“Why does it matter that we keep cities complex but incomplete?” asks Dutch-American sociologist Saskia Sassen on the TED 2013 stage in late February in Long Beach California. One reason, she says, “is the obsoleteness of buildings,” and she shows photos of buildings taken in Shanghai.
She’s a Robert S. Lynd Professor of Sociology at Columbia University and Centennial visiting Professor at the London School of Economics. Sassen is known for coining the term global city.
She says, “the city is a space historically for those without power, it’s where prisoners and immigrants arrived. It’s the capacity of an urban space for these people can go to create. It’s where gays could go, be accepted and work on projects. It’s where things moved, grew and innovated.”
assen asks as we move into the future and think about what cities mean to us and will mean to us, “what are the spaces that can create a distance between that suspect world and us?” She asserts that it belongs in imperfect cities. In a high tech city, the logic of the engineer will dominate it. We can still execute our projects and unsettle the technology – it’s a sense of open source technological system within these spaces in cities. She says that we need divergence of the inhabitant and the engineer and that we have to find a way to keep our cities complex but also incomplete.
In global cities, you have urban capital: it’s the sum of knowledge of all the specialties. It’s a place that has its own speech and its own way of talking back. Consider how many cities have been burnt down and rebuilt. Ending her talk, she re-asserts again that we will have a lot of dead obsolete cities unless we ensure that they are kept complex but incomplete.