City Limits Is 10!

Andy Crysell, Crowd DNA’s founder and CEO, celebrates our ongoing exploration of the ever-changing urban experience…

Back in September 2018, when we were putting our first City Limits together, we only had a one-off in mind. Five years on, ten issues down the line, we’re still at it. We now call it our ‘ongoing exploration of the ever changing urban experience’ and it feels like we’ve barely got started.

Looking back at the intro I wrote for that first issue and, aside from a nod to the long gone London alternative listings mag from whom we lifted the title, a few other things stand out. 

We remarked that it’s not by accident that we term our offices as Crowd DNA London, Crowd DNA Amsterdam and Crowd DNA New York – rather than UK, Netherlands and US. Singapore, Sydney, Stockholm and Los Angeles need adding to that list now – we’ve been busy – but the principle remains the same. It’s through cities that we find meaning. Not so much countries and the onerous patriotism that comes with them.

We talked about how, by Limits, we meant the extremes, the disruptions and the innovations – where city living might take us next. And that’s stayed our ambition over the subsequent issues. From tackling loneliness to revamping mobility; pushing against gentrification; revelling in the after dark; resetting tourism and learning how urban diasporas use the culture of food to create home from home. So many cities covered. So many stories told.

A particularly big story impacted on us somewhere around issue six. Covid came and, for a while there, we were told that cities were doomed. A relic of a different age. And so a bunch of people moved out of the cities… and then an even bigger bunch of people subsequently moved into them. 

Covid didn’t kill cities, then. Not even close. But it probably did accelerate a re-evaluation of what makes them good, and what makes them bad. Fairer cities, smaller cities, more sustainable cities, less segregated cities, thoroughly human cities – there is much to work at and, here at Crowd DNA, we hope to get to play our own small part (all city and placemaking RFPs gladly received!).

City Limits has featured fabulous contributions from so many of our team. When we talk about being an editorially-minded business, it’s a proof point of exactly that. It’s exciting to think where the next ten issues will take us…

Our own city story started in a small office in east London’s Shoreditch. You can now find us in seven cities (and counting)

And if you’d like some more city-centred reading in the meantime, here’s a few books worth checking:

Jane Jacobs |  The Death And Life Of Great American Cities

Writer and activist Jacobs’ 1961 book critiqued prevailing urban planning practices and advocated for a more people-centered and community-oriented approach to city design. A prime moment in the development of modern placemaking thinking.

Will Hermes | Love Goes To Buildings On Fire

There are countless good books about music and cities. But few intersect the themes quite like this one, named after Talking Heads’ first album. Hermes goes into ultra detail on how mid ‘70s New York City provided the mix of creativity and chaos to spawn six genres running in parallel and feeding off each other: punk, disco, hip-hop, minimalist classical, the loft jazz scene and Nuyorican salsa.

Iain Sinclair | London Orbital

A 127 mile on-foot circumnavigation of London’s unofficial border, the M25. Less about the motorway, though, than a cultural criticism of the urban sprawl. Sinclair’s psychogeography is about experiencing and navigating cities in more intuitive and creative ways.