We are in the last days of the city guide. At least in the way we’ve come to know it: landmarks, street names, architecture. Some theologians still talk about the soul, but define it not as entity or essence, rather the sum of all our networks, all our interactions. I see talk of cities going the same way. Future city guides will be as much about virtual maps and apps as iconic buildings. Manchester has always been a futuristic city. It defined – in its massive mills and opulent office buildings – what an industrial city should look like. In recent years it has blazed a trail in urban regeneration. As Owen Hatherley puts it: Manchester has always been a futuristic city. It defined – in its massive mills and opulent office buildings – what an industrial city should look like. ‘What other cities have dabbled in with piecemeal ineptitude, Manchester has implemented with total efficiency’. In the next decade, I expect this city to show us what a virtual metropolis feels like. Already in Manchester, you can sign up for ‘data walks’ at weekends, attempting to discover (through smartphones and other portable devices) the unseen digital structures and networks between, below, beyond and beside the streets and buildings. But Niklaus Pevsner’s classic approach (county by county, building by building) probably has five years, ten if we’re lucky, and bricks-and-mortar Manchester is well worth a look.
more from Michael Symmons Roberts at Granta here.