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Urban and Landscape Perspectives

Volume 1

Series Editor
Giovanni Maciocco

Editorial Board
Abdul Khakee, Faculty of Social Sciences, Umeå University
Norman Krumholz, Levin College of Urban Affairs,
Cleveland State University, Ohio
Ali Madanipour, School of Architecture, Planning and Landscape,
Newcastle University
Leonie Sandercock, School of Community and Regional Planning, Vancouver
Frederick Steiner, School of Architecture, University of Texas, Austin
Erik Swyngedouw, School of Environment and Development,
University of Manchester
Rui Yang, School of Architecture, Tsinghua University, Department of Landscape
Architecture, Peiking

For other titles published in this series, go to

Editorial Staff
Isabelle Doucet
Paola Pittaluga
Silvia Serreli

Project Assistants
Monica Johansson
Giovanna Sanna

Christine Tilley

Aims and Scope

Urban and Landscape Perspectives is a series which aims at nurturing theoretic re-
flection on the city and the territory and working out and applying methods and
techniques for improving our physical and social landscapes.
The main issue in the series is developed around the projectual dimension, with the
objective of visualising both the city and the territory from a particular viewpoint,
which singles out the territorial dimension as the citys space of communication and
The series will face emerging problems that characterise the dynamics of city devel-
opment, like the new, fresh relations between urban societies and physical space, the
right to the city, urban equity, the project for the physical city as a means to reveal
civitas, signs of new social cohesiveness, the sense of contemporary public space
and the sustainability of urban development.
Concerned with advancing theories on the city, the series resolves to welcome ar-
ticles that feature a pluralism of disciplinary contributions studying formal and in-
formal practices on the project for the city and seeking conceptual and operative
categories capable of understanding and facing the problems inherent in the pro-
found transformations of contemporary urban landscapes.
Fundamental Trends
in City Development

Giovanni Maciocco
Giovanni Maciocco

ISBN: 978-3-540-74178-7 e-ISBN: 978-3-540-74179-4

Library of Congress Control Number: 2007938163

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9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

To Mariangela, Caterina, Maria Antonietta and Sara

Three Categories of Utopia ....................................................................... 1

City Adrift............................................................................................... 1
Conservative, Liquidatory and Resistant Utopias................................... 3

The Discomposed City ............................................................................... 7

The Formless City .................................................................................. 7
Crisis of the Context of Proximity.......................................................... 9
Crisis of the Ethics of Proximity .......................................................... 18
Deconstruction of the Space of Proximity............................................ 22

The Generic City...................................................................................... 41

The Revenge of Functionalism............................................................. 41
Thematisation of the City ..................................................................... 44
The City as a Simulacrum..................................................................... 53
Desired Landscapes .............................................................................. 57

The Segregated City ................................................................................ 67

The Urban Project of Inequality ........................................................... 67
Elitist Segregation as Global Identity ................................................... 72
Flat Man................................................................................................ 79

Reinventing the City ................................................................................ 97

Externity................................................................................................ 97
Recovering Sensitive Knowledge of the City..................................... 103
Walking is the “Speech Act” of the City ............................................ 112
“Dynamic Traditionality” as a Requisite of Urban Innovation .......... 116
Narrating the City Means Designing its Possible Future.................... 120
Artists Take the City by the Hand ...................................................... 123
Horizons of Contemporary Public Space: Intermediate Spaces ......... 133
Counterspace and Disenchantment with the Modern City ................. 138
The “Void” and the City Project......................................................... 150
… and the City was Born of Chaos: Designing the City
at its Edges ......................................................................................... 155

viii Contents

The Territory of the City .................................................................... 160

Towards a Reinvented City ................................................................ 165

References............................................................................................... 183

Index ....................................................................................................... 199

Name Index............................................................................................. 217

Three Categories of Utopia

City Adrift

What do phenomena like sprawl, the “generic city” or urban segregation

have in common with the concept of city? The issue is not so
straightforward: Madame, vous n’auriez pas une question plus petite!
replied Matisse to a woman who had candidly asked the master at a lunch
what he thought of art. The same question, applied to the field – moreover
uncertain and not easily defined – of the city, is not exempt of the same
risks attached to the vastness and complexity of the theme and the dangers
inherent in eclectic, linear, reductionist approaches to problems. This, in
any case, is the query this book departs from, principally due to the
bewilderment we feel in the face of these phenomena found throughout the
urban world, which put our concepts of city to a hard test, or at least those
concepts we consider inherent in the city, such as: interaction between
men, proximity between men and places, solidarity systems, social
mediation between individuals rather than individualism, etc.
We think of sprawl as liquefaction of the city, urban growth without
shape, “the explosion of the city”. The generic city is seen as a
phenomenon of standardisation of life and the space produced by
shopping,1 a primary way of urban life. Urban segregation2 is considered a
phenomenon produced by spatial agglomeration of the new urban elites
that create social spaces which are powerfully structured and separated like
We are adopting these expressions as the conceptual space for exploring
the “city adrift”, but simultaneously as a space in which to record new
stimuli for the regeneration of that environment which is propitious for
organized life, which still remains the city.
This is a space where urbanists’ utopias unfold, the last to preserve the
utopian plea, as David Riesman maintains in his famous essay The Lonely
Crowd (Riesman 1950). In spite of its age, this is a premonitory essay,
where Riesman inquires into the American social character – and to a large

