Thanks for the response, and good question. Suppose it depends on definitions, but from the earliest days, I suspect cities have been shaped by technical possibility (such as those I describe here, like irrigation, currency, building types, double-entry book-keeping, clocks, looms, trains, sewage, power plants, elevators, cars, containers etc) which while linked to economic return are not necessarily driven by them. I don’t think economics alone can capture all the reasons we shape cities, and yet technologies (defined broadly) are at the heart of that shaping one way or another. So isn’t there something else there, beyond economics, as well as inclusive of it? I’m also suspicious of positions that see ‘economics’ as the almost unilateral driving motive force for humanity (though I’m not saying you’re taking that position)—that has got us into enough trouble, given that ‘economics’, whilst a potentially rich terrain, is too vulnerable to grand sweeping hegemonic trends, such as that we’ve been living through for the last few decades, which has offered an extremely reductive view of the way things happen, with deleterious outcomes. But again: definitions!

Designer, urbanist, etc. Director of Strategic Design at Vinnova, Swedish govt’s innovation agency. Visiting prof UCL Bartlett IIPP + Design Academy Eindhoven

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