by the Editors
An introduction to two issues examining our current urban situation and what lies beyond it: the city’s past and its future; the suburban, the exurban, the frontier.
As the economy has collapsed, the foreclosure crisis has metastasized, and the systems of finance that powered the global construction boom have degenerated, we’ve come to see the past few decades as an agreeable daydream—of what could be bought, what could be built, and what could be justified. For so many people in America and elsewhere, those years were a reverie of easy credit and adjustable-rate mortgages, masking stagnant wages and yawning inequality.
All that fictitious money left its factual mark in the soil; the scaffolded remainders of hallucinated wealth surround us. Of course, the built environment is irreducible to a single point or a single analysis: Cities are accretions of what is designed and what is improvised, what is chosen and what is received, what is imagined and what is experienced. Likewise, the concept of urbanism now exceeds any fixed notion of the twentieth-century city, encompassing informatics and third-world slums, modular megachurches and modernist office towers, master-planned eco-cities in the American Southwest and midtown-Manhattan-themed condos atop the rubble of old Beijing.
Over our next two issues, Triple Canopy
will address these tensions and the spaces and lives they’ve produced, examining our current urban situation and what lies beyond it: the city’s past and its future; the suburban, the exurban, the frontier. As the reign of ego-architecture and its hyper-capitalist financiers comes to an end (or merely changes regents), we will offer alternative forms of and perspectives on urbanism, from artists, researchers, writers, and musicians, as well as architects. More than ever, we need a sense of urbanism that looks backward to move forward, that looks forward to see the present; an urbanism that considers the voices of those without the power to build, and the ideas of architects and planners who have built modestly, critically, or not at all.
Our cities have their foundation in elaborate fictions, but then so does all architecture; what are models and blueprints but stories waiting to be told? Surely, the hallmark of the age has been an untrained and unbridled will to creation in the guise of “growth.” But now that the resources required for dreaming in steel and glass have been momentarily exhausted, the time has come for reckoning, for reimagining the walls with which we’ve built our world and the windows through which we see it.