What is a "global city”? Are distinctions such as urban and rural, society and nature, or city and suburb still useful? When almost all the earth’s surface is subject to human technological intervention, is it time for a new way of understanding urbanization?

Four decades ago, the French sociologist Henri Lefebvre prophesized that the complete urbanization of society was inevitable. Today, we have come to accept a process of global urbanization derived from a set of complex relationships — political, economic, environmental, among others — that bring diverse territories together.  Yet, particularly for those who plan and design cities, there remains a deeply held belief in the value of making distinctions between “cities” as dense agglomerations of culture and capital, and other urbanizing territories.

Part of the Daniels Fora series, “Uber Urbanism” will critically examine the central role that the concept of “city” has in framing how we understand (and study) urbanism, and whether or not cities are a unique “species" among the world’s geographies.


Neil Brenner is Professor of Urban Theory at the Harvard Graduate School of Design. His most recent book is Implosions/Explosions: Towards a Study of Planetary Urbanization (Jovis, 2013). Forthcoming books include New Urban Spaces: Urban Theory and the Scale Question (Oxford University Press, 2016); Is the World Urban? Towards a Critique of Geospatial Ideology (with Nikos Katsikis; Actar, 2016) and Planetary Urbanization (with Christian Schmid; Verso, 2017). In 2014, Brenner was selected as a Thompson Reuters Highly Cited Researcher (www.highlycited.com). Based on Web of Science data, his publications were ranked among the top 1% most cited globally in the general social sciences between 2002 and 2012. Brenner directs the Urban Theory Lab at the Harvard GSD, a research team that uses the tools of critical urban theory, historical geopolitical economy and radical cartography to decipher emergent patterns of urbanization under twenty-first century capitalism.  

Jesse LeCavalier is an award-winning designer, writer, and educator. His book, The Rule of Logistics: Walmart and the Architecture of Fulfillment, is forthcoming from the University of Minnesota Press in 2016. LeCavalier is an assistant professor at the New Jersey School of Architecture where it coordinates the undergraduate special topics design studios. In 2015, he was the recipient of the New Faculty Teaching Award from the Association of the Collegiate Schools of Architecture (ACSA). He was the 2010-11 Sanders Fellow at the University of Michigan and a Poiesis Fellow at the Institute for Public Knowledge at NYU. His research has been supported by the Graham Foundation, the New York State Council for the Arts, and the BMW Foundation. LeCavalier's work has appeared in Public Culture, Art Papers, Monu, JAE, Architectural Design. His article for Cabinet, "The Restlessness of Objects," received a Core 77 Design Award and, "All Those Numbers: Logistics, Territory, and Walmart," which appeared in Design Observer: Places, was named by the Atlantic as one of "Nearly 100 Fantastic Pieces of Journalism" in 2011. jesse-lecavalier.com

About the Daniels Fora 

The Fora series features popular discussions that aim to bring together different perspectives in order to create debate, build relationships, and stimulate discourse among practitioners, scholars, and the general public on topics related to architecture, art, urbanism, landscape, and design.