No way to fathom a city
‘A city is a particular kind of place, perhaps best described as many worlds in one place; it compounds many versions without reconciling them.’ Rebecca Solnit[i]
Cadman’s Cottage is the oldest surviving residence in the City of Sydney. The sandstone cottage was built (1815–1816) as offices for the Governor’s 52-man boat crew. The oldest building in Greater Sydney (and Australia’s oldest) is Elizabeth Farm in Rosehill, built in 1793 by John Macarthur. In 2009, archaeologists found a midden, on the eastern side of Cockle Bay (Darling Harbour) which would be thousands of years old. Ten Aboriginal stone artefacts found show that this was an Aboriginal campsite.
I had an hour to kill and it was raining so I took the train to Burwood, had never been before – was hoping for a café and some breakfast. I hadn’t realised that it is a Chinese suburb, with no café’s like in my old Inner West haunts, and of little immediately apparent interest. I was reminded that here is an election soon, and how both major parties are ignoring our fundamental issues.
I had a long chat with these lads, while being filmed, about – yes recycling.
This fig is looking healthy, but its opportunities in life are going to be limited.
I read Jonathan Raban’s ‘Soft City’ in the mid-seventies, and found his account of exploring his new city London, fascinating – not knowing that I would live in cities for much of the rest of my life (Bristol and then Sydney).
‘Living in cities is an art, and we need the vocabulary of art, of style, to describe the peculiar relationship between man and material that exists in the continual creative play of urban living. The city as we imagine it, then, soft city of illusion, myth, aspiration, and nightmare, is as real, maybe more real, than the hard city one can locate on maps in statistics, in monographs on urban sociology and demography and architecture.’ Raban [ii]
This pigeon wandered around, waited for its stop and the doors to open and then hopped into a carriage open opposite.
This city is a global city, a new kind of city Saskia Sassen argues. She writes, ‘One of the key properties of the current phase is the ascendance of information technologies and the associated increase in the mobility and liquidity of capital.’ [iii] This results in:
- concentration of wealth in the hands of owners, partners, and professionals associated with the high-end firms in this system;
- a growing disconnection between the city and its region;
- the growth of a large marginalized population that has a very hard time earning a living in the marketplace defined by these high-end activities.
So that, ‘Rather than constituting an economic engine that gradually elevates the income and welfare of the whole population, the modern global city funnels global surpluses into the hands of a global elite dispersed over a few dozen global cities.’ [iv]
[i] Rebecca Solnit, introduction, Infinite City: A San Francisco Atlas, U of California P, 2010.
[ii] Jonathan Raban, Soft City, Hamish Hamilton, 1974.
[iii] Saskia Sassen, ‘The Global City: introducing a Concept’, The Brown Journal of World Affairs, Vol XI:2, 2005, p27.
[iv] Daniel Little, ‘The global city: Saskia Sassen’ September 15, 2013. https://understandingsociety.blogspot.com/2013/09/the-global-city-saskia-sassen.html
[v] Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities, (1972), Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1974.