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Synthesis from: Massimo Cacciari’s, La città, Pazzini Stampatore Editore, Villa Verucchio (RN)
Immage from: Rem Koolhaas, dematerializatio model
 
The founding values of the city

Polis: it is about the people belonging to the same “genos”. Polis is the place of the ethos, the place that gives people a root.
In the Greek polis the rooting principle is: “I belong to that polis because that is the seat of my genos”.
Each city stands substantially alone because of the rooting of spirit and kind. As a consequence each polis is isolated from any other.

Civitas:
in Rome the first temple was dedicated to the God Asylum. This explains why the city’s founding idea was based on the acceptance of people that had been banned from their own cities (exiles, wanderers, bandits…).
All free men that live in the Roman Empire become Roman cives, be it Africans, Spaniards, Gauls….irrespective of their ethnic-religious belonging.

The polis problem is the spatial control, at the risk of democracy building’s collapse.
On the contrary, the programmatic goal of the civitas is to grow, there is non civitas that does not flow over the city’s boundaries.

Nowadays the trend to think that, in order to have a human size, the city should resemble the polis, with a well defined space, a well delimited territory allowing for social exchange, shared and rich relations. But we should not forget that the decision makers were just a few.
Is really this the idea we should cherish? Or would it rather be the Roman idea, different people coming from anywhere, speaking all kind of languages, practicing all religions, with only one mission and one law, senate, emperor.

 

 Topics:

  • The “metropolis” city
  • The territory-city or post-metropolis
  • The body and the place
  • A suggestion: the polyvalence of the buildings
  • Space time

 

The “metropolis” city

In the transition from city to metropolis the buildings are massive, they tower above, they are physically encumbering. In the metropolitan space there is a precise hierarchy among buildings or “containers” that have the function of bodies of reference. They are bodies that produce a mobilizing, eradicating, breaking up energy. Each body/building must carry out a definite task, it has specific qualities and properties; seen from this angle the metropolitan space is not substantially different from the urban space, were it not for the fact that it transcends the old boundaries.
These presences dissolve the traditional symbolic ones that in fact are limited to the inner city. This is how the “inner city” is born: while the city by now articulates itself on the dominant and central presence of the productive and exchange areas, the memory becomes museum and ceases to be memory, because the memory has a sense when it is imaginative, recreational, otherwise it becomes just a clinic where we put our memories. We have hospitalised our memories in the inner city, that has thus got the function of longstay clinic for our memories.


The territory-city or post-metropolis

Nowadays there has been the breaking of the measures that dominated the management of space in the 800s – 900s classic urban planning, based on the functional articulation of the areas: productive, residential, third sector areas, adding to the dialectics inner city vs. suburbs.
The territory-city prevents each form of this kind of planning. By now we see an indefinite, homogeneous, undifferentiated space in its locations, where things happen based on rationales that do not correspond any longer to any unitary holistic design.
Where does a city end and another begins? The boundaries are merely administrative and artificial, they do not have any geographical, symbolic or political sense.
We live in indefinite territories, and the functions are diffused inside them, disregardful of any planning rationale, of any urban planning; they locate according to speculative interests, social pressures, not according to an urban design that in the great masters of urban planning originated from the fact that one could reason about the founding basis of functional articulation. Instead of disappearing, these functions have diffused, spread out: the de-industrialization, the end of the massive productive activities, has not caused the disappearance of the production, but the fact that it is no longer gathered in some specific spaces, and it is dispersed everywhere. So are also the exchange function.
The roles of inner city and suburb can incessantly be exchanged, and these exchanges happen occasionally or on the basis of mercantile and speculative reasons that refuse any pre-established functional “grid”. The territory is getting more and more specialised, but outside any overall planning.
The post-metropolitan being is still frozen in closed spaces. In addition to the traditional containers there are others that follow the same rationale. The containers lay in accordance with orders and motivations other that the ones that precided over the metropolitan organization, but containers they still are. There is an increase in the randomness, the seeming casualness of their location, but their quality persists: each of them has comparatively static, fixed properties. They keep being “bodies” of reference or so they want to be seen, and thus the emphasis, the rhetoric, of the container is enhanced, and the more it increases the more its symbolic poverty appears evident. The persistency of these enclosed spaces is increasingly intolerable. Enclose space is not only the building defined on the basis of a one single “property” function, but even more so the neighbourhood that is residential and nothing else, the leisure park where even the entertainment becomes “chronic” like diseases in hospitals, the teaching in the schools and campuses, the culture in museums and theatres.
But the enclosed space opens an evident contradiction: if on one side the enclosed space tells of a need of community, on the other side it tells of a need of privacy, both as lifestyle and as concept and practice of the right.
How can we talk about city, trying to give this term a communal value, if the city is regulated by forms of private law? This being the situation, people establish relations on the basis of their mutual interest, as enterprises do.
Thus the whole theory of the public law turned into a contractual form becomes inevitable.
Then ours is neither a polis nor a civitas but a cohabitation.
Nowadays we do not live in cities, but in indefinite territories. Functions are spread according to speculative interests or social pressures, not to an urban plan.

