— Field Notes

From The Book of Disquietude:

Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily. It is a journey of the spirit through the material world, and since it is the spirit that travels, it is in the  spirit it is experienced. That is why there exists contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely, more tumultuously than others who have lived their lives purely externally. The end result is what matters. What one felt is what one experienced. One retires to bed as wearily from having dreamed as from having done physical labor. One never lives so intensely as when one has Been thinking hard.

   Translated by Margaret Jull Costa

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” . . . I should tell you of the hidden Berenice, the city of the just, handling makeshift materials in the shadowy rooms behind the shops and beneath the stairs, linking a network of wires and pipes and pulleys and pistons and counterweights that infiltrates like a climbing plant among the great cogged wheels (when they jam, a subdued ticking gives warning that a new precision mechanism is governing the city)”

– Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities , quoted in The Just Metropolis

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From Mike Davis’s crucial book (2006)

shape of the city:
“the cities of the future, rather than being made out of glass and steel as envisioned by earlier generations of Urbanists, are instead largely constructed out of crude brick, straw, recycled plastic, cement blocks, and scrap wood. Instead of cities of light soaring toward heaven, much of the twenty-first-century urban world squats in squalor, surrounded by pollution, excrement, and decay.”


informal workers:

“a billion people currently live in slums and more than a billion people are informal workers, struggling for survival…the entire future growth of humanity will occur in cities, overwhelmingly poor cities, and the majority of it in slums.”

"The informal sector generates jobs not by elaborating new divisions of labour, but by fragmenting existing work, and thus subdividing incomes." 

Benefits of density:

“Urban density can translate into great efficiencies in land, energy and resource use, while democratic public spaces and cultural institutions likewise provide qualitatively higher standards of enjoyment than individualized consumption and commodified leisure.”

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Painting by  Jan Mandyn – The Temptation of Saint Anthony -  1530

“Possibly, Flaubert was responding to an experience of the fantastic which was singularly modern and relatively unknown before his time, to the discovery of a new imaginative space in the 19th century. This domain of phantasms is no longer the night, the sleep of reason, or the uncertain void that stands before desire, but, on the contrary, wakefulness, untiring attention, zealous erudition, and constant vigilance. Henceforth, the visionary experience arises from the black and white surface of printed signs, from the closed and dusty volume that opens with a flight of forgotten words; fantasies are carefully deployed in the hushed library, with its columns of books, with its titles aligned on shelves to form a tight enclosure, but within confines that also liberate impossible worlds. The imaginary now resides between the book and the lamp.”

Michel Foucault, Fantasia of the Library (on Flaubert’s Temptation of Saint Anthony)


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Photo by Jay Maude

This city, however, does not tell its past, but contains it like the lines of a hand, written in the coursers of the streets, the gratings of the windows, the banisters of the steps, the antennae of the lightening rods, the poles of the flags, every segment marked in turn with scratches, indentations, scrolls.”

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It has neither name nor place. I shall repeat the reason I was describing it to you: from the number of imaginable cities we must exclude those whose elements are assembled without a connecting thread, an inner rule, a perspective, a discourse. With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, its reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.

~Italo Calvino

Invisible Cities ~ (tr. William Weaver) ~ San Diego : Harcourt Brace, 1974 / pg 44

Via the quotation Blog:  The Infinite Conversation

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