Sunday, May 08, 2005

Ephemeral City

Joel Kotkin writes about the San Francisco as the "ephemeral city", and attributes the prediction of this to H.G. Wells.

There is historical precedent in the ephemeral city phenomenon. Cities are natural theaters. In the past, cities provided the overwhelmingly rural populations around them with a host of novel experiences unavailable amid the hay fields.

Rome, the first mega-city, developed these functions to an unprecedented level. It boasted both the first giant shopping mall -- the multi-story Mercatus Traini -- and the Colosseum, where urban entertainments grew monstrous both in its size and nature.

Maybe it makes sense for some cities to hitch their futures to their role as cultural and entertainment centers -- one hopes without resorting to gladiatorial contests. This is a transformation that H.G. Wells predicted over a century ago. He saw the transition of urban centers from commanding centers toward a "bazaar, a great gallery of shops and places of concourse and rendezvous."

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