Urbanwords: the website of The Dictionary of Urbanism



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capital of rock Memphis, Tennessee.
cappuccino culture A pejorative term for affluent people living urban lifestyles in central areas. (Cappuccino is espresso coffee topped with steamed and frothed milk, often sprinkled with chocolate or cinnamon.) Example: 'Regeneration must be about more than cappuccino culture'. The term became current in the late 1990s, coinciding with the growth of coffee bars serving cappuccino and similar coffees in town and city centres (cappuccino being a reference to the white cowl of a monk, which the frothed milk on top of the coffee is thought to resemble).
    Often the 'culture' is evoked without that word having to be used. 'It is new housing that might look appealing in estate agents' brochures - all croissants and cappuccinos and fluffy white dressing gowns on the sun-drenched terrace,' Jonathan Glancey (2003) writes of development proposals for thames gateway. Jon Rouse, chief executive of cabe, reported in 2003 that his organisation had been accused at a meeting in the north of England of being the 'cappuccino-drinking elite' (De Castella, 2003). In 2001 Building Design columnist Ian Martin summed up his view of the architect richard rogers' urban vision: 'plenty of covered squares for people to have frothy coffee while they watch clowns on stilts'. Comedians Alan Gilby and Steve Wells, commenting in 2001 on the growth of London's financial district, noted that it was two years since 'the first cappuccino was poured in Brick Lane' (Melhuish, 2001). By 2001 cappuccino was too common to be regarded so often as being particularly characteristic of the affluent or sophisticated. Jokey or pejorative references to cosmopolitan urbanites were more likely to cite café latte (which made its appearance also on paint charts). (Café latte is steamed milk added to espresso coffee). Example: 'Brick Lane... buzzes with young urbanites, nipping into "coffee@" to grab a café latte on their way to work' (2002). In 2002, though, a survey of househunters and estate agents found that people deciding where to live were applying the cappuccino test, a check on the number of coffee bars in an area (Littlejohn, 2002).
    le corbusier described cafés in 1923 (in
Vers une Architecture) as 'fungus that eats up the pavements of Paris'. fj osborn (Hughes, 1971) expressed his contempt in a letter to lewis mumford in the 1950s or '60s. 'The best of the intelligensia... have moved to the outer suburbs,' Osborn wrote. 'Such intelligentsia as is left is... of the over-urbanised café-lounging, quasi-communist, quasi-technocratic type - right out of touch, not only with the sanity of the countryside but with the psychology of ordinary, home-centred workers.' Max Hutchinson (1989), discussing the London County Council's housebuilding programmes of the 1950s, writes that 'the young architectural lions no longer discussed fine art over a glass of Madeira at the Athenaeum but modern jazz over an espresso at the local coffee bar'. The writer VS Pritchett (1997) observes (writing in 1956): 'Until the espresso bars started there was a certain affinity between London coffee and crime.' Lewis Keeble declared in the 1964 edition of his definitive textbook Principles and Practice of Town and Country Planning that 'the population of Britain does not consist of people with a frustrated hankering after a café society' of the sort 'to be found in the centres of continental towns' (quoted in Hague, 2001).
Peter Ackroyd (2000) records that London's first coffee house was set up in St. Michael's Alley, off Cornhill, in 1652, and that 'by the turn of the century there were some two thousand of them in the capital.... There were coffee houses for every trade and every profession.' Many remain, having evolved into public houses, including the Jamaica Tavern in St Michael's Alley - London's first. James Howard Kunstler (2001), is unusual in associating coffee with suburbanites. Suspicious of the coffee-drinking habits of the enemies of new urbanism, he writes of 'hardcore suburban growth cheerleaders, in their narcotic raptures of consumerism and gourmet coffee...'
The first recorded coffee-houses in England opened in Oxford in 1650, followed by London's first in 1652. England had around 500 of them by the early eighteen century. Their equivalents in Paris were known as maisons de café, abbreviated by 1700 to cafés (Girouard, 1985).
cardboard v. To slide down a slope on a cardboard box - a characteristically urban recreation.
castra (Latin) A military camp.
city attorney (US) An official who represents the city in legal matters and provides legal advice.
city different (also the different city) Santa Fe, New Mexico, so called because it is significantly different from other US cities (see the city of three cultures). The city was named La Villa de Santa Fe (City of the Holy Faith) in the early seventeenth century.
city landscape Scattered low-density urban development. The planner Roy Draiby used the term in 1961 to describe what he saw as the highly inefficient form of Greater Copenhagen's development at the time (Pedersen, 2004).
City of Brass 1 A fictional dead city in the deserts of north Africa where King Solomon once imprisoned evil spirits in brass bottles. It is described in The Arabian Nights (fourteenth-fifteenth centuries). 2 A computer game made by Necromancer Games. 'Its shining towers encircled in smoke and wrapped in flames rise from the great brass bowl on which the city is built, accessible only by a massive bridge of polished obsidian. Inside its gates resides the greatest storehouse of arcane knowledge and artifacts of power in all the planes of existence.'
