Stephen Graham, 
In a Moment : On Glocal Mobilities and the Terrorised City

Peter Marcuse, 
All Cities will Change


From: Dr. John I Gilderbloom [mailto:jgilde02@SPRYNET.COM]
Sent: Monday, September 17, 2001 3:02 AM
Subject: Marcuse: All Cities Will Change

I saw this posted on H-Urban listserve and thought it should be posted
on other urban/planning listserves for discussion:
Posted by Peter Marcuse <>

         All Cities Will Change

We are all of course trying to come to grips with what the events of
Tuesday mean, and will mean. It has been a terrible disaster, and the
immediate loss of life is incredible.

But we think it will have a major long-term impact on life here,
economically, politically, morally, everyday life --- all for the
worse. The retribution/vengeance sentiment is overwhelming, and so
far almost no one is asking serious questions about causes. Our
country hardly has clean hands when it comes to morality in its
international conduct, but acts such as terrorism look very different
when you are its victims. And a response of more terrorism, more
military security, more threats and blusters and shows of force, more
calls of "war," hardly seems the answer. And that all human life
should be sacred, not just ours, hardly seems to be part of the
immediate response.

There will also be major impacts on New York City in particular, and
perhaps high-density big cities generally, in the direction of
decentralization and further divisions and walls. I would guess a
reduction in personal travel, more emphasis on electronic
communication. Employment patterns will change; hyper-concentrations
of jobs in service-center-oriented office buildings (and both the
high and the low-paying jobs associated with them) will shrink. The
benefits of the agglomeration economies that have accounted for the
strength of select financial centers will be counter-balanced by new
political considerations. I suspect the global status of at least New
York City but perhaps other global cities will change, as
multinational businesses change their spatial strategies in the
search for security in more outlying areas, although perhaps within
the same metropolitan regions. The construction of glamorous
ever-higher trophy skyscrapers will stop; the towers in Kuala Lumpur
and Frankfurt have already felt the threat, closing and evacuating
the day after the World Trade Center collapse, and workers in the
Empire State building are afraid to go up to their offices.

And "security" will become the justification for measures that can
threaten the core of social and political life, even though one
conclusion that might be drawn from what has happened is that
physical measures can never provide real security in the presence of
deep social, including international, differences. Despite that,
surveillance will increase and the uses of public space will be more
tightly controlled (Mayor Giuliani has pioneered this with his
restrictions on assemblies near City Hall, and attempts to limit the
use of streets for parades, in the name of security). And we may
expect the almost unlimited funding that the FBI and CIA are likely
to receive to result in massive invasions of privacy; Senator Trent
Lott has already called publicly for a reduction in the weight given
civil liberties in the interests of security. "Public space" will
become less public; free access and free use will be severely
limited. By contrast, controlled spaces, such as malls, will increase
their attraction,

Many of us in the academic world have spent major efforts in trying
to understand what is happening to our cities and to urban life in
the era of globalization. Whatever we have thought and said and
written up till now has been subject to a major shock from "outside
the system" [although inside it in a terrible way], and will need
significant reassessment.

Peter Marcuse
Professor of Urban Planning
Graduate School of Architecture,
     Planning and Preservation
Avery Hall, Columbia University


Date: Fri, 28 Sep 2001 15:31:42 +0000
From: Steve Graham 
To: Urban Technology & Telecommunications 
Subject: An article on sept 11th - In a Moment : On Glocal Mobilities  and
    the Terrorised City

In a Moment : On Glocal Mobilities and the Terrorised City

Stephen Graham
School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape
Newcastle University

To be published in "City" Journal. Apologies for cross-posting.

"Each new conflagration pushes at the limits of the humanly tolerable"
Peter Lang (1996, 5)

Amidst the flurry of emails speculating on the urban dimensions of the
apocalyptic events of September 11th,  one, for me, stood out. Andy
Beveridge wrote to the Urban Geography list serv
(URBGEOG@LISTSERV.ARIZONA.EDU) quoting a piece called "Here is New York"
in the  Essays of E.B. Whitewhich published in 1948. Contemplating nuclear
attacks, Whitewhich's words nevertheless seem eerily prescient. "The
subtlest change in New York", he wrote:

"is something people don't speak much about but that is in everyone's mind.
The city, for the first time in its long history, is destructible.  A
single flight of planes no bigger than a wedge of geese can quickly end
this island fantasy, burn the towers, crumble the bridges, turn the
underground passages into lethal chambers, cremate the millions. The
intimation of mortality is part of New York now:  in the sound of jets
overhead, the black headlines of the latest edition.     All dwellers in
cities must live with the stubborn fact of annihilation; in New York the
fact is somewhat more concentrated because of the concentration of the city
itself, and because, of all targets, New York has a certain clear priority.
In the mind of whatever perverted dreamer who might loose the lightning,
New York must hold a steady, irresistible charm"

