Seven Cities by Tom Dyckhoff
(Random House, 2014)

Seven Cities

by Tom Dyckhoff

The city has undergone a radical transformation over the last fifty years. We now live in a world where vast sums are pumped into creating ‘iconic’ architecture: monuments that project the idea of prosperity and posterity, but are subject to the whims of turbulent economies and fashions. Factories become luxury apartments, shopping parades give way to megastores, plinths and office blocks tower above city centres - all designed to create a sense of identity and, crucially, worth. That is, until the cracks start to show.

Taking seven cities at seven key moments over the last fifty years, Tom traces the story of urban life from the joyless mass housing developments of Paris in 1958 - that would play a key role in the Spring riots a decade later - to the empty designer homes that encircle Dublin today as the tiger economy enters its death throes. From reactionary Marxist theory to John Prescott’s lyrical waxing about colour tone, we see how a new urban blueprint was designed to fit our consumer economy and rolled out en masse across the world, to cities like Portland, Barcelona, London, and even Portsmouth– in most cases without the funds or skills to back it up.

Countless books have been written about the influence of business, leisure, art, travel, on society, but architecture has missed out. Seven Cities will entertainingly and authoritatively address this gap.