City dwellers, by and large, think of their environment in material terms: streets and traffic, buildings they live and go to work in or use for entertainment; infrastructure services (or the lack of them) that support urban living, parks and other public spaces. These are the tangible, ‘rational’ components of the city, whether planned or unplanned, with which they relate on a daily basis. Consequently, much of what is written about cities in planning documents and the media, refer to the city in material terms. The subject of this book however, is heterodox: it examines the ‘non-rational’ in modern city life. It argues that the imaginary, the fantastic, the emotional—the eponymous phantasmagoria—are equally important in defining city life and must become part of the real politics of the city. The importance of the ‘non-rational’ in city planning is not as strange or unorthodox an idea as may appear in the first instance. Utopian proposals based on social and cultural imperatives have made important contributions to the development of the ‘rational’ city in the history of urban planning.
January 2006, volume 30, No 1