The events of September 11th were a macabre yet subtle exploitation of the
multiple  and interconnected mobilities, continuously telescoping between
the local and global,  that sustain global urban capitalism : mobilities of
people and machines ; mobilities of images and media ; mobilities of
electronic finance and capital.  They provided the latest in a long line of
dawning realisations that urban modernity, despite its promises of absolute
technological and material progress,  is actually utterly interwoven with
fragility and vulnerability. This runs from H.G. Wells' speculations about
the devastation that aerial bombing could wreak on cities in the 1920s,
through analyses, such as Whitewhich's, of the urban effects of nuclear
armageddon during the cold war, to contemporary analyses of the potential
chaos brought by mass urban terrorism or internicine urban war (see Lang,
1995, Picon, 1996).

Whilst the world is urbanising faster than ever before this very process,
and the multiple mobilities that sustain it,  is saturating the world with
the very technologies and techniques that can be harnessed to destroy the
urban. On September 11th previous attacks and urban terrorism outrages were
eclipsed by a  few orders of magnitude. The old  defensive responses to
them - CCTV, road blocks, heavily controlled street spaces, immigration
controls - seem almost comically irrelevant in this new age of threat.
These practices concentrated  either on the micro spaces and practices of
the street and averting  the car or suicide bomb, or on the macro-scale of
international migration controls and geopolitical espionage  focused on
stopping terrorists from moving around the world. But no one bothered with
the middle scale - the relatively free and unpoliced  mobilities within
nation states.

Thus, once again, we realise that the strategic urban site, as throughout
urban and military history, is an overwhelmingly tempting target in war.
Even before September 11th,  Martin Pawley wrote that "fear of the
dislocation of urban services on a massive scale is now endemic in the
populations of all great cities" (Pawley, 1997; 162).  Now such fear
threatens to be pathological and paralysing. This is especially so in North
America where popular culture has long perpetuated the myth that war, risks
and instant urban devastation were the domains of the rest of the planet,
not the blessed continent with its 'manifest destiny' of prosperity peace
and superiority. Even Pearl Harbor - the event so often compared with these
attacks -- was,  importantly, at the very margins of US geopolitical space.
In contrast, September 11th ate away at the very iconic and geographic
cores of US economic and military hegemony.  As Newsweek reported
"September 11th ended the illusion that Americans could somehow float above
the hatreds of the world" (Extra Edition, 16th September, p. 28).

Deepening fears of the inherent vulnerability of strategic cities, of
course, are fed by the attacks themselves. They are fuelled by a media
culture which endlessly analyses and dissects such risk (at least to the
privileged populations of the cities of the Global North ; those facing
populations in the majority world tend to be ignored or downplayed). But
such fears are also growing because the technological mobilities that
cross-cut cities - of machines, people, computer communications, and
potential biological pathogens threaten apparently unopposable
carnage at any instant, at any turn. As Paul Virilio has repeatedly
reminded us, urban walls, whether physical, electronic, electromagnetic or
psychological,   are no longer tenable ; "from here on, urban architecture
has to work with the opening of a new  'technological space-time' " (1991,
15) based on unstoppable flow, unpredictable mobility, and the risk of
these  enormously complex technological systems being perverted to disrupt,
destroy and kill. Here we have to contend not just with mass airline
coercion but with the strategic computer hacking and  IT viruses of
'cyberwar', with potential mass water poisoning, with the possible
terrorist use of nuclear, chemical or biological weapons.

Mass Urban Terrorism : Understanding the  Pre-Conditions

The attacks of September 11th were the result of three pre-existing

Exploiting The Inherent Fragilities of Urban  Technological Mobilities

First, the fragile and subtle mobilities and technologies that underpin and
sustain global urban capitalism were forcibly redirected, perverted, and
turned in on themselves.  The strikes therefore mocked the political
fantasies of the Bush regime that suggested - until September 11th - that
major urban catastrophes could be kept at bay through Defensive Missile
Shields laid out along Cold War, geopolitical, lines. Instead  of 'rogue
states' aping the superpowers and acquiring intercontinental nuclear,
biological or chemical weapons, the equivalent of a nuclear impact was
produced by the simple expedient of a few 'stone age' knives.

In retrospect it seems astonishing that no one had actually taken one of
the ubiquitous airlines that, by definition,  saturate the space around all
strategic urban targets -- there are, or at least were, 300,000 people in
the air above the USA at any one time --  and, transformed it, by the flick
of a joystick,  into an   fuel-laden, mass, forced kamikaze. Cruise
missiles, we have now learnt, are all around us and our cities ; many of us
ride on them all the time. They are far more potent and easily acquired
than any the US will no doubt launch from thousands of miles away at
Afghanistan in the next months.

