Edge City / Outer City

2021 Type: Glossary

Many planners and architects now consider the compact “European city” obsolete. According to Cedric Price, the centerless periphery as a future form of urban settlement offers mobile and autonomous individuals an ideal space for development: “The suburbs are better able to respond and adapt to new human wishes. The inner cities will doubtless end up turning into Disneylands, if they haven’t done so already.” This valuing of the periphery is at odds with earlier views. In the 1970s, many urbanists complained of the sleepy monotony of suburbia and praised the vitality of traditional cities. Today, by contrast, some in the field see “post-suburbia” as the epitome of economic prosperity and economic dynamism.

Urbanists around the world have coined a number of terms for such processes of urbanization: Edge City (Garreau 1991), Technoburb (Fishman 1991), Intercity (Sieverts 1997). Whatever the value of the individual models, they point to a changed urban reality: center and periphery are now to be understood on the basis of spatial relations manifesting in specific forms that cannot be clearly predicted (cluster, node, patchwork). Such processes dissolve urban “units” and integrate them into broader structures. The once monocentric agglomerations have transformed into diffuse, polycentric structures comprising a fabric of very diverse locations.

This also changes the meaning of “inner” and “outer”: the city is turned inside out, centrality becomes virtually ubiquitous, resulting in a spatial configuration discussed by Edward Soja in 1992 using the term Exopolis.

Klaus Ronneberger is a freelance writer and co-curator of Plâce International: Die 73 Tage der Commune oder der lange Wellenschlag der Revolution at FFT Theater Düsseldorf. Recent publications include: Peripherie und Ungleichzeitigkeit. Pier Paolo Pasolini, Henri Lefebvre und Jacques Tati als Kritiker des fordistischen Alltags (Adocs 2015); “1968 und die urbane Revolte,” in: Johannes Porsch, Hedwig Saxenhuber, Georg Schöllhammer (eds.): Wer war 1968? (Salzburg 2018).