All parts of the globe are now viewable by anyone, reachable, tracked, networked, and within reach of all others−in short, urban. At the same time, while there is no place outside of the city, it isn't just a city anymore: it's an unbounded, mediated environment. Cities densify flows of itinerant populations, and trail off into power lines, drinking water, and exchange networks thousands of miles away. As we develop notions of the sustainable metropolis, what city are we imagining, Utopian or otherwise? Which narratives of agrarianism, modernism, globalism, medievalism, or neo-liberalism are being smuggled in?
The urban imaginary constructs relationships between urban form and public access in the broadest sense. The shifting fortunes of the city and suburb in postindustrial America, for example, call up images of the medieval city and Jeffersonian populism. Density and sprawl advocates alike grapple with these narratives in the face of contemporary trends: megacity expansion, post-industrial shrinkage, and the emergence of foreclosure ghettos. When municipal and nation-state boundaries neither align with the city core nor reinforce its collective will, do we reach out or regroup? Do we re-power networks of resource extraction, trade, and ecosystem behavior extending beyond the nation-state? Or do we form new experimental enclaves, from the single building to the self-sustaining city to the free trade zone?
Alongside these notions of territory, planning mechanisms come into question, framing patterns of use and governance. While some call for top-down planning to organize large scale infrastructures, others advocate pilot projects or interventions at local scales. How relevant is the master plan? How does architectural practice work in relationship to the scale of planning?