Cities and consumption by Mark Jayne

By Mark Jayne

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For example, modernism emerged as an identifiable architectural movement and set of design principles during the final decades of the nineteenth century and the first decade of the twentieth. Stevenson (2003) argues that the foundations of the movement lay in Europe, but it was the US mid-western city of Chicago that popularised the new style. Such architecture firmly articulated the physical appearance of the modern city, and impacted on the development of cities around the world. Modernist architecture put into practice technological and aesthetic innovations that broke sharply with those of the past.

2 show how the physical organisation of the city is clearly structured around residential and business sectors. These represented a rational use of space and in particular the establishment of distinct zones of production. They also allowed planned provision of collective consumption in both residential and industrial areas—such as heavy industry and manufacturing zones, central business districts, commercial shopping areas, workers villages, other residential districts, and so on. These zones of the city were rationally spatially organised and serviced by industrial and domestic utility provision, transport links and networks, schools, and the everyday consumption needs of different sections of the urban population.

For example, Siegfried Kracauer (1926) describes this as a process of ‘mass ornamentation’, where symmetry, rationalisation and decoration of public spaces proliferated into the domestic sphere. Kracauer pointed to the influence of bastions of modernity such as theatres, hotels, restaurants and government buildings which mimicked the elegance of stately homes, and in turn influenced the way in which the new middle classes decorated their homes. However, while consumption had been turned into a ‘respectable’ culture by wresting it from the worst excesses of the aristocracy (where it signified luxury, decadence and superficiality), the consumption cultures of the nouveaux riches were also important in terms of distinction from, and imposing control over, the working classes (amongst whom consumption cultures were based around public riotousness and the excesses of drinking and blood sports).

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