In the face of a city which is growing and transforming into the metropolis, the post-metropolis, the conurbations, the metropolitan region, the megalopolis, under the forces of capital and migrations, architects fly in the face of papers and counts requested by the administrative machine and of pixels and parameters requested by the digital machine.
In the meantime, the city does not stop to grow, managed by developers, economists, politicians, on the shoulders of already urbanized masses or ready to be: all of them, of course, looking for better living conditions and hoping for a better future.
Amounts of people and amounts of money which, looking for their collocation in this world, find it more and more in the urban realm. Urbanization and infrastructures, which are among the most powerful tools of the capitalistic accumulation, have gradually shifted the attention from needs, quality and specific objects in the reality to calculations, quantities and extension abstractly spread over the whole earth’s surface.
More and more often we consider, and not illegitimately, what is useful to cohabit this world (dwellings, cities) and to move in it (roads, bridges), as a danger for our survival, rather than obvious answers to the people’s needs. I must say that, actually, some urbanization and communication projects raise legitimate questions, being tools for economic accumulation rather than answers to comprehensible needs.
How can we operate in the urban realm, given our cultural mood of disengagement and resignation?
I am not surprised that, after years of researches, the Urban Age Project held by the London School of Economic (and financed by the Deutsche Bank) identified in the dense and compact urbanization and in the railway system the recipe to face the problems of the global cities. Omitting any consideration about possible conflicts of interest, I am wondering how such standardized solutions can be proposed, even though a generic opposition to the homogenizing forces of globalization is considered by the people responsible of the research programme.
As an alternative to the superficial technical/administrative recipes of the governance, I believe that the only serious attempt to face contemporary city’s problems, in their complexity, is a strategy that is supported both by an appropriate knowledge of the specific reality where to intervene and by an overall idea of the city (not standardizing, but rather based on the concepts of difference, of the part-to-whole relationship and even of abstraction): resistant, resilient cities, against the forces into play.
The diversity of each city, so as of each part which constitutes it, must be the starting point and the task of the project, against the homogenizing forces of profit and not-for-profit, of the real estate and indigence. Local specificity, therefore. Cultural, economic, geographic, historic. But not only that, obviously. No nimby (not in my back-yard) or local (naïve or updated) strategy can today face problems which are evidently and necessarily global. The local, by itself, is not sufficient.
The modern movement saw in cosmopolitism an unavoidable outcome of history: a system of values and fundamental rights, universal, based on liberty, equality and fraternity. The modern language was, originally, a bearer of those ideas. Then it has been gradually absorbed by other logics, technical and commercial. Today the modern is history itself and, as the local cultures, might assume a resistant role.
I am not so much interested in the local in itself, rather than in its way to look at the universal and at the global. It is evident that the innovatory drive (abstract, autonomous, absolute) which can come from somewhere else (geographically, culturally, technologically) is a resource, not a problem, as long as the destination is able to resist against it, thanks to its specific history and culture, in order to always give birth to something new, something better.
The forms, which the encounter between what there is and what there is not will take place in, will constitute the possibility for the existence of places available for the narrations of the hosts, both hosting and hosted people.
Cities, from expanses of indistinct urbanized places, accessible according to wealth, will be able to guarantee the defence of human universal rights: cities in the form of constitutions of stone.

 

 


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