Cities Have a Metabolism


The recent John E. Woltz Symposium at the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Architecture, asked faculty, students, and eight invited panelists to consider “urban metabolism” as a mix of social and ecological flows, structures, and processes. In his keynote address, Scott Lash, a professor at Goldsmiths College, University of London, introduced urban metabolism as the “life-sustaining, dynamic transformations within and between urban objects and urban forms of life. Being life-sustaining, they allow the city to maintain structures, reproduce, and respond to the environment.” While discussion often centers on the flows of the city, urban metabolism, he emphasized, is about structure, form, and objects. It’s imperative to break from standard thinking in order to understand the “being” of the city. “What is at its core?,” asked Lash. The symposium’s goal was to then examine the role of “quasi-objects,” “world objects,” and “hyper-objects” in our understanding of the urban realm.

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