Kieran Long presents a story about the difficulty of describing a city in all its richness. London contains stories and meanings that are alive to its citizens, but apparently too difficult to talk about, too rich, and too messy to be allowed to affect those who decide how the city changes.
The deafness of developers, politicians and architects to these narratives is so acute, that contemporary city-making involves a kind of wilful forgetfulness on the part of these actors. Their desire to reduce the city to operable conceptual horizons (economics, ecology, geography, climate, sociology) and then to develop discourses around these specialised fields makes the development of the city a series of architectural and urban justifications, most of which are impossible for citizens to understand. The architecture profession continues to award the buildings that result, in a desperate attempt to forget what it is they have forgotten.
The Learning from…series takes its title from Learning From Las Vegas (1972), Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour’s influential publication, which analysed the commercial strips and architectural symbolism of Las Vegas in order to understand urban sprawl. In this spirit, the series brings together experts to explore specific urban conditions and their relevance to the future development of cities.