Offering Choreographies of Violence to Dominate Global Media

Second, in this age of televised urban war, the mass appropriation of
airliners within poorly-protected US domestic airspace allowed events to be
timetabled, with sickening logic, as precisely as any conventional airliner
or television schedule, to have maximum global impact. This allowed the
iconic and unforgettable moments of mass murder and urban devastation to be
beamed live to a terrified, but transfixed, global TV audience, many of
whom were brought up on the staples of hypereal video games, science
fiction urban dystopias and disaster movies. One of the most common
responses, either amongst those that lived through and saw the horror first
hand, or those of watched on TV, was "it was just like in a movie".

As Martin Amis wrote in the Guardian on 18th September, the four planes
were carefully coordinated so that "the first  [plane] would crash into the
northern tower just as the working day hit full stride. Then a pause for 15
minutes, to give the world time to gather round its TV sets. With that
attention secured, the second plane would crash into the south tower, and
in that instant America's youth would turn into age" (pages 3-4). The
actual  implementation of a million simulations of urban devastation
perfectly mocked the urban culture in the West which endlessly recycles
images of its own destruction. In fact the events were a kind of carefully
staged reverse  hypereality : they enacted events which had been endlessly
simulated before but which had never actually happened.

Of course the choice of New York -  arguably  the world's media capital -
meant that the entire world would hear of little else for months. The
western media complex will inevitably be obsessed by carnage and
devastation within its own back yard. It has been shown countless times,
though, that, at the same time, it systematically ignores or downgrades the
much higher casualty figures of many on-going wars and crises in the global
South (Sudan, Colombia, Indonesia, Somalia, Rwanda and, yes, Afghanistan).
It has been endlessly demonstrated that the huge numbers of avoidable
deaths, directly implicating the United States and its allies, through
Iraqi sanctions or global structural adjustment programmes, merit barely a
line in even the most high-brow newspapers. And it has been proven beyond
doubt that the Western media operates on an informal and unwritten  system
of valuing human beings, and their deaths, extremely unequally : affluent
employees of the global financial services industry in New York are near
the top and the global majority in the so-called developing world -
including the huge numbers likely to starve in Afghanistan this winter as a
result of the global crisis --  are near the bottom. Thus yet another irony
of the September 11th attacks is that the perpetrators chose their targets
to directly demonstrate the huge asymmetries and biases in global media and
representational power that accompany the economic and cultural
globalisation  that they are trying to undermine and destroy.

The co-ordination  of events surrounding the attacks also stretched to the
more bizarre manipulation of the other key mobility system  underpinning
global urban capitalism : the electronic financial  system (which,
ironically, provided the very rationale for the World trade Center's
construction). Considerable evidence is now emerging that the terrorist
network behind the attacks participated in a major series of insider
trading deals by using their knowledge of forthcoming events to make
millions of dollars exploiting the inevitable volatilities that resulted in
airline, insurance, gold and oil stock values and commodity prices.

Exploiting the Concentrating Logics of Global City Development

The third and final  facilitating factor, of course,  was the intense
concentrating  logic of global city  development. The world's most
strategic urban sites -- global city cores like lower Manhattan -- have
grown  ever-more concentrated over the last thirty years as they take
advantage of the economic spin offs of global economic liberalisation, the
explosion of financial markets and the remote control  capabilities of
information and communications technologies.

The iconic power of the skyscraper that has been the result has thus been
exposed as a flawed and arrogant building type which inevitably builds deep
vulnerabilities into the cityscape.  Thus one or two precision strikes can
bring down two of the worlds tallest buildings and kill over 6,000 people
whilst a plane hitting the relatively low-level Pentagon killed less than
200. Incredibly, the New York impacts have meant that the entire fragile
apparatus of the global capitalist system  has been pushed over the brink
into deep recession. Some of the world's largest  and most powerful
companies  have been brought to the brink of bankruptcy. Hundreds of
thousands of jobs have already been lost. A possibly fatal blow has been
delivered to many of the companies that profit from global mobilities
(tourism operators and, especially, airlines). And a new era of global
geopolitics has been ushered in.

Urban Responses and Implications

So what of the urban responses and implications ?  I would point to at
least two.