2 Three Categories of Utopia

extent that of all the developed Western world – which was formed in the
mass society. Its current interest lies in the introduction of the theme of
inclusion or exclusion of man in the metropolis, pursued by a sense of
solitude and anxiety for fear of not being accepted. This is hetero-directed
man, guided from the outside, whom Riesman saw emerging in that
America on its way to becoming a mass organised, consumer civilisation.
In hetero-directed man the category of failure is fear, as in fear of
exclusion. Just as in the self-directed Renaissance man and man of the
Protestant Reform, where the individual found his own compass and his
own objectives within himself, the category of failure is guilt. Whilst in
man directed by tradition in the Middle Ages, an immobile society, where
children continued doing the work of their fathers, the category of failure
is shame.
One of the main forms of spatial instability of the city is produced
precisely by the consumer society and mass organisation, dealt with in
Riesman’s theories and presented in contemporary terms by Koolhaas in
the generic city of pervasive shopping.
It is a spatial tendency that in its turn generates loneliness and a loss of
public space as a place where personal uneasiness may be transformed into
a social project.4 This is the thesis Zygmunt Bauman develops in his essay
In Search of Politics (Bauman 1999), placing himself as Riesman’s
successor in our times. The forms used to explore types of sociality
change: people, in the pre-industrial epoch, crowd, in the industrial epoch,
(dismayed) multitude, in our post-industrial epoch.
To explore what we call the city adrift, we will analyse some of the
urbanists’ positions, but more generally, those of scholars of the city, using
as analytical category the utopia5 with which urbanist flirting, referred to
by Riesman, continues, and which Bloch describes as an internal path,
preparing the meeting with the Self:

after this internal vertical movement: may a new expanse appear, the world of the soul,
the external, cosmic function of utopia, maintained against misery, death, the husk–realm
of mere physical nature. Only in us does this light still burn, and we are beginning a
fantastic journey toward it, a journey toward the interpretation of our waking dream, toward
the implementation of the central concept of utopia. To find it, to find the right thing, for
which it is worthy to live, to be organized, and to have time: that is why we go, why we cut
new, metaphysically constitutive paths, summon what is not, build into the blue, and build
ourselves into the blue, and there seek the true, the real, where the merely factual disappear
– incipit vita nova. (Bloch 1918).
Conservative, Liquidatory and Resistant Utopias 3

Conservative, Liquidatory and Resistant Utopias

Here we refer to three categories of utopia, conservative, liquidatory and

resistant, that can perhaps significantly characterise the different positions
regarding the spatial tendencies we wish to deal with.
The first type is that of the conservative utopia, almost a contradiction,
an oxymoron. We may take as a model La Città del Sole,7 in the critical in-
terpretation Alberto Savinio8 gives of it. La Città del Sole, written by
Tommaso Campanella, a Dominican friar, a philosopher from Stilo,
Calabria, is a programme for politico-religious reform dreaming along the
lines of a utopia, and on the historico-practical plane materialises in the vi-
sion of politico-religious unity between peoples under the guidance of the
Roman Pontiff, for whom the King of Spain and the King of France should
act as secular support.
In the dazzling preface to La Città del Sole, which goes back to 1944,9
Savinio describes his idea of utopia in contrast with the text he is
presenting: “as a model of a republic to be imitated, the Città del Sole is a
model not to be imitated”, he writes insolently. Because – he notes – there
is no utopia unless all religious or political authorities are renounced; there
is no utopia if the idea of a better life remains inevitably relegated to the
memory of a mythical past; there is no utopia if the hope of future life
excludes happiness in the present; there is no utopia without liberation
from the “material slavery” of the machine; there is no utopia without “the
opening of minds” to suppress iniquity, without justice at work, the
abolition of prejudices that hinder “human progress” as the progress of
relationships between men.
The second category is the liquidatory utopia. Let us borrow this
expression from a recent article by Roger Caillois in Le Monde, which
attributes the quality of liquidateur to Picasso for, according to Caillois, all
his “doing” is based on arbitrariness that profoundly ridicules the organic
shape of what is natural. This article by Caillois is taken up again by
Placido Cherchi in an essay on Picasso (Caillois 1975; Cherchi 2001b).
The liquidatory utopia ridicules the lasting continuity of tradition, like that
of the Futurists, who were the first to totally, methodically refuse the
hegemony of cultural worlds and stereotypes of the past. Once the social
barriers had fallen, the masses had to organise the world in a different way.
The new dynamism led to rules and ancient social categories being
transgressed to back up the “already become” (even though the “already
become” produced injustice and alienation in man).
The liquidatory utopia is therefore a reproduction of the “already
become”, a historically ambiguous relationship with the dialectics of
4 Three Categories of Utopia

