Sequestered away in Northampton and now similarly confined on Long Island, yet writing about cities and William H. Whyte level serendipity, I’m getting a little cabin fever. When reading about these topics, however, I find this to share. Graeme Gilloch notes that Kracauer “contrasts the cityscape as deliberate construction and as unforeseeable improvisation” in his meditation on Berlin (2007: 121). Gilloch goes on to quote him at length:
One can distinguish between two types of cityscape: those which are consciously fashioned and those which come about unintentionally. The former spring from the artistic will as realized in those squares, vistas, building ensembles and perspectives which Baedecker generally sees fit to highlight with a star. In contrast, the latter come into being without prior plan. They are not, like the Pariser Platz or the Place de la Concorde, compositions owing their existence to some unifying building ethos. Rather, they are creations of chance and as such cannot be called to account. Such a cityscape, itself never the object of any particular interest, occurs wherever masses of stone and streets meet, the elements of which emerge from quite disparate interests. It is as unfashioned as Nature itself, and can be likened to a landscape in that it asserts itself unconsciously. Unconcerned about its visage, it bides its time.
In my online travels, I also came across one of my favorite New York writers, Luc Sante, who has a lovely online archive of a blog on visual information.