A desire for sustainability is only as old as the metropolis itself. The modernizing, industrializing technics that engendered the emergence of the metropolis and its associated liberations also engendered many of its ultimate limitations, such as the unsustainable patterns of development that today some designers of the world aim to amend. In order to propose patterns of development—forms of knowledge, practices, and technics—that could induce and activate the culturally, politically, ecologically, and publicly amplified, diverse, robust, exuberant, and vital environments that center the desire for a sustainable metropolis, a description of how basic development occurs over time in the physical world—from the molecular to the territorial—is useful if not fundamental and ultimately provides an approach to the sustainable metropolis. Knowledge of how the world’s material continuum unfolds, always social before it is physical in the metropolis, could expand our understanding of the behavior of the city and consequently help guide the development of our cities today toward ever more exuberant, more free, and more robust qualities of life.
Actual patterns of physical development for the sustainable metropolis are the aim of this essay. After describing the city as a material continuum, this essay considers a number of perennial tendencies that have thus far determined approaches to the sustainable metropolis. The aim is to discern patterns of development within these tendencies that can actually integrate the processes and pressures that continuously form the city and therefore could, if understood and directed, support and enhance the dynamic, streaming equilibrium of the sustainable metropolis, a metropolitan homeorhesis.