If discourse is the foundation of democracy, how can the design of our cities empower and enable discourse?
“Never have the potential political consequences of architecture been greater, and never has the political sensibility of architecture been less.”
This was the state of the discipline that social theorist and urban thinker Richard Sennett declared when he addressed an audience at the Harvard University Graduate School of Design in 1981. Over a series of six lectures, Sennett presented discourse as the foundation of democracy, and posited that our cities are uniquely positioned to either empower or constrict this discourse—and that the difference could lie in architecture and urban design.
Now, over 40 years later, as political polarization persists and its consequences arise in both new and familiar ways, Democracy and Urban Form revisits questions that remain relevant: If discourse is the foundation of democracy, how can the design of our cities empower and enable discourse?
Richard Sennett currently serves as Senior Advisor to the United Nations on its Program on Climate Change and Cities. He is Senior Fellow at the Center on Capitalism and Society at Columbia University and Visiting Professor of Urban Studies at MIT. He previously founded the New York Institute for the Humanities and taught at New York University and the London School of Economics. Over the last 50 years, he has written about social life in cities, changes in labor, and social theory. His books include The Hidden Injuries of Class, The Fall of Public Man, The Corrosion of Character, and The Culture of the New Capitalism. Among other awards, he has received the Hegel and Spinoza Prizes and an honorary doctorate from Cambridge University.