This is indeed the death of all codifications of the Modern Movement, of the way of thinking the city as successive aggregation of elements, from homes to buildings, to functional pole, to the whole city as “container of containers”. This is the death of any abstract typology.
These events modify at incredible speed, the factory had some stability, now the rapidity of transformations prevents the memories of the past to be preserved in the course of one generation.
No doubt that the territory where we live is a radical challenge to all traditional forms of communal life.
All ground forms tend to melt in the network of temporal relationships. But for this the space must assume the aspect of an a priori form, equivalent and homogeneous in each point, i.e. that the place dimension should disappear together with the possibility to define places inside the space, or to characterize it according to a hierarchy of symbolically meaningful places.
The development of the city from metropolis to territory cannot be planned any more: this is the drama of architects and urban planners.

What should we do:

  • renovate the places in the traditional way (in accordance with vernacular and localistic codes, for instance New urbanism);
  • plunge into the cyber dimension (the computerized agora and polis, for instance Mitchell, Virilio, Tschumi), but since we are places, how can we not want places, although different from the ones of the polis or of the industrial revolution?



The body and the place

Can space be eliminated as long as we are bodies? We demand the external world to dissolve into the virtual while we keep being the place of our body, some thousands billions molecule that make us and that have a specific spatial form. How can we make the place that we are live together with the external elimination of all places?
Could we treat the body as an information amongst others the problem would be solved, since we possess the information, their manipulation and transmission. This is what is happening in medicine where the body is treated as a group of information pieces.
The energy stemming from the post-metropolitan territory is essentially de-territoliazing, anti-spatial, bringing to an end the process initiated with the modern metropolis that only now expresses itself in its entirety. The regulatory idea is still the one of a totally deprived of roots “angelopolis”. This is the regulatory idea, or basic philosophy of the information technologies; for them overcoming the spatial constraint represents the first step towards overcoming the temporal constraint: such a form of communication makes the space perfectly indifferent and homogeneous. It does not feature any particular “density” any significant “knot”.
The space takes its revenge on the envy of ubiquity: the traffic congestion, with extremely heavy architectures, that contrast with the anxiety of movement and spiritualization.


A suggestion: the polyvalence of the buildings

We live with the obsession of the images and the myths of speed and ubiquity, while the space we build insist persistently in defining, delimitating, confining.
In the post-metropolitan territory any building must have the worth of reference body, but the bodies must be able to “deform” or transform during their movement. Thus the distribution of matter in this space shall constantly and unforeseeably change. The whole space shall result from the interaction among its diverse bodies: elastic, deformable, able to accept one another, to penetrate into each other, spongy, mollusc like. This is not a wholly ideological operation of suppression of the boundaries: any body possesses a boundary otherwise it is annihilated. Neither is it about “anarchistically” confusing the different times of the different places. It is rather about harmonising without confusing, making the entire, the form of the entire, live in the quality of each part.
We should plan our buildings as settlements of the anti-space of the computer network, like knots of the network, polyvalent and interchangeable buildings. We should build them like sensors, almost computer interfaces. The richer and more complex the information we receive, more mobile in time, less rooted in rigid properties, more problems their presence shall cause, the more they shall respond to the irrepressible need of the inhabiting.
For the metropolitan territory we need that architecturae scientia about which the ancients already talked: the capability to build places fit for the use, places corresponding to the needs and the problems of their time. Therefore politicians and architects should try to overcome the mono-functionality, think of really polyvalent buildings. On the contrary the hospital, the school, the university, the museum, the theatre, the town hall offices still exist. They still plan and make architectural, political, urban planning interventions by separability, building rigid bodies.
More advanced was the wonderful polifunctionality of the monastery: it was hospital, hotel, place of worship, post office, market, school, university. Instead we make everything clinic-like: a clinic for works of art, another for sick people, for opera fans that go to the theatre.
With the result of producing meaningless monstrosities because there is not the person behind those places.
We should plan in low voice, ground level, in civilian dress, otherwise we become ridiculous like most of the contemporary architectures.

In the Greek world the temple was beautiful if it reflected the canons that transcended the subjective aesthetical position. Our city is the varietas, already in the 500s treatises the canon and every artificial, conventional norm were abolished. In the city viewed as territory our “beautiful” is entrusted to the varietas.


Space time

We make all our measurements according to time, not space. Nobody tells any more the distance from a city but the time it takes to reach it. The space has become only an obstacle , but it takes its revenge on these temporal metrics because it possesses an inertia: we cannot completely uproot ourselves and fly, on short distances this is impossible. This is a big problem because on one side by now our mind reasons in terms of ubiquity, and therefore it lives the space in terms of damnation, on the other side we demand the city to get organized by places that in addition should be welcoming.

The perspective to de-territorialize the bodies is nowadays indeed the dominant ideology in the scientific-technical project. Our destiny is a radical uprooting of any earthly condition. If we reflect on the dominant issues of the contemporary culture this can be noticed everywhere: from the discourse we just made on the city to the abstract artistic representation, to the spiritual in art, the uprooting of the aesthetic-sensitive conditions becomes manifest. We are future cives, the real citizenship is in the future, this is St. Augustine, this is the entire Christian tradition.

Space time leads to overcoming the Kantian idea of a time at homogeneous dimension, undifferentiated in all its points, in favour of a liturgical idea in which the dimension of time is discontinuous, every day is different from the other.