, what success and failure look like, and that’s impossible in the urban dynamic. Instead, borrowing from ecology (and certain heterodox schools of economic thought), we might say that a living city is a “dynamically stable” process, in which the forces of positive and negative feedback, as well as sudden mutation and diversity, combine under the right conditions to generate order through time. It embodies trial and error, surpluses and shortages, apparently useless duplication, conflict and disappointment, trust and opportunism, and discovery and radical change. These are in the nature of the living city.
Another piece to look forward to! Sounds like Sandy touches on some similar themes to Mathieu Helie’s upcoming piece on Emergent Urbanism.