Brain Pickings

Lewis Mumford on the City: Rare Footage from 1963

What Dutch highways have to do with Canadian documentaries and the psychology of protests.

Last week, we explored 7 essential books about cities, perhaps the most influential of which was the 1961 volume The City in History: Its Origins, Its Transformations, and Its Prospects by prolific author, philosopher and urbanism icon Lewis Mumford. In 1963, the National Film Board of Canada produced six 27-minute documentaries for a series entitled Mumford On The City. In this rare surviving footage of the series’ closing titles, Mumford articulates the ideology of urbanism long before it reached its contemporary tipping point and presages essential issues we grapple with today as we try to understand and optimize our cities, from transportation to communication to violent protest.

The city multiplies man’s power to think, to remember, to educate, to communicate, and so to make possible associations which bridge and bypass nations, cultures. This mixture, this cosmopolitanism, is the chief source of the city’s vitality. And we must enlarge and enrich it as we move towards a new urban form.”

Published September 2, 2011




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