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The etymology of the word “city” says it derives from Middle English citie, large or small town; from Anglo-French cité; from Medieval Latin civitat, civitas; from Latin, civis, citizen — you get the drift — full-on to that big loaded word civilization. The summit of human achievement, some would say, incubator of culture, game-board of politics, arena of ideas, ladder of prosperity, soul of a nation. “Divine or celestial, the city reflects with the space of European culture a religious ideal of ‘collective life’, on which converge all the major issues of future society. The eater of men and the producer of social regulations, of power conflicts and culture shocks….” say Hours and Dumons (City and Religion in Europe from the 16th to the 20th century — The Re-enchanted City.)

Behold the London skyline of our time. Has something gone wrong at the summit of civilization? Is something ailing this organism? Did the latest buildings have too much to drink? Have they opted out of the consensus for what a building is supposed to signify. . . say, decorum, harmony of aspiration, semiotic coherence? Does each new one present the symptoms of Cluster-B personality disorder marked by inappropriate, volatile emotionality, and often unpredictable behavior?  It all seems to beg a question: What new anarchy awaits in 2024?

Thanks to Breck Breckenridge for the nomination.

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About James Howard Kunstler

View all posts by James Howard Kunstler
James Howard Kunstler is the author of many books including (non-fiction) The Geography of Nowhere, The City in Mind: Notes on the Urban Condition, Home from Nowhere, The Long Emergency and the four-book series of World Made By Hand novels, set in a post economic crash American future. His most recent book is Living in the Long Emergency; Global Crisis, the Failure of the Futurists, and the Early Adapters Who Are Showing Us the Way Forward. Jim lives on a homestead in Washington County, New. York, where he tends his garden and communes with his chickens.

5 Responses to “January 2024”

  1. Dr. Coyote January 3, 2024 at 8:11 pm #

    Everything to the right of center in the photo appears to have been designed by Dr. Seuss. I’m not sure of the deep significance of this, however I suppose that some people might want to live in Grinch Towers overlooking the lovely neighborhood of Whoville.

  2. tom clark January 3, 2024 at 9:23 pm #

    Plenty of architectural ego trips here. At least the jogger adds a touch of humanity to the sordid scene.

  3. tucsonspur January 6, 2024 at 4:47 am #

    What we see here is an unmitigated hollow utilitarianism, without serenity, without beauty, without soul. What we see here is not a skyline, but a cryline or a dieline, exhibiting an almost unbearable, uninhibited lack of uniformity in its cacophonous construction.

    John Ruskin once said, rather alarmingly, that architecture was the ‘decoration of construction’. Pugin added, ‘it’s alright to decorate construction, but never construct decoration’. Here we have an undecorated, desultory dissonance, dismantling the human spirit with its disparate disquietude.

    Let me take refuge in Arundel Castle or Blenheim Palace and the days of yesteryear, so that I may lose these visions of modern, malignant creations on the now shaky bedrock of civilization.

  4. BackRowHeckler January 6, 2024 at 5:05 pm #

    I wonder why this absurd architecture has emerged in mostly Western European cities, but cities in Eastern Europe — St. Petersburg, Prague, Budapest — the architecture has remained more traditional & I would submit more human oriented?

  5. JimInFlorida2.0 January 7, 2024 at 3:35 pm #

    It can all be summed up as Modernism.Turned Cancerous.

    The original rebellion against decorum has been overthrown repeatedly by increasing levels of malevolent expression. It must seek greater feats of spiritual agitation to prove its “newness.”

    Very Jewish.

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