City and the American Dream

Image of New York City Skyline.


At a young age I was once asked to draw the world so I drew a city.

This was no ordinary city. Its builders chose to carve the city out of a mountain.

Towards the base of the mountain rested the slums. The further one elevated vertically towards the mountain peak, one would notice the more luxurious and posh the lives of the city’s inhabitants became.

There were no roads or automobiles in this city. Citizens were forced to remain and interact in the neighborhoods they were born into. The only mode of transportation was a gondola line that ran from flat land all the way up to the mountain’s peak.

I showed my father this drawing of a city later that day after school. He was puzzled. He asked me why I perceived a city to be this way.

To this day I am not sure why I deliberately chose to create slum when there doesn’t have to be. I do not know why I chose to provide higher quality of life for people that could afford to live at the top of the mountain.

There seemed to be an inherent truth that I was lead to believe about a city that I could not refuse when attempting to create one.

If we look at the city described above and the dream that its creators sought out to achieve, the results in my opinion are quite startling. What’s more startling is that the city described above is quite typical in many class structures seen around the world. The difference between the city described above and others like it around the world are purely aesthetic. The values however are quite similar.

The ideal city is the opposite of the city described above. The ideal city exists to enable the individual or a people to achieve a dream. The city acts as the medium between the individual and the vision that the individual or the people has.

In this ideal city, sub-division between those with privilege and those without is declared an injustice because this city exists in order to achieve a greater good, collectively.

In this ideal city the hope for its future does not reside in its current leaders but it’s emphases on the children for they shall be the ones that inherit the city and will choose to do with it as they please. History has proven this notion to be the truth; all the way from the academies of Greece, to the industrial neighborhoods of Lowell, to the mega cities of China.

A truly great city as declared by Reyner Banham in his documentary titled, Reyner Banham Loves Los Angeles once said that, “A truly great city offers a man (and woman) a mechanism for imposing his own style and his own vision on the rest of the world.”It was for this kind of thing that the young William Shakespeare came to London already choking in appall of coal smog . . . a rotten city in many ways but the only place that a young dramatist could make it and get his style through to a larger public at that time. It was for this kind of reason that generations of painters were prepared to starve in the garrets of Paris. . . It takes a city to support style and craft, but it takes a very great city indeed to impose that style on the rest of the world.”

Let us not judge a city’s greatness on behalf of its public buildings or architectural beauty, but its ability to create progressive thinkers and wonderful people.

It should be our sole objective as inheritor’s of the city to do just that!

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