development since it reproduces its progress with surprising accuracy, an

ontology that opposes the Blochian ontology of the “not-yet-become”
(Bloch 1918, 1986). The liquidatory utopia is an a-critical position, an
absence of heresy in respect of a world that produces injustice and
alienation in man, as happened with the change in production methods in
the modern city. In this sense functionalism was a liquidatory utopia as it
was a “stabiliser” of a representation of the functionalist cult of the life of
The liquidatory utopia may be understood as a “utopia of escape” in the
sense Mumford attributes to this expression, in particular as an escape
from the need to resolve the social conflicts of an “already become” world
(as the city is). It is similar in a certain sense to the phenomenon of
“reflective sliding”, being a reflection of the contradictions of the world,
without addressing the problem of facing them.10
The third category is the resistant utopia, a plea for reciprocal integration
of past and present, the will to demonstrate that past experience continues to
give evidence of values that keep intact an internal susceptibility to
reconsideration, as the need to prove the analytical fecundity of the
languages of our time in the languages of tradition.11
To define the process of “summing-up” the previous historic and social
events which is at the base of innovation of meaning, Steiner coins the
expression “dynamic traditionality”, referring as support for this thesis to
some of the artistic biographies among the most innovative of the
modernist movement:

Will this ‘dynamic traditionality’ so distinctive of Western literacy persist? There are
indications that we have become acutely conscious of the question. We know now that the
modernist movement which dominated art, music, letters during the first half of the century
was, at critical points, a strategy of conservation, of custodianship. Stravinsky’s genius
developed through phases of recapitulation. He took from Machaut, Gesualdo, Monteverdi.
He mimed Tchaikowski and Gounod, the Beethoven piano sonatas, the symphonies of
Haydn, the operas of Pergolesi and Glinka. He incorporated Debussy and Webern into his
own idiom. In each instance the listener was meant to recognize the source, to grasp the
intent of a transformation which left salient aspects of the original intact. The history of
Picasso is marked by retrospection. The explicit variations on classical pastoral themes, the
citations from and pastiches of Rembrandt, Goya, Velasquez, Manet, are external products
of a constant revision, a ‘seeing again’ in the light of technical and cultural shifts. Had we
only Picasso’s sculptures, graphics, and paintings, we could reconstruct a fair portion of the
development of the arts from the Minoan to Cézanne. In twentieth-century literature, the
elements of reprise have been obsessive, and they have organized precisely those texts
which at first seemed revolutionary. ‘The Waste Land’, Ulysses, Pound’s Cantos are
deliberate assemblages, in–gatherings of a cultural past felt to be in danger of dissolution.
The long sequence of imitations, translations, masked quotation, and explicit historical
paintings in Robert Lowell’s History has carried the same technique into 1970s. The
apparent iconoclasts have turned out to be more or less anguished custodians racing through
Conservative, Liquidatory and Resistant Utopias 5

the museum of civilization, seeking order and sanctuary for its treasures, before closing
time. In modernism collage has been the representative device. (Steiner G 1975).

But anti-classicism, heresy is also the resistant utopia. If Picasso and

Kandinski shared the deep sense, the choices and interests of their times
and can therefore be considered classical in that they codified those times
once and for all, Paul Klee is a heretic: profoundly immersed in his times,
but at the same time on this and that side of them. He is rigorously anti-
classical, for the unsettling irony of the heretic is antithetical to the
decisive codification of what has become, that the notion of classicism
appears to demand.
A resistant utopia is Klee’s lack of contemporariness, already living in
anticipation of the future, while his penetrating glance manages to lacerate
the false conscience of the present (Cherchi 2001a). It is Ernst Bloch’s The
Principle of Hope (1959), which highlights how the whole structure of
Blochian philosophy tends towards the future and on the strength of this
aims at recuperating the elements of hope contained in the past. These
founded hope on objective bases, showing that reality itself, in its deep
structures of possibility, is hope: in this is resolved the Blochian ontology
of the “not-yet-become. Man, not yet complete, lives looking towards the
future: his full realisation has not yet happened, so that for now man is a
homo absconditus, whose true reality has yet to emerge.
These three categories of utopia enable us both to study the urbanists’
attitudes with regard to the emerging phenomena of the urban world, and
to focus better on these phenomena.

For bibliography on “thematisation” of the city, see, among others: Augé
2000; Banerjee 2001; Sorkin 1992; Glaeser et al. 2001; Warren 1994.
For bibliography on the subject, see, among others: Caldeira 2000; Elias and
Scotson 2004; Lefebvre 2003; Low 2003a; Merrifield and Swyngedouw 1997;
Young 2000.
For bibliography on the subject, see, among others: Agamben 2003; Bauman
1988, 2005; Davis 1990, 1998; Ellin 1997; Lyon 2002; Virilio 2004.
An interesting analysis of the economic and spatial effects of consumerism
from the second half of the 17th Century to the present can be found in the book Il
significato sociale del consumo, edited by Egeria di Nallo, a collection of articles
by contemporary scholars like David Riesman, Pierre Bourdieu, Edgar Morin and
Claude Lévi-Strauss (cf. di Nallo 2005).
“The utopia gives a sense to life because it requires, against all probability, that
life has a sense” as Claudio Magris notes (Magris 1999), utopia gives meaning to
6 Three Categories of Utopia

