Ozymandias in the Anthropocene: the city as an emerging landform

Simon Dixon, Heather Viles, Bradley Garrett

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)
357 Downloads (Pure)


The extent of urban areas is rapidly expanding across the globe, both horizontally and vertically. While natural and social scientists have examined the impacts of this urbanisation on earth system and social processes, to date researchers have largely overlooked how in turn earth system processes can act on this urban fabric to produce hybrid landforms. Unique pseudokarst landforms are found within the urban fabric, including urban stalactites and urban sinkholes. Additionally, both the chronic and acute degradation of urban buildings can form rubble and dust that, if left in situ, will be shaped by fluvial and aeolian processes. For many of these urban geomorphological processes, the neglect or abandonment of parts of the urban network will facilitate or accelerate their influence. If there are economic, climatic or social reasons for abandonment or neglect, these processes are likely to reshape parts of the urban fabric into unique landforms at a range of scales. We contend that researchers need to explicitly consider the urban fabric as an Anthropocene landform and that by doing so important insights can be gained into urban hazards and geomorphological processes. Shelley's Ozymandias, in which the eponymous king failed to account for the effects of earth system processes acting on ‘mighty’ urban structures over time, serves as an important reminder of the impermanence of our urban works and the need to recognise and understand the processes acting on them.
Original languageEnglish
Early online date21 Jun 2017
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 21 Jun 2017


  • weathering
  • urban landforms
  • Anthropocene
  • urbanisation
  • geomorphology
  • geohazards


Dive into the research topics of 'Ozymandias in the Anthropocene: the city as an emerging landform'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this