Memories of cities: trips and manifestoes

13 March 2014
South Block, Glasgow

The Scottish contingent of The Academy of Urbanism were joined by a vibrant group of non-Academicians on 13 March 2014 at the innovative South Block in Glasgow’s Merchant City to hear Dr. Jonathan Charley speak about his recently published book Memories of Cities: Trips and Manifestoes. Accompanied by a captivating slideshow of images, Dr. Charley took the audience on a visually rich journey through his personal exploration of the dichotomist relationship between capitalist architectural expressions and urban development.

Dr. Charley spoke of his inspiration for the book, placing it in the traditions of social realism and the literary avant-garde. With Memories of Cities his aim was to popularise academia by using storytelling to make critical architectural discourse more accessible. The chapters contained in Memories of Cities are a route map composed of letters, diary entries and fictional accounts. In his presentation, Dr. Charley transported the audience from the Paris Commune to the key moments in the architectural history of Russia using the lenses of capitalism, empire, revolution and utopian thought. Dr. Charley introduced the audience to what he contends are the forces behind capitalist development before reflecting on the historical events that have challenged these forces.

The evening ended with a vibrant question and answer session. Members of the audience asked Dr. Charley to reflect on the influence of social media on radical social movements. Although initially ambivalent about the true impact of social media on the evolution of social movements, he acknowledged the increasingly influential role they play in shaping current events. Dr. Charley’s radical ideas about land ownership, speculative building and institutional structures also challenged the audiences’ perceptions of the status quo. He challenged our perceptions of what has been, what is, and what could be through provocative storytelling. Some were convinced, while others continued a passionate discussion about Dr. Charley’s talk over dinner and drinks.

Thanks to Young Urbanist member Tatiana White for reporting on this event.