life. “If the Perfect Society is not realistically realisable, nor is it realistic to think
we can stop pursuing it.”
E Bloch, The Spirit of Utopia, Stanford University Press, Stanford California,
2000 (original work Geist der Utopie was published in 1918).
T Campanella, La città del Sole, Adelphi, Milano, 1995.
“For Alberto Savinio, utopia is a deep mental attitude, which requires adhesion
to a model that is both Greek (but pre-Socratic, since with the Socratic discovery
of the conscience man loses his original freedom) and humanistic, in the sense of a
human condition freed from theocracy. But freed, also, from that ‘residual di-
vinism’ which is the destination of life, i.e. the will to substitute God himself as
regards will of creation and power.” (Zampieri 1990).
In 1945, Alberto Savinio edited Thomas More’s Utopia in the same series.
This makes architectonic and urban space production be reduced to a spatial
replica of daily behaviours, as happens among the supporters of “reflective slid-
ing”, in which the said behaviours, the apparent manifestations of the social, be-
come the primary content of architecture, often “at a level of clarity that trans-
forms them into advertisements for themselves.” (cf. Gregotti 1993).
The resistant utopia is perhaps represented in literature by Italo Calvino’s
book Le città Invisibili (1972), a report of travels through cities which find no
room in the geographic atlas. “I think I have written something like a last love
poem to cities, at the moment in which it becomes more and more difficult to live
in them as cities. Perhaps we are approaching a moment of crisis in urban life and
Le città invisibili are a dream born from the heart of unlivable cities.” (Italo Cal-
vino, 29 March 1983).
The Discomposed City

The Formless City

Sprawl means “lie in an unseemly manner”, “stretch oneself out untidily”.

Many expressions try to portray concise images of the phenomenon:
“recumbent city”, “urban liquefaction”,1 “explosion of the city”. Sprawl
appears as a city adrift above all because it presents itself as urban growth
without shape.
In his essay Ciudad distraida, ciudad informe, Xavier Costa (Costa
1996) maintains that the spaces of the modern city were shaped on the
logic of mobility, a logic that leads to the uprooting of ideas and places so
as to enable universal mobility and global interchange, without restraint, of
goods and information.
The traditional city, the city organised in a hierarchical, geometric way
around an agorà, or central space, is expected to be the constructed
expression of stability and permanence, of safety and defence. This
traditional city depends not only on its agorà as the centre of organisation,
but also on its walls as a new component delimiting and defining the city,
distinguishing it from everything that is not part of it. The zone external to
the traditional city interests us as a reference base for certain conditions of
territoriality that will necessarily be incorporated in the modern city.
Places outside the walls were areas of mobility, paths along which
merchants and warriors travelled. As engravers of the past have frequently
shown us, the territory outside the walls was the place for military
deployment, for temporary occupation, fluctuating and always unexpected,
of the infantry and its war machines. An illustration by Claude Perrault of
the French translation of Vitruvius,2 in particular, eloquently shows the
symmetrical, almost spectacular, relationship between the solid city of
stone represented by its bulwarks and unassailable walls, and the virtual
city of war machines that seemed to build temporary, light simulacrums of
the towers and constructions they looked out on.

8 The Discomposed City

Recalled by Xavier Costa, this image reminds us how the solidity of the
building contrasts with the destructive power of what is mobile, of the war
devices that pour out, agile and unpredictable, into extraurban fields. It
enables us to understand that the stable, constructive, productive,
hierarchising order of the city can only see itself threatened, undermined
by a destructive order: this is the logic of the “non-city”, characterised by
what is uprooted, destructive, ultimately what is mobile and fluctuating. It
is the distracted experience of the wanderer, of the disorientation that
produces the formless, the city without shape, i.e. that which is not distinct
from the place where it is situated (Costa 1996). In the formless, as
happens with sprawl, borders and limits vanish, the difference between
figure and background, subject and place, internal and external disappears
or is dearticulated. It is as if there were no longer an “inside” and an
“outside” in the contemporary city. Even urban science fiction literature
has been recording this perception of space for some time. If sociological
science fiction of the 40–50s was characterised by the inside-outside
spatial dichotomy, from the 80s onwards this distinction no longer
appeared to work. In metropolitan post-civilisation the experience of
“outside” represented by the country, the non-urban, by nature, seems
simply to disappear (to crop up again in the different terms
space/cyberspace) and leave room for urban structures which expand and
swallow up all that is available of the world. The only physical experience
that can be had is the experience of the city, i.e. the limits that compose it
internally, the barriers. In current imagery, freedom, deviation from rules
will thus no longer be a physical space, but a synthetic space, virtual
reality, where places don’t exist. This is how cyberspace was explained to
children in Mona Lisa Overdrive by William Gibson (Gibson 1988).
At our present moment we recognise the dissolution of the city in terms
of order and limits, in the sense that the impact of technology for access to
information necessarily entails the transformation of the apparent city – the
inherited, constructed city – into a ruin, a place of artistic attraction ready
to be consumed (by tourists or others). Perhaps, due to the difficulty of
transforming the inherited city into a modern city of pure mobility and
pure distraction, there is a tendency to recreate it as supervised stage-sets
that, from the theme park to the large mall or airport city, are often a city
caricature, reducing its complexity. The contemporary city thus finds itself
immersed in a radical redefinition process, leading to a new stage of the
process of slow dearticulation of the traditional city.
Crisis of the Context of Proximity 9

