An interesting way to view the city is as a living, breathing and continually evolving organism.  Here is an excerpt and a couple of links that nicely explain this:

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“For the first time in history, the majority of the people on our planet live in cities. Going forward, human history will become urban history: homo sapiens has evolved into homo urbanus.

The back story for this profound if not evolutionary shift in human behavior is that fact even in 1800 only 3% of the world’s population lived in cities.

Dr. Geoffrey West, President and Distinguished Professor of the Santa Fe Institute, led a team of scientists that has found that city growth driven by wealth creation increases at a rate that is faster than exponential. The only way to avoid collapse as a population outstrips the finite resources available to it is through constant cycles of innovation, which re-engineer the initial conditions of growth. But the greater the absolute population, the smaller the relative return on each such investment, so innovation must come ever faster.

Thus, the bigger the city, the faster life is; but the rate at which life gets faster must itself accelerate to maintain the city as a growing concern so much so that to maintain growth, major innovations must now occur on time-scales that are significantly shorter than a human lifespan.

“In this crucial sense cities are completely different from biological organisms, which slow down with size; their relative metabolism, growth rates, heart rates, and even rates of innovation – their evolutionary rates – systematically – and predictably – decrease with organizmal size,” West said. “Several thousand years ago the evolution of social organizations in the form of cities brought a new dynamic to the planet that seems to be uniquely human: People actually do walk on average faster in larger cities whereas heart rates decrease as animal size increases.”  

More here, and the more scientific/research oriented take on the biological metaphor here.

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