Where does the city end?

How do we know we have reached the edge of the city? Is it an aluminium sign? Is it a thinning out of buildings until there is little but woods and fields? Or is it an abrupt shift to small towns and villages dotted across the landscape? Perhaps it is really none of these things since the city, or at least “urbanization”, is now practically everywhere. In his book The urban revolution, first published in 1970, the French urbanist Henri Lefebvre makes a distinction between “city” and “urbanization”. “Society has become completely urbanized,” writes Lefebvre, “This urbanization is virtual today, but will become real in the future”. In the forty years since Lefebvre wrote these words the pace and scale of urban growth has accelerated along with the more ubiquitous dynamic of “urbanization”. The impetus towards “complete urbanization” can be conceived as a multi-faceted development that ranges from infrastructure networks to the spread of new ideas. The urban and the rural have become increasingly difficult to differentiate despite the powerful cultural resonance of this distinction. We can never really understand cities as simply “things in themselves” since they are manifestations of broader processes of change, connection and re-combination. Cities are just a particular form of urbanization.