3.2 City as Form and History

The soul of the city becomes the city’s history… the city’s distinctive and definitive character, its memory… one can say that the city itself is the collective memory of its people” (Rossi 1982; p.130) 

If people define a city, then the memory of those people and the impact of numerous lives across the history of a city acts to shape the form that city takes. Aldo Rossi defines the city as both its form, architecture and structure as well as the embedded history of memory that characterises that form. The city’s character is formed by the collective memory that feeds into the artefacts of the city, the build up of significance through each use and function of its buildings. Memory flows through a city on a submerged level, shaping its form and artefacts and the idea we have about those (Rossi 1982; p.130-131). The founding of the city is the city’s mythology, perhaps it is a set plan as Kostof suggests but it is one that has become blurred into fiction as the memory of it hazes over time. The original themes of the city persist but they are also modified and re-rendered through each development. A city by its name is a physical space but also the various notions, experiences, ideas associated with that city.10

10 “With time, the city grows upon itself; it acquires a consciousness and memory. In the course of its construction, its original themes persist, but at the same time it modifies and renders these themes of its own development more specific. Thus, while Florence is a real city, its memory and form come to have values that are also true and representative of other experiences. At the same time, the universality of these experiences is not sufficient to explain the precise form, the type of object which is Florence.”  Rossi, A. (1982). The Architecture of the City.  p.21

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