Changes in Urban Form and Structure

First, we are likely to see accepted notions of urban form revised and
debated . Early reports are already emerging of skyscraper projects being
paused in mid- build in Frankfurt. James Howard Kunstler and Nikos A.
Salingaros, writing on the urban geography listserv on September 17th, are
"convinced that the age of skyscrapers is at an end. It must now be
considered an experimental building typology that has failed". They
"predict that no new megatowers will be built, and existing ones are
destined to be dismantled.". The attacks will also certainly accelerate
urban sprawl. They will deepen the ambient fear that surrounds life in
highly concentrated and iconic urban centres, especially in Western cities.
They will undermine efforts to build obvious, iconic urban structures
rather than featureless, generic urban landscapes. And they will support
the massive growth of relatively anonymous, low-level, fortressed business
spaces that are heavily networked by multiple data infrastructures. The
purpose-built disaster recovery sites in New Jersey that were hastily
colonised by WTC firms after the attacks may provide a model for longer
term development solutions here.

Some firms that decentralise temporarily to such sites may find that, with
the improved capabilities of telecommunications, they are able to stay away
from the cores of urban financial districts for good.  . However, we are
unlikely to see the mass emptying out of central cities. As Clay Shirky
argued on the Open P2P web site  on 25th September:

"cities are not cause but effect. Cities are not isolated things so much as
the large-scale intersection of countless small forces, forces which in
aggregate give cities the kind of homeostasis and adaptability that have
made them such surprisingly long-lived features of human life. In fact,
cities exist because of decentralization, not in spite of it [^] Buildings
are technologies, their residents are users, and cities are an emergent
property of myriad overlapping choices about the placement and use of those
buildings. [^] New York is big because over time more people came than
left, because millions of uncoordinated actors decided independently to
move to New York. The population is not a single variable, it is the sum of
these countless distributed decisions."


The Accelerated Militarisation of Urban Civil Society

Second, we will see an acceleration of existing processes of the
militarisation of civil society (see Gold and Revill, 2000). The
surveillance, tracking and  correctional industries will deepen and
intensify their colonisation of urban civil society as resistance movements
face being undermined and marginalised. Civil liberties legislation will no
doubt be eroded and withdrawn and new digital enclosures and techniques of
control will begin to compromise free and open mobilities within and
between cities. In a classic example of the "functional creep" of
surveillance systems during times of crisis, the UK is already considering
steam-rolling civil liberties opposition by bringing in a national ID card
scheme utilising smart card technologies which give the potential for real
time human tracking and locating. At a more extreme level the CIA is to
regain its powers of global extra-judicial killing and assassination.

In the medium term it is possible that the language of rights of access and
movement may even be replaced by one of provisional mobility where people
need to demonstrate in detail why movement and access is necessary on a
continuous basis. The techniques of biometrics will be explored much more
seriously as means of access control and tracking. National and
international systems of individual tracking, linking databases to face
recognition and CCTV are likely to become a real possibility because they
allow the local tactical management of strategic sites and throughputs to
be linked instantly and continuously with global, geopolitics strategies of
attempted control. . .

Finally, we are likely to see the deepening of  the urbanisation of the
military, a process already underway in response to intensifying civil
unrest (the Los Angeles riots^), rising social polarisation and urban
segmentation,  the growth of essentially urban post Cold War military
conflicts (Sarajevo, Grosny^), and the intensification of urban resistance
to globalisation (Seattle, Genoa, Washington, London, Prague^). Thus,
military doctrine and strategy  will becomes more and more closely geared
to the tactical and strategic protection of the political and economic key
sites, zones and  spaces of the global capitalist system. This will occur
through new surveillance and control systems and, as at the recent Genoa
WTO meeting, through the much more widespread he siting of air defence
missile systems around strategic urban sites. Already, the US military
machine is already starting to focus its efforts on defending domestic
urban space. Aircraft carries and combat air patrols will now be renewed
feature of the New Work and Washington and Californian urban landscapes.
Major western cities are thus emerging as more or less permanent war zones.
Already, several generals have been given the power to shoot down civilian
airlines in the event of future attacks.


Amis, M. (2001), "Fear and loathing". The Guardian 2, 18th September, pp. 2-4.

Gold, J.  and Revill, G.  (eds.)(2000), Landscapes of Defence, London :
Prentice Hall.

Lang,  P. (ed) (1995), Mortal City, New York : Princeton Architectural press.

Pawley, M. (1997), Terminal Architecture, London : Reaktion.

Picon, A. (ed) (1996), La Ville et la Guerre, Paris : L'Imprimeur.

Virilio, P. ( 1991), Lost Dimension, New York: Semiotext(e).

Stephen Graham			   e-mail
Professor of Urban Technology      Telephone +44(0) 191 222 6808
School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape
3rd Floor, Claremont Tower	    Fax +44(0) 191 222 8811
University of Newcastle upon Tyne   Centre for Urban Technology
Newcastle upon Tyne NE1 7RU, U.K.