Crisis of the Context of Proximity

Sprawl also appears to us as the crisis of the context of proximity. In his

essay Context follows fiction (Chabard 2002), Pierre Chabard maps out an
interesting reflection on the evolution of the concept of context as it moved
away from the condition of spatial proximity beginning with Vitruvius. For
two chapters of Book VI of De Architectura are devoted to the concept of
context as a spatial frame. One chapter, De Aedificis disponendis
secundum locorum proprietates, deals with the importance of two factors:
a local factor, the region, indicating the regional sphere, and a supra-local
factor, inclinationes mundi, indicating the latitude. The other chapter, De
Aedificium privatorum proportionibus et mensuris secundum naturam
locorum, deals with localisation, the importance of adapting the building to
its specific locality. Locus as an operative concept means a particular,
specific, qualified place. Locus as a set of physical properties, of external
conditions to which a good settlement must suitably adapt.
There is a line of continuity between Vitruvius and some scholars of the
city who may be defined as “contextual”. Aldo Rossi alludes to the
concept of context in his book L’architettura della città, which is an
attempt at a scientific approach, systematic at any rate, to “place”, around
which Rossi tries to articulate different trends in theoretic reflection going
from history to human geography, from sociology to scientific and
naturalistic approaches to the city.
Aldo Rossi wrote one of the most influential texts of the period,
grouping together a certain number of courses and workshops he had
carried out as a Professor in Venice. It is the best work published on
understanding the relationship between architecture and the city, that
Aymonino, Grassi, Gregotti, etc. share in Italy. Knowledge of historic
architecture and cities is at the centre of Rossi’s argument. The structural
autonomy of the intrinsic knowledge of the discipline is its method. The
analogy between ways of working in architecture and the city is the basic
hypothesis. Persistence in the way of carrying out architecture in the city,
whatever the place and whatever the historical period, is the postulate.
Morphological analysis of the parts of the city and the identification of
architectonic types with which to work constitute the only knowledge
relevant for constructing the city and architecture. Clearly fascinated by
the architectures of the foundation periods – early Renaissance architecture,
Illuminist architecture, the architecture of the masters of the Modern
Movement – the dry, bare language of Aldo Rossi’s suggestions takes us
back to the basics, to the fundamental concepts of an architecture realised
only as a part of the construction of a city (de Solà- Morales 1994).
10 The Discomposed City

The notion of locus is central. By this term we mean the relationship at

the same time particular and universal existing between a given local
situation and the buildings found there (Rossi 1966).
To the concept of context corresponds the concept of city-place
characterised by primary elements and dwellings, where the primary
elements are urban “fires”, the monuments representing an invariant, as
they do not change in type but in function, and remain as urban propellers
through time. To these elements he binds the concept of place.
In the 60s and 70s there were a number of similar attempts to theorise
on “place”, at the service of a “contextual” architecture. Kevin Lynch
inaugurated the cityscape trend in perceptive analysis with his book The
Image of the City (Lynch 1960), in which place is the sphere of what is
visible and offers itself to man in motion around the city. The perceptive,
psychological analysis of phenomena must enable urbanistic and
architectural methods to be reformed. Kevin Lynch borrowed conceptual
elements from perceptive theories for his research, allowing him to work
out a perceptive theory of the city, which he applied to Boston, the only
city in the United States that had historical connotations and lent itself to
verification of his theories. The central concept is man’s orientation in the
city. In some ways it is an introductory concept to the development of
research trends with psychological, sociological and geographical

their objectives concerned – as Paola Pittaluga notes – on the one hand with
understanding the modalities by which individuals acquire, store, recall and decode
environmental and spatial information; on the other, with pinpointing places of attention
belonging to spaces lived in by a society – highlighting the value and significance, the
relations linking them, the symbolic projections of which they are the object – and hopes,
aspirations and anxieties of the populations inhabiting a territory (Pittaluga 2008).

In order to clarify the spatial images inhabitants have, it is important to

emphasise that an individual’s representation of space is derived from
psychological and cultural processes, life and daily experience, and reveals
a distance from the image obtained by traditional urban and territorial
analysis (Lardon et al. 2001, 2003). Representations change because
perception of them varies, affected by the hopes and expectations of local
societies: a change that may be considered partly external, objective, as the
object of perception changes, and partly internal, in the sense that it is the
result of a substantial shift of the point of observation of the perception
(Maciocco and Tagliagambe 1998). As Edgar Morin notes, when
collective meanings are attributed to a given space, this becomes a place
on which groups of individuals construct social representations.3 It is
acknowledged that the theory of social representations (Fuhrer 1990) has
Crisis of the Context of Proximity 11

