Urban Atmospheres

vol.3, issue 2

“From a Secondspace perspective, city space becomes more of a mental or ideational field, conceptualized in imagery, reflexive thought, and symbolic representation, a conceived space of the imagination, or what I will henceforth describe as the urban imaginary.”

- Edward W. Soja, Postmetropolis, 2000


“I want to speak of "social imaginary" here, rather than social theory, because there are important differences between the two. There are, in fact, several differences. I speak of "imaginary" (i) because I'm talking about the way ordinary people "imagine" their social surroundings, and this is often not expressed in theoretical terms, it is carried in images, stories, legends, etc. But it is also the case that (ii) theory is often the possession of a small minority, whereas what is interesting in the social imaginary is that it is shared by large groups of people, if not the whole society. Which leads to a third difference: (iii) the social imaginary is that common understanding which makes possible common practices, and a widely shared sense of legitimacy.”


- Charles Taylor, On Social Imaginary, 2004


Urban narratives, urban myths, urban legends – the fates and futures of cities have long been intertwined with the narratives that imagine, construct, propagate and dismantle them. The contemporary urban imaginary is populated by narratives of every kind – literary evocations, films, mass media descriptions in both words and images, urban geographical accounts, etc.  This broadly themed issue of Architecture and Culture will explore the roles of these narratives in fleshing out and vivifying the qualitative dimensions of cities. It will consider ways in which cities and narratives are co-constitutive, hoping to generate stories that materialize urban atmospheres, and to examine cities that inspire and inform atmospheric tales.


In The World Interior of Capital (2012, published in German as Im Weltinnenraum des Kapitals in 2005), philosopher Peter Sloterdijk draws on two urban narratives constructed by well-known literary figures. The focus of each narrative is a building type, which then becomes a surrogate for the urban atmosphere it both occupies and envelopes. Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s impressions of the Crystal Palace in Notes from the Underground (published in 1864) and Walter Benjamin’s description of the Parisian arcades from The Arcades Project (written between 1927 and 1940 as Passagenwerk, published posthumously) become the fodder for Sloterdijk’s ruminations on urban atmosphere in general, and on the particular versions of urban atmosphere that each of these buildings represents. According to Sloterdijk, Benjamin’s enterprise was stifled from the start, as he linked the fate of Parisian atmosphere to an anachronistic typology, the nineteenth-century arcade (for Benjamin, of course, its very outdatedness was what gave it its revelatory powers). But through the Crystal Palace, Sloterdijk argues, Dostoyevsky describes the advent of our globalized age, with its ephemerality and immateriality, climatological control, aesthetics of immersion and air of luxury and cosmopolitanism.


Edited by Amy Kulper and Diana Periton, this issue of Architecture and Culture seeks disparate forms of narrative constructions, whether visual, verbal or aural, that evoke cities and their attendant atmospheres. Like Benjamin and Dostoevsky, we invite original creative narratives on cities, their buildings and their atmospheres, and like Sloterdijk, we encourage meta-narratives examining broader cultural tendencies through the lens of the urban built environment. 

Call for Papers for this Issue

The submission deadline is 14th  July 2014, 5pm UK time. We seek full submissions, not abstracts, by this date. All papers should be submitted electronically via Editorial Manager at:



For author instructions, please go to ‘Notes to Contributors’ at


Accepted articles will be published in July 2015.


http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/journal/architecture-and-culture" title="go to the publisher's site">This issue is available here