City of Organs

Traditional Chinese medicine embraces a geography of the human body that reflects an energy flow model of the body, where energy cycles through the body organs along meridian pathways in daily rhythms. The Chinese refer to the body’s organs as “officials”.

Map 1: 4 quadrant 8 level Map of City Organs

Map 1: 4 quadrant 8 level Map of City Organs

In thinking about the city as the human system writ large, I have relied on Miller’s interdisciplinary research that demonstrates that all living systems (including cell, organelle, organ, body, team, organization, sector, city-state)  have evolved three major systems for managing information, energy and matter (and 19 sub-systems).

Both the traditional and scientific models of the human system are richly served by the post-modern worldviews that demonstrate sustainability requires inclusivity and tolerance of all the stakeholders in any human system such as a community and city.  In a city where traditional, modern and post-modern realities co-exist it serves us to have a map that allows us to celebrate every truth, so that we can emerge from these true but partial views, a picture of the whole city.

Integral City integrates all of the organs, systems, and stakeholders into an integrated view and gives us a map of the city with reflective, acting, relating, productive organs.

James Lovelock  has recognized the evolutionary value of the human species as Gaia’s reflective organ. When we consider the scale of the social holon that is the city, we might propose that individual humans are cells and Gaia’s actual reflective organ is the city. Furthermore, as a planet of cities our city organs are just evolving into the level of interconnected elegance that the organs of our individual bodies enjoy. But if Lovelock’s proposition is correct, we should not only reflect on our reflective service to the planet, but celebrate in each of our cities the evolutionary progress we are making.


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