Amid China’s frenzied urban development, what would Mumford do? Lewis Mumford, the 20th-century urbanist and polymath whose seminal book The City in History argued for the organic growth of cities, might seem irrelevant to the contemporary study of top-down planning in China. The leaders of the newly established China Lewis Mumford Research Center think otherwise.
Song Junling, who has translated Mumford’s writings into Chinese since 1982 and was instrumental in establishing the center, said its purpose is to conduct seminars, promote research, and teach students about Mumford. The center opened at Shanghai Normal University on October 19 with a ceremony and symposium, which began with a presentation titled “What Can We Learn from Lewis Mumford Today?” Thirteen talks followed on topics including the fragmentation of Shanghai’s historic plan, Mumford’s idea of the megamachine, the determining features of ancient Chinese cities, and current Chinese literature on Mumford. Academics with backgrounds ranging from philosophy to archaeology participated, reflecting Mumford’s widespread influence.