Student blog of the Stanford University Urban Studies Department

Tag Archives: Literature and poetry

Modes of transportation


I had the pleasure of hearing Kyle Lee-Crossett perform this poem, “Modes of Transportation,” at the Stanford Spoken Word Collective’s spring show on May 20. Lee-Crossett is a sophomore majoring in English with a focus on urbanism and technology.

About this piece, he told Urbanter: “‘Modes of Transportation’ is a poem about creating meaning in the ways we choose to move through space. Before I cut it down to its final form, the poem also spent more time looking at urban studies-style questions like, ‘What are the differences between how maps and books describe places and people’s experiences of them?'”

With permission, the poem is published below. More of Lee-Crossett’s urban-landscape poetry, including a piece “about what it means to be at home in a city,” is here, on the collective’s blog.

Modes of Transportation

By Kyle Lee-Crossett

We hadn’t looked at the map in a long time,
but we weren’t lost. Emily and I were going to visit a museum perched
at the tip of the coast
at the end of a straight line street that began in the heart of the city.
Read more of this post


Urban scifi-ist


by Aurora Kazi Bassett

I think we all carry around an embarrassing fascination or hobby that we finally convince ourselves to love and take pride in. Mine is sci-fi. I love it. I think it’s the most underrated of literary genres, yet filled with some of the best ideas. I love it from a purely personal level but increasingly I love it as a budding urbanist.

Scifi is about imagining the future, about seeing what our present will mean if it keeps going and growing. Urbanists think in the same way. We are imagining utopias and dystopias that, at their most compelling, are not pure fabrications but make us question some part of the present. The garden city designs of Ebenzer Howard were a re-imagining and reaction to the industrial world he saw around him. The inspiration for these designs is even attributed to Bellamy’s utopian novel “Looking Backward,” a book in which the protagonist goes to sleep only to wake up more than a hundred years later. Pretty scifi. What’s more exciting is that urban planners can make that future real. We can build those cities and learn from their successes and, yes, their failures.

Point is, I think when we imagine and plan for better cities we are all imagining a future and planning that, too. Cities are so integral to our present that they will shape our future. Scifi literature and urban planners are both future-makers. One works with words, the other with plans. Read up, because we can learn from each other. 

(Image of ‘Lilypad’. A post-climate change design concept by Vincent Callebut)


A city is a machine for traffic.

Le Corbusier


The newer parts of cities are everywhere acquiring a boring sameness. The potential of the natural environment to contribute to a distinctive, memorable, and symbolic urban form is unrecognized and forfeited.

Anne Spirn’s Granite Garden