The City Of Man
Feature by Willard Manus

(Fifty years ago I wrote a feature on the late Constantinos Doxiadis, president of Doxiadis Associates and the Athens Technological Institute, for The Observer (UK) and Clear Creek Magazine (USA). At the time Doxiadis was an influential town-planner and visionary who organized his theories into a science which he called "Ekistics" (from oikos, the ancient Greek word for house or dwelling; the English words "economy" or "ecology" are derived from it). It coordinated economics, social, political and administrative sciences, technology and aesthetics into a coherent whole, which he hoped would lead "to the creation of a new type of human habitat...the city of man."

(I thought it would be worth reprinting sections of the feature. My intent is to pay tribute to the man who won the 1966 Aspen Award for the Humanities--and to see how well his ideas
have stood up over the years.)

Q. You have called Ekistics "the science of human settlements." But how exactly is it a science? Can there really be an objective solution to the problem of rebuilding the city?

A. With every day that passes, I am more and more convinced that we are dealing with biological forces, and if the forces which are building our city are biological, then we deal with a science. The formation of all human settlements follows exactly the same laws. Anthropology tells us that man has been created in different environments at the same approximate time and that there are certain laws about the way man formed his settlements. Unless we find these laws, these principles, we are not allowed to speak about the future. Because if there are no laws anyone can stand up and say: the city of the future should be completely underground, or we should all live in buildings of 3,000 floors, and so on. But if there are laws, no one will be allowed to speak so foolishly and irresponsibility, except to question the aesthetic appearance of our buildings, in much the same way as well all have views about clothing and outward appearance.

Q. What human values, what vision of man, what view of the political order, lie at the heart of your philosophy of Ekistics?

A. Here we face two problems-a scientific and a moral one. They do not necessarily lead to the same conclusions. Scientifically speaking you could say in the narrow sense of the word that human values, vision, etc., are given to me by the people for whom I work. My job is to be the technologist, to carry out their orders in the best possible way. But this poosition contains a very great moral danger. If the wrong type of master of men asks you to do something, should you do it? Our reaction in such situations depends on the job. If we are completely convinced that we are hepling people, we will do the job even if their leaders do not have the proper vision, or even if they belong to a political order which we don't like or respect. Ekistics is called the science of human settlements and if they are human, they must be humane. If we go ahead and build human settlements which do not respect human values, then we are both unreasonable and immoral. One of the principles we have learned is the need for a maximum of choices for man. This can be translated into simpler terms-personal freedom, political freedom, freedom of expression of all sorts. What we do must respect basic human needs and a very basic human need is the freedom of the individual. This is proved by the settlements created by man around the world.

He started with settlements created by one person sitting in the middle. An example of this is the feudal city of Tokyo where the palace lies at the heart of the city. But everywhere we have seen man's desire to abandon this system and go toweard a system of equal choices for everybody, equal opportunities. In the ancient Geek world this was typified in the contrast between the city of the past and the fifth century city of Ippodamus. Aristole has a sentence where he says, 'the old way' and "the new or Hippodian way.' The basic difference is that the old city had all its streets leading to the center and the new one had all its streets laid out in the gridiron pattern. No matter what the mathematical model you use today for analysis, it is easily proven that only the gridiron corresponds to democracy.

Q. "City problems are being diagnosed in stupefying detail by squadrons of earnest academics, analyzed by banks of computers, brainstormed by urban planners, hashed out in countless public hearings and self-conscious 'confrontations' around America," said a recent editorial in a national magazine, "and yet America's great urban centers are gripped in an agonizing crisis of confidence so strong that it prompts wise men to wring their hands and sends cowards running for cover." Why is this? With all this attention, why are our cities getting sicker instead of healthier?

A. The statement is completely true because it is only now that we are beginning to see the crisis. You see humanity, has not realized its great failurein city building in our time. We have been overcome by the population explosion and other problems inside our cities. As often happens when faced with a revolutio we have been unable to cope with it. We are still unable. However, my feeling is that in the sixties we have seen simple recognition of the problem. In the seventies we will have recognition of basic theories. Then in the eightieswe will see big-scale experiments, and the nineties and the year 2000 we will be able to say humanity is in control of the situation.

Q. Can a society clinging to the ethics of free enterprise truly save its environment? Cars, for example, are a chief source of our greatest plagues (congestion, air pollution, proliferating highways, noise and junk); yet, despite the huge profits of the automotive industry, despite the awesome threat of air pollution, despite an emergency law in California that new cars must be fitted with ainti-air-pollution devices, the manufacturers have only recently provided this relatively inexpensive item as standard equipment. Their lack of responsibility toward the people who made them rich is not the exception but the rule.

A. One of the mistakes planners make is that they believe they know everything, that they are going to save the world. Well, I try to learn about cities and I am not going to save the world. This question can be better answered by experts in the field. All I can say is that we need cars with greater safety and cleanliness. Gradually we are getting them. The progress with electric cars is beginning to be important. I believe in ten years from now we will have electric cars running in our cities and that the traditional cars will be better and better. By the end of the century we will eliminate the problem of automobile air pollution. Is it reasonable, you ask, to wait for thirty years? But we must remember we are dealing with a big change in affairs and it cannot take place overnight. If you want your child to be educated you must send him to school for 15 years. Yes, we want to be educated, but it takes time.

Q. In "The Frogs," Aristophanes said something like this: "The city is in great danger. Unless we can find advisers who are both wise and good, we shall perish. We have listened to our oraters and out politicians, but their advice has been neither wise nor good and we have been ed to the brink of disaster. Is it not time that we turned to our other advisers, the poets?

A. Yes, we need the poets, we need to be in constant dialogue with them, but if we believe that only the poets can provide us with a solution it will be as wrong as believing that only a designer or a planner can help us. The city does not belong to one person. It does not belong to the poet, to the artist, to the economist, to the businessman, or to the political leader. A good political leader is one who understands that the city belongs to everybody, is one one who creates a synthesis out of everybody's dream. This is what the city is, the common denominator of all our dreams, and this is why dealing with the city is something very difficult.

We can best serve our political leaders by having a constant dialogue with every citizen possible--dreamer and poet, composer, painter, sculptor, economist and accountant and worker and budget director-so that we can learn what people are thinking and saying, and decide how much can be implemented. This synthesis of dream and knowledge is the responsibility of Ekistics. We must make available the synthesis to the political leader and he must then make the decisions. This means of course that we need good leaders, but we also need to do very conscientious work in order to help them do the right thing.

The city is a very complex organism. We speak about the problems of youth today, problems of education, segregation, social security, transportation, etc. But all of these problems are interwoven into the city, so that the city is the most difficult task lying ahead of man.