David Grim's lazy musings on the importance of a Coffee shop on the South Side have me thinking about the purpose and function of cities. I don't think many people think about this much but - Why are cties needed? Are they a luxury; a relic of the industrial age or what? Are they a means to an end-a place to go and get a job or a place to visit and get drunk? Or are they an end in itself.
In 1961 at a dark time in NY's history a crazy plan to blow a hole into Manhattan made Jane Jacobs write a great book on this subject. The book struck a cord because of it's blunt logic. It also showed that most of the people who planned cities in that time period had never thought much about thier purpose.
Minor cities and towns can grow up around a single or small group of employers or resources. But great cities have to exist for a reason that trancends this. The purpose of a city at it's root relates to trade. Cities are places where people can conveniently exchange goods and ideas .To the extent that cities perform this function, they become an ends in themselves. The density level and diversity allow for endless combinations and levels of exchange. This is the reason that someone would pay a fourtune for an apartment in that kind of a place.
Does Pittsburgh want to be a great city? I think that this is a major question it has to face. It was once a dominant city of a certain type and it seems to have a power structure that relates to that indentity. But it's well placed to become something different.