Returning to the Ryanair case in the chapter called “Site,” Lyster proposes that it represents a new model of urbanization where the “network is context,” as a departure from historic interdependencies between geography, identity, and urbanism. Drawing on work from Christian Norberg-Schulz to Superstudio and Archizoom, Lyster introduces a range of attitudes around geography and place, before concluding with a longer section on Los Angeles and Chicago through the lens of Reyner Banham’s “Autopia” and Alvin Boyarsky’s Chicago a la carte. For Lyster, Banham and Boyarsky’s interpretations of highways and freight rail illustrate the network context concept.
Other chapters go on to relate the hybrid top-down-bottom-up strategies of FedEx and Amazon to the ordered yet indeterminate infrastructural “framework” proposals by the Metabolists, and smart ground surfaces in logistics distribution facilities with the active ground plane as conceptualized through landscape urbanism.
Throughout the lessons, Lyster also draws on historic interrelationships between urbanization and communications, shipping, and transportation technologies to frame future scenarios. The Sears mail-order catalog of the early twentieth century is described as a “mitigator of the urban/rural divide” (131) by its bringing the rural majority immediate access to goods without passing through the city. Discussed in relation to today’s on-demand services that deliver directly to individuals, Lyster foresees a decline in the city’s role as the place to negotiate commercial transactions, and a future “emptying” of urban spaces of commerce. Whether or not Lyster’s predictions that the city will be refilled with new spaces for collective leisure is realized, the discussion calls to mind today’s refilling of the previous era’s industrial spaces with large parks and leisure landscapes.
The final section of Learning from Logistics, called “Apply,” presents a series of seven original design narratives that “leverage logistics to generate new urban formats” (177) and suggest going “beyond mere utility (and engineering) to intensify and revitalize communities, and even architecture itself” (178). The narratives are effective as a set, offering a range of ways to imagine how to apply the lessons—physically through programmatic coupling, conceptually by reappropriating network strategies, and opportunistically by reoccupying voids produced by logistics. Each individual narrative is playful (say, a public hot tub sharing a thermal loop with an underground data center on the Chicago lakefront) and brief, accompanied by just one or two cartoon-esque drawings—reading much like previews or trailers for a main feature that happens not to be released in this edition.