Sunday, September 7, 2008

Metropolis Now (by: Ramesh Kumar Biswas)


METROPOLIS NOW - A critical, interdisciplinary look at life in metropolitan centres.

The portraits of fifteen cities on four different continents serve to comment upon and analyse both their economic and social realities as well as their identity, recent history, immediate future and the radical transformation in their physical form.
The author visualises a city as a state of mind. More than a mere collection of buildings and streets, it embodies the ideas of progress, of betterment, of success, of construction, but as a matter of course, also their Siamese-twin mirror companions-failure disappointment tragedy, hopelessness and destruction.

Provided here is a rare synthesis of information and specialist knowledge. Urban analysts from the fields of architecture, sociology, contemporary history, cultural studies, geography and journalism have contributed the essays, giving the reader not only an insight into the important features of each metropolis but also into what makes it the city it is today.
The portraits of cities here explore the deeper nature of cities, the milestones in their past that make them the way they are. They look at people, how they use and change the city; at urban cultures that are not just cultural but economic and social. Each city is also used to exemplify at least one of the great themes of our time..globalisation, migration, civil society, the limits of planning and government, creativity, human relationships.

The book is a reflection of the shift in emphasis that the social sciences have undergone, away from a ‘scientific’ listing of dates, individuals or ideologies, towards an intimate nearing to people, their private spheres and tendencies. The book aims at a contemporary history of the metropolis ; a subcutaneous analysis by academics who have not lost the capacity for awe, admiration and excitement.

The fifteen cities being illustrated in the book are Shanghai, Tokyo, Bombay, London, Hongkong, Las Vegas, Marseille, Kuala Lampur, Istanbul, Soweto, Berlin, Sao Paulo, Moscow, Singapore, Vienna.
What do these cities have in common?? WALLS and GATES
Berlin is by no means the only polis to have been divided by a wall. Soweto, Shanghai, Marseille or Bombay all have walls of different materialities, separating people within the same space from each other. The cities also have gates that let in fresh breezes, new groups, ethnicities, ideas and cultural products, all of which undergo an unbelievable process of naturalization and transformation.

Why were these cities chosen??
London and Tokyo were obvious choices, but why Soweto?? Because it represents a new image of emerging cities that is going to replace our traditional picture of high rise skylines, and starkly emphasizing the role of politics in shaping urban form. Why Marseille?? Because it exemplifies an old meeting place of cultures with very contemporary difficulties in dealing with multi-culturality.

The metropolis is a state of mind- each portrait tells you as much about the author as about the city itself.

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