In a week of, once again, depressing and concerning international news - news which has a scarily 1950's skew to it complete with pre-civil rights style demonstrations in the Deep South, and cold war murmurings emanating from the Far East - this article about the cultural death (because that is what it is heralding) of our great cities for me is one of the most grindingly depressing stories of all.
It is a WARNING people - a WARNING - against the Stepford-wife style homogenisation which is the death knoll of true innovation, and true creativity.
Why this bothers me quite so much, I am not sure. I am a country mouse after all. I am as inspired by the sunshine glint of a calm sea, farmers mustering for ales in the local pub or the hilarity of a local am-dram performance as I am by the latest installation in Trafalgar Square or Young Vic triumph.
I extol the virtues of rural creative hubs, or artistic-collaboration in remote areas, and that technology innovation can be (and indeed is) just as likely to take place in a light industrial estate outside Newton Abbot as it does in an achingly on-trend shared office space off the Silicon Roundabout.
But, bother it me does. Because mass up-scaling - where every home is aspirational and every cafe is a carbon copy of the one next door, where the people who make a city tick and work are shipped in each day, because they cannot afford to live anywhere near the place they work - makes for a curiously anodyne, hollow, theme park of a place.
The heart beat of great cities was not founded on luxury flats, soya latte shops and shops selling rows of blue jeans and crisp white shirts.
Great cities were founded by people who fought to carve out their own place in and amongst the concrete high rises, maze of streets and ancient pubs. By artists unafraid to reflect gritty, terrifying, hilarious reality; musicians meeting in dingy sub-pavement studios to jam until the sun rises or young lovers seeking out late night clubs and bars in far flung back streets to eek out the night. Great cities were forged by soap-box politicians, and slightly crazy street preachers, curry houses open till midnight, and illicit salons where controversial ideas were dared to be whispered. By safety pin strewn youffs, football gangs, entitled young IT girls and aspiring business men at the stock exchanges.
These are people I want to hang out with, and a place I want to be. Moreover, this is a place people want to gravitate towards and not away from. This is a place i want my children, and my friends children to seek out. A place where they can find their own selves and follow a new beat.
Great cities were, and are, the sum of this insane cocktail of people, activities and outputs. Great cities spawn creativity, the spew it out, the cannot help it. Or at least they did.
Culture, art, creativity and innovation - it is what makes us - and our great cities are where they congregate. We have to stand up to an ever advancing army of property developers looking for the highest bidder. We have to stamp out homogenisation, and cookie cutter developments. We have to say NO to chains, and yes to individuals.
Because if not, if we loose our heartbeat, who are we?
All of this points to a process that sociologist Saskia Sassen calls “deurbanisation”. Numerically, this means haemorrhaging residents, while metaphorically it relates to the increasing hollowing out of the social and cultural vibrancy of the city. The very things that make up its fabric – the messiness, unpredictability and diversity of urban life – are stripped away. All that’s left is Costa Coffee, Pret-a-Manger and hoardings advertising buy-to-let investments, illustrated by white couples laughing and sipping champagne.