The Urbanity Myth
Excerpts from "Urbanität. Ein Mythos und sein Potential"
By Thomas Wüst

Celebrations of Urbanity - The Urban Reinventors, Issue Nr. 2, December 2007

The concept of Urbanity seems timelessly modern. However, the subject matter is quite confusing. In fact, addressing the question of what urbanity actually is, still doesn’t bring us to a rigorous answer. Countless conventions, symposia, seminars, workshops, forums, reports, lectures, contests, projects, exhibitions, publications and research papers have hardly been able to change this fact. At best, they have only managed to illuminate single facets, without actually coping with the core meaning of urbanity itself.

[…] Urbanity is timelessly modern even as an urban development political goal. Even the strongest critiques against the validity of the notion of urbanity certainly haven’t curtailed its popularity. Urbanity is a timeless fascination, and it’s resilient to any critique […].

The “strong effectiveness” of the word urbanity is illustrated by Wefing (1998: 86-87): “The word evokes images. Speaking of urbanity, we call to mind a sequence of dreamy city views. Rain on the asphalt, soft filtered light under leaves of the trees, and the dust of the streets. Ideal images of an urban utopia that embraces in one San Gimignano and St. Michael’s Boulevard. A far-away place of longing, on whose avenue are the tables of cafés, where the scent of coffee lingers in the air, light wine is poured in glasses, where voices, calls, the honking of cars overlap. A city that whirrs day and night, summer and winter, in wind and nice weather, always lively, loud, and tumultuous. A city of casual encounters, worldly discussions and civil manners, where forks clink behind the big windows of the cafés and restaurants and pretty women quietly laugh about the speeches of poets”.

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First published by VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, May 2004. All rights reserved.

Dr. Thomas Wüst, born in 1965, studied Sociology at the University of Hamburg (Master in 1994). He has been working as a consultant in the fields of urban renewal, housing and the prevention of homelessness (from 1994 to 1998), as a research assistant at the Faculty of Spatial Planning, University of Dortmund (from 1998 to 2005; Ph.D. in 2003); since 2005 Wüst is author of scientific teaching material and lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences in Bremen.

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