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City as Civilization: From Ecumenopolis to Res Communis

11:00 AM, Thursday 26 May 2022 (20 minutes)

The study of cities purely as discrete objects—that begin and end in a bounded condition—is becoming increasingly obsolete. As Clare Lyster describes in her book, Learning from Logistics: How Networks Change Our Cities (2016), questions of the urban must now contend with a vast landscape of connected systems of exchange. Cities—no longer contained to their historical, political or territorial boundaries— are becoming increasingly enmeshed in a planetary-scale theater of material flows responsive to international geopolitics, regimes of extraction and consumption, and inertia towards the elaboration of what could aptly be described as an “ecumenopolis”—a “world city,” a term first conceptualized by Isaac Asimov (“Black Friar of the Flame” in the Foundation series, 1942), later re-articulated by C. A. Doxiadis (1967), reframed by Henri Lefebvre (La révolution urbaine, 1970), and updated to contemporary frameworks by Neil Brenner (Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization, 2014). Simultaneously, moving in scale from the macro to micro will reveal cities today to be contending with a variety of challenges.

Building on this context, this research aims to ask a radical question: Can global materials flows be mined for opportunities for revitalization of the urban at a local scale? Or, worded differently, What planetary-scale movements and trends can be operationalized to choreograph and reinject new industry—and therefore vibrancy—into struggling cities? With the City of Calgary as a case-study, this paper will also present a series of graduate student-led data-driven geospatial visualizations articulated as videographic essays that explore the multi-scalar, networked relationships between various planetary movements and material flows and the static physicality of space that articulates how the global can inform the local.

University of Calgary
Assistant Professor of Urbanism and Data in Architecture
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