This article was originally published by Common Edge as "The Work of Architecture in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction."
I attended graduate school, in geography, in Tucson, Arizona, in the late 1990s. Tucson draws fame from a number of things, including its Mexican-American heritage, its chimichangas, its sky islands, and its abundant population of saguaro cacti.
Plenty of things about Tucson, though, are perfectly, achingly ordinary.
Perhaps the most ordinary thing about Tucson led me to develop something halfway between a hobby and an academic pursuit. On occasion, whether for sport or research, friends and I used to go “sprawl-watching.” We were not exactly, say, Walter Benjamin strolling through the arcades, embracing the human pageantry of Paris. But we did our best to plumb Tucson’s depths.