By Sharon Zukin
The world’s biggest cities often spawn disaster scenarios—those end-of-the-world, escape-from-New-York exaggerations of urban dystopia. Once limited to printed texts and paintings, visions of urban apocalypse have become ever more accessible in newspaper photographs, movies and video games. They form a collective urban imaginary, shaping the dark side of local identity and civic pride.
New York is especially attractive as a site of imagined disaster. Maybe it’s payback for the city’s hubris and chutzpah, or perhaps there’s something in the American character that yearns for and fears creative destruction. If there is a general hunger for destruction stories, it is fed by the knowledge that the cities we build are vulnerable.