heuristic potential for the capacity these have of promoting understanding

of the settings of ideas and beliefs that act as mechanisms for socio-
regulation of social and interpersonal behaviour, or, on the contrary, of
group mechanisms which lead to reworking and contextualisation of the
said ideas, social norms and beliefs (Breakwell 1993; Vela 1992). Linked
with orientation processes is cognitive mapping,4 a research trend whose
cultural referents can also be found in the social psychology of the thirties.
This has the clarification of space representations as its objective but,
unlike the theory of social representations, these are not collective but
individual. The environment is considered a producer of stimuli to which
individuals are sensitive. Through these stimuli man and environment
exchange information on space that the latter then organises in maps which
are subsequently translated into guidelines by which to experience the
external world. As Paola Pittaluga notes (Pittaluga 2008), the role the
environment plays in this process is only apparently passive: its features
can help or hinder the cognitive and representational process (Pittaluga
2008). An important contribution to clarifying and interpreting
representations, or rather cognitive maps, is provided exactly by Lynch’s
work on the definition of a basic taxonomy for the analysis of urban forms
deriving from spatial images that individuals construct for themselves in
respect of the urban context concerned: routes, margins, areas, nodes and
reference points in territorial space (Lynch 1960). Numerous fields of
application have been developed on Lynch’s analysis: exploration and
learning about space, in which the procedures used are constructed
according to the type of knowledge underlying the cognitive processes
regarding the perception of the space we wish to acquire (Thorndyke 1983;
Golledge et al. 1987; Golledge 1993). Situationism may, for example, be
linked with cognitive mapping theories with regard to the modalities in
which the development of a psychogeographic theory can produce new
representations by the study of the specific effects of the geographic
environment, whether consciously organised or not, on the emotions and
behaviour of individuals. The main practice for perceptively exploring
urban spaces is the “dérive” (Debord 1956), a type of free, but critical,
walk through urban land, later defined as a way of experimental behaviour
tied to the conditions of urban society and a technique for passing through
various environments The movement’s approach to urban questions was
closely tied to that of Lefebvre (Lefebvre 1971, 1991), who had tried to
study the changing conditions of daily life and the urban landscape in a
similar way, in France in particular, during the same period. Within this
research sphere an important position is held by espace vécu,5 a trend in
French geography, the origins of which can be traced back to the
beginning of the 70s. The approach features the importance taken on by
12 The Discomposed City

the lived dimension of space, observed regardless of human perception at

different levels (urban, periurban, territorial, rural, etc.). The territory or
place lived in are “reorganised” spaces in the semiotic sense by a process
of social organisation of territorial signs on different scales that Raffestin
defines as “territorial ecogenesis” (Raffestin 1986). In lived space places
the spatio-temporal convergence of collective and individual practices
materialises. Space is adopted as a cultural organisation resulting from
interactions between collective representations on the one hand and value
systems of the territory on the other (Bélanger and Gendreau 1978).
If for Lynch the concept of context has to do with man’s orientation in
the city, for Christian Norberg-Schulz, contextualisation is identification
with place, as a spatial experience that influences the identity of men.
Norberg-Schulz conceptualises place using the expression genius loci,
“spirit of the place”, a specific character of some places that have had a
particular magnetism in history and over time, in a certain sense a
metaphysical connotation (Norberg-Schulz 1979). The book is the first
step towards the phenomenology of architecture, a theory which includes
architecture in concrete, existential terms and suffers from the influence of
Heidegger and the Gestalt theory.6 Genius loci is the incarnation both
physical and metaphysical of the stable qualities of a place, as a legitimate
context of the settlement project. The settlement, grasping the essence of
the place where it is located, can resolve the problem of man’s
identification with his environment. The identity of man presupposes the
identity of place. It is not enough to say that our environment has a spatial
structure able to facilitate orientation; it must consist of objects that allow
identification (Chabard 2002). Recent developments that have at their base
the epistemological shift from space experienced to space as a centre of
values and meanings have been brilliantly explored by Paola Pittaluga
(Pittaluga 2008), who describes their convergence towards the formulation
of certain theories7 in which the concept of place becomes central. Among
these, place-identity, introduced by Proshansky (Proshansky et al. 1983),
marks an important turning-point in research on the value and the
relational significance of places: the identity of places is considered an
important component of the personality of the individual, a sub-structure
both cognitive and affective of the identity of the self. The construction of
the identity of a place is produced by combining different social and
symbolico-cultural dimensions (Holan 1986): in this case environmental
perception defines the set of processes by which individuals attribute
meanings to their own socio-physical environment.

In place-identity two fundamental elements of the psychology of the individual are

involved: space understood as having emotive connotations, socially significant from the
Crisis of the Context of Proximity 13

rational, contextual and functional point of view, in that it is the source of opportunities to
reach and achieve individual needs and purposes, and time understood as the dimension
intervening in the process of hysteresis of past experiences, as regards the places and socio-
environmental spaces that each of us has the chance to frequent or experience cognitively
or emotively in our lives. (Pittaluga 2008).

