When I think of a city, I get the image of the city centre—a mass of buildings, roads, people and jobs. So if I were to start to describe it, that is how I’d start. It is a place where people live, work, play, travel to and generally do things. I think the dictionary states that a city must have a cathedral to be classed as a city. But I think its architecture and physical form do not just define a city. That is just one part of it: Every city has character- defined by the architecture of the buildings, the density of them, the skyline, the open spaces, the green areas and the colours and textures used. Using these recognizable characteristics, anyone could point and tell you, “that is what a city is,” but then a city is much more.
The others are the things that make up a city that is less tangible and harder to describe. For a start, a city would be nothing without people to live in it. This is one thing that shapes the city. People and the activities they carry out, also the intensity of these activities. This is where a city becomes a civilization and a society. We live in a society that is linked together. Our society is linked through networks, and cities act as the hub of these networks. Trade is one of the main networks. Commercial trade within a city and then its external trade. Corporations, markets, shops. These things also make up a city and are linked to a network linking all cities and people. Other networks that a city has are things like religion. This can also shape the city through religious buildings, architecture or even the limitation of things deemed ‘wrong’ (For instance, some religions wouldn’t allow billboard advertising.) Religion links people and places as well.
Government is another. In some cities, this may be democratic bureaucracies or royalty. Cities can act as seats of power through which the government has control. A network of ideas and exchange of information and knowledge is also clear. A city houses people, and these people generate and share ideas and information through schools, universities, the internet, etc. Of course, physically the city is a transport centre. Roads, trains, planes and boats. It acts as a hub for these transport systems. So from that, I start thinking of the city as a link in a great chain of places and people through these networks. Every city is a part of the world and inter-links. Of course, no city would be complete without people and the activities that people do. Jobs, sports, meetings, fun, work, socializing. These things make up a society, which lives in the city. Each of these people views the city differently. This is another context of what a city is. The city is a symbol.
Slightly different to every person and they recognize different things about their city through their experiences in it. For instance, I see a small field near me that looks out over the city as important. I remember how to get around my city by certain sights and the road systems. The waterfront edge of my city symbolizes the old part of the city, and I like this part. Now, some areas or buildings are designed to symbolize something. Or an entire town plan is built around an idea. These could be older styles to symbolize classicism or tradition. Or radical modernism style to symbolize technological superiority of city wealth. In this way, too, does a city become a symbol. So, the city isn’t just buildings and roads and architecture. It is also a hub of people and networks.
These networks are constantly changing and are vastly complex. The city creates wealth and knowledge and interacts with lots of other people, places and cities. It links a complex chain through transport, trade, money, government, religion, beliefs and ideas. Each city is different, though the form and has its own character. Architecture, land use, road systems, green areas all shape the city and give it this character. A city is a symbol. Each person views the city slightly differently through their experiences and feelings. A city is a place where people live, work, play and travel to and from. It is many different things to many different people.