8 september 2011

Houston, TX: globalized city "par excellence"

"Houston may well be the globalized city par excellence: rigorous and pure in its shapelessness, cruel, unforgiving and utterly delirious in its conviction that cities need be no more than mega-machines for doing bidness at ever-expanding scales. It also represents a clear omen and model for all other cities everywhere in the world of what the true destiny and impact of economic globalization could be for human societies." 

Houston is rooted in nothing more specific or local than the mechanical air-conditioning systems that made it conceivable as a site of mass inhabitation. It is now the third largest city in the United States. It serves as an experimental model for nearly all developing cities in the world.
Houston is famous for being a city without zoning. There is almost no control whatsoever on the development and exploitation of its territory for individual and corporate profit. Development is exposed to economic fluctuation on all levels from local to global. Because of this the urban organization has become a strange pathwork of micro-ecologies, cities-within-cities, owned and created by corporations. Through the contiual annexation of surrounding lands, Houston has been able to grow almost without limits.

Downtown Houston in middle (Highrise buildings) with periphery

"The American Frontier city is often crisscrossed by easements, like vast expansion joints whose purpose might be to relieve the built up pressure from aggravated local pockets of hyper-development. In Houston these vast byways create access routes for pipelines, waterways, electric cables, even grazing. Yet like the Haussmanization of Paris a century earlier, the overlay of this remarkably efficient connective mesh imposes a hidden order of almost military effect and proposition.
Even amid the apparent dereliction of these spaces an extraordinary process of demarcation and destruction is taking place, a huge grifter narrative unfolding at the industrial and Metropolitan scale.
To the conventional eye these easements and utilities merely slice up the landscape, creating tiny unusable slivers of urban ejecta and unusable space. But from another perspective they create a vast rational network of continuous semi-functional space, matched only by the freeway system.


Houston "easements"


Sources:
Mutations, Arc en Reve, 2001, Bordeaux



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