The 21st-Century City and Its Values:Urbanism, Toleration, and Equality

October 1, 2004
The 21st-Century City and Its Values:Urbanism, Toleration, and Equality

Hilary Ballon
Hilary Ballon, Columbia University

"The heterogeneity of the city makes it a place of peril and potential, a place that tests the human capacity to coexist in harmony with those unlike ourselves. And because of this concentration of difference, certain values are especially critical to civic life. Our symposium puts three values on the table: urbanism, toleration, and equality-values which are fiercely tested and forged in the city and which we deem essential to the quality of urban life."

Yung Ho Chang
Yung Ho Chang, Peking University

"The city as we know it, American and urban models, may hardly matter at all in the twenty-first century. Explosive growth, especially along the Asia-Pacific Rim, has brought about new forms of cities, often called megacities. They are characterized by enormous size, extreme density, and building projects at a vast scale."

"So our idea is that, first of all, we'd like not to say to restore the ecology or even the topography—I think that would be unrealistic—but to take on whatever the existing condition is, but maybe use architecture, use development, as a way, almost like a thread, to sew the damaged land and the remaining parts together."

Steven Holl
Steven Holl, Columbia University

"And our project develops from my first sketch in the old town of Nanning to see these wonderful streets with shops below and mom and pop living upstairs and a courtyard in the back, and I thought, 'Why couldn't this be a twenty-first-century morphology, a real pedestrian street, a real possibility of a mom-and-pop computer shop, or whatever it could be?' Okay, maybe it's working with doubt. I saw that."

"So when I finished this Zhang Lei got up and in Mandarin said, 'What's important here is the spiritual aspect. We know we can sell all of these apartments.' You know, it's like being on a different planet."

Marilyn Jordan Taylor
Marilyn Jordan Taylor, Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill

"Shanghai may be to the twenty-first century what New York was to the twentieth, yet our city, New York, remains extraordinary. As Kenneth Jackson, professor, writes, 'Americans need New York because New York is one of the few places in the country that allows difference to be celebrated, that allows people to reach their full potential. . . . New York is really the hope of the future because it's there for all of us. Whether we never go there, whether we never see New York'—imagine that—"whatever small town or small city we're from, it's important that we know that New York is there to welcome us in case we want to be different."

"As projected by the United Nations in its assessment of world-urbanization prospects, this is the decade and 2007 is the year in which for the first time the number of urban dwellers will equal the number of rural dwellers."

Mark Wigley
Mark Wigley, Columbia University

"That is to say, the best way for us, certainly for Columbia, to engage in, let's say, a debate about the global city would be to simply try to understand our own city thoroughly, so thoroughly that we would then be able to engage in fruitful dialogue with other cities."

"[A]rchitects don't design cities, and they don't even design for cities. Rather, they develop kind of reflections on what a city might be."

"[A] city is a machine to not only accommodate, but to increase diversity."

"[I]ntolerance of difference is the only enemy of the city,"

Martha Nussbaum
Martha Nussbaum, University of Chicago

"How then can a respectful pluralistic society shore up the fragile human basis of toleration, especially in a world in which we need to cultivate toleration not only within each state but also among peoples and states in this interdependent world?"

Kathleen Sullivan
Kathleen Sullivan, Stanford University

"The notion that to have privacy when you're in a small space with many others in dense proximity, you must avert your gaze, not to pry, not to look inside the lives of strangers, to maintain the illusion of privacy even in the most dense and confined of spaces. And on this view, the last thing you'd want to do if you've fled the farm for the big city is to have Walt Whitman sing you, and thereby out you to the folks back home."

"So in other words, the vision is the street is neutral turf in which different groups can come at different times to express their own message without necessarily the toleration of others being forced within their own arena. It's an image of a shifting and kaleidoscopic array of different partial perspectives to be celebrated, rather than a patchwork quilt in which we celebrate them all at once."

Partha Chatterjee
Partha Chatterjee, Columbia University

"But urban democracy raised the specter of an equal right to the city that threatened the privileges of the ruling class. The latter responded by expelling the poor from the urban center and destroying urbanity."

"The power of the theater in reaching a wide urban public was palpable. Within four years of the launching of the first Bengali Public Theater, the colonial government enacted in 1876 a law to give itself the right to prohibit any dramatic performance that, in its opinion, was 'scandalous, defamatory, seditious, obscene, or otherwise prejudicial to the public interest.' "

Richard Sennett
Richard Sennett, London School of Economics

"There are labor conduits, but the more—statistically, the more important phenomenon for job loss in the United States particularly is what's called job extinction rather than job conduits."

"The old lens for measuring inequality was to look from the poverty-stricken bottom up, that is, to make measures of deprivation and inequality from starting from the bottom. My own view as an urbanist is that today we need a different kind of optic to—thank you for turning that off—that today we need a different kind of optic for measuring inequality, that is, we need to be able to measure from the center to the top, as well as from the bottom to the middle."
Video Archive
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Executive Summary
Précis of the Proceedings
Keynote Speaker Bios
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