Space and time therefore represent two fundamental dimensions that

organise and structure place-identity.
To be “contextual”, to consider the place of settlement as its context,
means to affirm a priori a certain type of relationship between the two.
Contextere means, in fact, firstly, to interlace, intertwine, thread, weave,
set up as necessary the interweaving relationship between architecture and
what is external to it. This implicit meaning provokes the power and
violence of Rem Koolhaas’ iconoclastic formula “Fuck context” that has
often been received as the claim of an anticontextual activism, but ought
rather to have been the wholesome expression of the limits of the notion of
spatial context in architecture (Koolhaas and Mau 1995). But Koolhaas
himself recalls the need to place his formula in the context of its
enunciation, his manifesto on Bigness. Beyond a certain size, a certain
“critical mass”, an architecture may not be imagined with the habitual
conceptual categories (scale, composition, unity, identity, etc.). It has
access to a sort of autonomy, to an architectural reality of a different type,
which itself escapes architecture. The expression “Fuck context” should
not, therefore, be interpreted as the will to destroy the place, but as the
desire to break, using the extreme case of Bigness, with the absolute,
almost religious, need of a relationship, of a weaving of architecture with
its immediate spatial frame, a need on which the previous generation had
however agreed (Chabard 2002).
But also in the tradition of urbanism two different approaches can be
recognised which either assert or are indifferent to relations with the
context. One approach considers urbanistics as a new discipline that
declares itself autonomous and wishes to be thought of as the science of
city construction. It postulates the possibility of a complete discipline of
urban affairs and has developed theories classified in two currents: one
progressive, promoted by the CIAM (Congrès Internationaux
d’Architecture Moderne) and Le Corbusier, with the entity of the Ville
Radieuse, which addresses progress and productivity and outlines forms
and modalities of the spatial autonomy of buildings and functions; the
other culturalist, theorised by Howard with the garden city, a compact,
multifunctional model focalising on humanist objectives. Both positions
are founded on an identical procedure: a critical analysis of the existing
city and the “back to front” working out of a model of a constructible,
reproducible city ex nihilo, therefore in a certain sense a-contextual (Choay
14 The Discomposed City

1994a). In the second approach, urbanism also indicates another feature,

pragmatic and without scientific pretence. This is regularising urbanism,
that regulates, indeed, pre-existing situations, existing contexts. In this case
we are dealing with a contextual approach. The most important
experiences have been, for example, Cerdà’s Barcelona, Wagner’s Vienna,
Hausmann’s Paris, Rasmussen’s Copenhagen. The historic city is involved
as one of the parts of the city, but not the centre, in Cerdà’s plan. The
Vienna plan contains the first nucleus of services localised in the Ring, to
be followed by the other rings of facilities of which the radiocentric
scheme designed by Otto Wagner is composed. In Hausmann’s Paris the
historic city becomes a space of communication created by Hausmann’s
The context also has a temporal dimension developed by the post-
modernists as a common reaction against a certain idea of modernity,
considered universalistic and anti-historicist. To affirm with the notion of
context the need for interlacement with a particular locus is a way of
distinguishing architecture from the idea of an international style identical
in every place, at every latitude. Place is not, however, just a set of
physical properties or features to be matched up, but also an accumulation
of tangible traces of the past, indices of a sequence of local historical
events into which the settlement is to fit (Chabard 2002).
This historicist aspect was particularly manifest in the Roma Interrotta
exposition, presented in the summer of 1978 in Rome, where twelve
designers,8 the principal promoters of contextualism, summoned by the
then Mayor, Giulio Carlo Argan, had to give continuity to Rome, its
evolution interrupted by speculation, industrialisation, metropolisation,
architectural modernism, etc. According to Argan, Rome had been
interrupted: “… because they had stopped imagining it and begun (badly)
designing it…”. But what was striking in Roma Interrotta was the
multiplicity of interpretations of the context of Rome, a context already
voluntarily disoriented with respect to contemporary reality. The
heterogeneous juxtaposition of all these projects highlighted a new aspect
of context, a sort of intermediate object between the real field of infinite
possible situations and the intentions of each designer. For context seems
to emerge through a series of operations of selection, sifting, choosing: it is
more akin to an invention, at any rate a representation, in a certain sense to
fiction (Chabard 2002). We are far from the definition of context as a
narrow spatial situation, as a physical and objective environment of the
project. If the context depends on an intellectual selection that the designer
makes in his reality, then his context is not simply Rome, but becomes a
complex cultural field that he has given himself. Thus for Aldo Rossi his
context is not simply Rome, but a cultural picture he has given himself and
Crisis of the Context of Proximity 15

