Lewis Mumford, A Thinker for the Ages Tells a Tale Of Cities Since the Middle Ages

In the beginning, the religiously centered city


It (capitalism) supplanted the old protective economy, based on status, mollified by religious precept, by a trading economy based on individual enterprise and the lust for gain : the economic history of the town is largely a story of the transformation of a group of protected producers living in a state of relative equality, into a small group of privileged merchants for whom the rest of the population ultimately toils Lewis Mumford The Culture of the Cities

The city is a fact in nature, like a cave, a run of mackerel or an ant-heap. But it is also a conscious work of art, and it holds within its communal framework many simpler and more personal forms of art. Mind takes form in the city; and in turn, urban forms condition mind. For space, no less than time, is artfully reorganized in cities: in boundary lines and silhouettes, in the fixing of horizontal planes and vertical peaks, in utilizing or denying the natural site, the city records the attitude of a culture and an epoch to the fundamental facts of its existence. The dome and the spire, the open avenue and the closed court, tell the story, not merely of different physical accommodations, but of essentially different conceptions of man’s destiny. The city is both a physical utility for collective living and a symbol of those collective purposes and unanimities that arise under such favoring circumstance. With language itself, it remains man’s greatest work of art

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