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

Executive Summary

On the first of October, 2004, in the final symposium of Columbia University's 250th anniversary celebration, architects, historians, lawyers, political theorists, and others gathered for "The 21st-Century City and Its Values: Urbanism, Toleration, and Equality." The symposium was organized by two distinguished Columbia faculty members: Hilary Ballon, professor of art history and archaeology, and Ira Katznelson, Ruggles Professor of Political Science. Alan Brinkley, provost, welcomed the speakers and attendees.

The first session of the day focused on the value of urbanism. Hilary Ballon began by articulating what it meant to use the term as a value: "Undirected growth or wanton development are not 'urbanism' in the sense that we mean, because 'urbanism' implies a conscious effort to shape the city and make it a more habitable place, however that goal may be defined . . . ." Following Ballon were three architects—Yung Ho Chang, Steven Holl, and Marilyn Jordan Taylor—who spoke about the practice of urbanism as it related to specific large-scale projects in Asia, and the session concluded with remarks by Mark Wigley, dean of the school of architecture at Columbia.

Following a break for lunch, the second session addressed toleration. Ira Katznelson, in his introduction of Martha Nussbaum, noted that "If heterogeneity and diversity—as we heard this morning—are the most cherished values of cities and urbanism, then the complex concept of toleration must be its underpinning." Nussbaum addressed the concept of toleration via a journey through Western political philosophy, arriving at a complex ideal that took into account elements of Locke, Kant, Mill, and Rawls and promoted the idea of a state that vigorously championed toleration. Kathleen Sullivan, the respondent, played devil's advocate to many of Nussbaum's ideas from the perspective of a constitutional lawyer.

The final session of the day addressed equality. Lisa Anderson introduced Partha Chatterjee, who maintained that "different groups and classes employ different strategies by using different economic, ethical, and aesthetic arguments to press their often-conflicting claims to a right to the city," and he looked at specific examples of such strategies such as theatre and football in Calcutta in the earlier part of the century to illuminate this argument. Richard Sennett was the final speaker of the symposium, and he turned the discussion from the value of equality to the reality of inequality, focusing on three problems: "One has to do with . . . growth, the second has to do with the urban geography of inequality, and the third has to do with class structure."

In addition to hearing from the moderators, speakers, and respondents, a number of questions were taken from the audience, and all of the sessions prompted lively discussion.
Video Archive
View video highlights of the symposium and a transcript of the proceedings.
Conference Transcript
View the full text of the conference (PDF).
Quotations from the conference speakers.
Keynote Speaker Bios
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