City of Brass, The A 1909 poem by Rudyard Kipling, inspired by The Arabian Nights. The people of the city, with no consideration of what is sustainable (as the modern jargon would have it) 'suppose themselves kings over all things created -/ To decree a new earth at a birth without labour or sorrow/ ...Swiftly these pulled down the walls that their fathers had made them -/ The impregnable ramparts of old, they razed and relaid them/ As playgrounds of pleasure and leisure with limitless entries,/ And havens of rest for the wastrels where once walked the sentries.' The inevitable consequence is that the city is destroyed. See also urban destruction.
city of light 1 Paris. 2 Lyons, which has carried out a programme of lighting buildings in the city centre and promoting the lighting design industry. 3 An animated model of New York displayed in the Consolidated Edison building at the New York World's Fair 1939. Designed by Walter Dorwin Teague, the exhibit showed the contribution that electricity, gas and steam played in the city's life.
City of London A small, administratively distinct part of Greater London, governed by the City of London Corporation, which is London’s financial centre. See the CITY and compare CENTRAL LONDON.
city of parks Surrey in British Columbia, Canada.
city of sound Cairo, according to the book of that name (published in 2005) by Maria Golia.
city of three cultures, the 1 Santa Fe, New Mexico. The three are identified as Indian, Hispanic and Anglo, though in fact there are many more. People from other cultures, such as African Americans, are classified as Anglos, it is said, because the other two cultures got there first. 2 Balaguer in Catalonia, Spain. See also plaza of three cultures.
civic marker A landmark building or structure that contributes to the identity of a town or city.
civic pioneer Defined by the Department of Communities and Local Government in the 2000s as a local council that is ‘committed to developing and sustaining opportunities for local people and groups to influence what happens in their communities’.
claim-happy Prone to making claims for legal liability; litigious. Example: 'In a claim-happy society designers of public spaces tend to be excessively cautious about providing anything - such as a water feature - that may lay them open to a legal claim.'
Clockwork Orange Glasgow's underground railway system, which acquired orange livery when it was refurbished in 1979. See also thamesmead.
Coade stone A moulded artificial stone material used widely in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries for monuments and the detailing of buildings. It was made by George Coade and, after his death, by his widow Mrs Eleanor Coade and his daughter (1733-1821), also known as Mrs Eleanor Coade (even though she never married). Coade stone was made by firing a mixture of clay, sand and ground-down, previously fired stoneware. It was sometimes marketed under the name Lithodipyra (from the Greek for twice-burnt stone).
cocktail-party syndrome A condition in which every new building in a particular area is designed to be more noticeable than its neighbours, with the result that the architecture becomes increasingly and tiresomely loud - as at a cocktail party where the volume of chatter increases until no one can be heard unless they shout. See also martini development.
code cracking Carrying out an exercise to identify the strengths and weaknesses of a design code.
coffin end (Glasgow) A narrow room formed by a tenement building that comes to a sharp corner. Compare single end.
collective space The urban planner Manuel Solà-Morales writes: 'Collective space is much more and much less than public space if we limit it to public property. The wealth of a city is that of its collective spaces, of all places where everyday life takes place, presents itself and is present as memory. And maybe there are more and more often spaces that are not public or private, but both at the same time: public spaces used for private activities, or private spaces that allow collective use' (quoted in Borret, 2001).
column A post that supports a monorail beamway or guideway. Also called a pylon
conservation easement (US) A legal agreement allowing a government or non-profit organisation to buy a property (often in a rural area or on other undeveloped land) in return for a guarantee to preserve it from development.
conveniologist One who writes about public toilets. Geoffrey Fletcher, author of the london nobody knows, referred to himself in this way.
coopetition Collaboration between competitors. The term originated in business and management theory. Nielsen, Albertsen and Hemmersam (2004) suggest that it was introduced in the context of urban theory in a 2001 article by Rem Koolhaas and others. Nielsen, Albertsen and Hemmersam write: 'Coopetition on a local, regional and global scale has been a primary rationale for the development of cities.'
core jobs (US) Those located at the heart of neighbourhoods and close to transit, housing and services.
court 1 A piece of ground or short street partially or completely enclosed by walls or buildings. 2 A large building standing in a courtyard. 3 An open or roof-glazed part of a building. 4 The building or room in which such legal cases are heard. 5 A marked-out area (indoors or outdoors) where games are played. From the Latin cohors meaning a yard.
courtyard An open area surrounded by walls or buildings, within or adjoining a building. 
Coventrian A person who lives in Coventry, England.
Coventry See sent to coventry.
Coventry kid A person who was born in Coventry, England.
crib (US) A home. Example: 'I'm off to my crib.'
crossroads (UK) The US equivalent is intersection.
crown line A CORNICE cornice or other horizontal architectural feature one floor below a building’s eaves or parapet level.



Most old cities are now sclerotic machines that dispense known qualities in ever-greater quantities, instead of laboratories of the uncertain.
Rem Koolhaas

illustration from the Dictionary of Urbanism