City of Sound is about cities, design, architecture, music, media, politics and more. Written by Dan Hill since 2001.

14 Cities: Metabolist City

Written in



Part of the 14 Cities series:

"Harry stepped out of his house onto the old iron floorplate of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, sipping an espresso. Since the car traffic had been removed, leaving only one light-rail line connecting the north and south shores, it had become something of a ‘living bridge’ in every sense. Harry’s street stretched horizontally and vertically, as well as diagonally on guyropes across to Sirius, the old public housing block now connected physically to the bridge. Each of the cube-like blocks of Sirius looked as if it had been repeated, as if copied and pasted liberally onto the edges of the bridge.

The vertical street above Harry’s head was also composed of these modular blocks. The ‘dupe’ technology had emerged in the mid-2030s, as Sydney’s CBD had become incapable of being developed by traditional means, due to lack of space, finance and interest. Combined with the fact that post-peak oil virtually no-one could actually commute to the city, the city needed to find a way of introducing residential space within the vicinity of commercial space, without losing the latter.

Hence Dupe. A modular building technology, it enabled simple blocks to attach and accrete anywhere and to anything, such that towers were blistered with these barnacles, often cantilevering out across the streets below. Harry used to live on the Western Distributor, a similarly encrusted structure …"

Notes: This one in a more narrative style, something I tried on a few others and would liked to have developed. It's more difficult, but perhaps more engaging, potentially. The Japanese 'metabolist' school is another long-term interest, and here linked to a particular building which already seemed to almost attach itself limpet-like to the Harbour Bridge – the under-valued modular structure, Sirius, which I referred to in the Sydney dust-storm piece (see also some great pictures here). I just imagined that building wrapping itself over and under the bridge. That the bridge is inhabited is a motif nicked from William Gibson's Bridge trilogy and of course the earlier models, Old London Bridge and Ponte Vecchio. The sense of Sydney's CBD being full is drawn from the statements the NSW Property Council make on a periodic basis, multiplied with the intensified CBD surrounded by sprawl found in most Australian cities.


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