All Over the Map

From The Telegraph:

The New York architect Michael Sorkin is celebrated for his utopian urban creations. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst assesses his bold artistic vision, and argues that we create the most vivid cities in our own imagination.

City In his inaugural lecture at Cambridge, the poet A E Housman pointed out that a boy who makes mud pies also turns himself into a little lord of creation. His scooping and scraping form “a small world out of a small chaos”, and once finished he can “behold the works of his hands” and pronounce it “pretty good”. Many people never grow out of this desire to create new worlds. Long after hanging up their buckets and spades, adults can enjoy computer games such as City Creator or Virtual City, which allow users to construct entire urban environments online as easily as clicking together pieces of Lego.

Such games encourage fantasies every bit as startling as those depicted in Christopher Nolan’s film Inception, in which a crack team of architects use blueprints and scale models to design a virtual city and then enter it through the portals of the unconscious. Recent games include Fun Ville as well as more earnest enterprises such as Wilsonville, but even the jolliest of such places cannot disguise the fact that they have a population of precisely one. They offer an escape from the loneliness of city life while simultaneously magnifying it to gigantic proportions. Real cities are far harder to control. In a series of journal articles reprinted in this collection, the New York architect Michael Sorkin traces the years of turmoil that followed the 2001 terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.

More here.