which has as reference points: the restoration work of the French Grand
Prix de Rome, the designs of German archaeologists, the thermal
environments of films by Louis Malle and Federico Fellini. It is the idea
that Alberto Pérez-Gómez sums up when he sees “the context in the wide
sense of cultural situation and epistemological foundation of the work,
which in contemporary hermeneutics is called the universe of the work”
(Pérez-Gómez 1966b). 9
If architecture no longer rests on this self-reference, this autonomy, this
“classical reason”, then the question is posed of the exteriority of its
reference base, of reflecting on its contexts, to perhaps work out a theory.
But from what field does the concept of context come? Although this kind
of migration is difficult to pinpoint precisely, one of the most probable
hypotheses is that it has been borrowed from the linguistics of the 60s. At
that moment the theory of intertextuality, proposed in particular by Julia
Kristeva (Kristeva 1968), opened up reflection on the context of the
literary work and, beyond that, the possibility of a more general theory of
the text, such as Roland Barthes was to synthesise in the 70s.
Intertextuality for Kristeva is textual interaction produced within a single
text. Kristeva considered that the fabric of its influences, its loans and
finally its context were no longer external but within the text itself.
Context no longer indicates the external circumstances in which a fact is
placed, but rather the whole, together with which it is going to make sense,
this sense being constructed above all from the inside. The context may
therefore be defined as the selection of what, in the real situation will be
able to create significant relations with it, the deliberate establishment of
that, of which and with which, it will be woven. This linguistic meaning of
context paradoxically frees architecture from supremacy and from the
sacralisation itself of the locus, which brought it under the fire of an
authentic ethics of the local (Chabard 2002).
The concept of context as an interior horizon therefore emerges. This
can have different interpretations which nevertheless appear characterised
by a coevolutive perspective of the relationship between architecture and
context that may express itself in different ways, which can be described
here by referring to the work of various architects. The relationship with
the context consists for example of weaving ties between project and
landscape, making the borders permeable. The project is not conceived to
adhere to the context, uniting with its features, but to provoke perpetual
movement, uncertainty of form, like in the New Opera House in Oslo by
the French RMDM group (Catalogue d’Exposition 2002). Perceptions
offered to the user and the passer-by stimulate a sensitive experience each
time renewable, creating doubt over the unity and stability of a territory
that appears mobile and uncontrollable.
16 The Discomposed City

Another coevolutive approach consists of exploring the context with a

phenomenological approach to places of intervention, by immersing
oneself in their specificity to take possession of their features and develop
a contextual project that will lead most of the time to re-examining and
rethinking the programme. It is an unusual approach for ancient buildings
which are often instead left abandoned, conserved and made aseptic,
stripped of their sense and their soul. Respect for the conventional,
respectable past arises more and more often with an attitude that might be
identified as “façadism” leaving “carcasses” of buildings, for the
conscience to be at peace. On the contrary, Manuelle Gautrand’s
(Catalogue d’Exposition 2002) PAC (Platforme Autonome Culturelle)
project, developing true reflection on the cultural programme, places itself
on a vacant building – a terrace of two hundred metres on the Seine
waiting for a better future – and strives to work with time. It does not want
to transform the place, for the interior of this building already has a large
mixture of intersecting functions, but it has placed itself on it, looks inside,
and when everything is ready, will be able to expand, progressively taking
over the surface area of the existing building.
For the dZO (Catalogue d’Exposition 2002) group the points for
devising concepts are: negotiation between project and context; gradual
opening of the form to the city or to the territory; context not as framing or
being framed, but as an active element in the process of conception that is
applied leaving room for indeterminate evolution; the reciprocal
malleability of form and context.
Another modality consists of “borrowing” from the context, drawing
from the context to reveal and reformulate it, working with the materials of
the specific environment of the intervention and, outside any methodical
idea or any rule of the game, agglomerating the fragments of reality to get
back a composite image and assert their insubordination to customary
reality. This is the approach visible in the works of Avignon-Clouet
(Catalogue d’Exposition 2002). For Didier Fiuza Faustino (Catalogue
d’Exposition 2002) it is necessary to act on the context, to conceive the
project as an extension of the body in an environment that puts it to a hard
test, conceive the project for space as a social action. Like art, the project
belongs to a process of crystallisation of the event, the occurrence, the
happening at the same time as form, becoming the manifestation of
immediate history.
The points that characterise the position of the dECOI group (Catalogue
d’Exposition 2002) are: to get modalities of reciprocal transformation put
into action, an interactive game between man become actor and his
environment; to consider the impossibility of controlling an environment
in its permanent and unpredictable transformations, obliging us to think
Crisis of the Context of Proximity 17

again about processes of conception and production of space; recourse to

numerical technologies, both as a model and as an instrument, to explore
processes of open, indeterminate generation and get them underway in
research on space; production of a fluid, malleable space, the vehicle of
features that will “naturally” evolve, in a sudden manner, sometimes
reactively in real time in the presence of people.
Another approach aims at using the context to transform it, take
possession of it and cancel its rules. This is the approach of the
Péripheriques (Catalogue d’Exposition 2002) group, where being
peripheral means to attack the effects of a system that leads both products
and behaviours to normality.
For Jacob & Macfarlane (Catalogue d’Exposition 2002) it is necessary
to reinterpret the context, reinterpret it critically, to write off the
instruments, rules, archetypes, to make room for interventions that affect
the features of the environment to extract their form. The distortion of
what is real and the explosion of the ground are the results of an action that
takes into account the context only to challenge it, upset it: a sort of
requisition that causes transformation. This entails fitting form into a logic
tending to dismantle the context, making critical, almost political, use of
the context considered in its relationship with power.
Dubesset & Lyon’s research programme is centred on representation of
context, which means activating the environment and revealing it,
promoting visual exchange between internal and external. The project is
adopted as a pretext for experimenting with the context on the part of the
users, as a critical commentary on a situation. This is a political position
shared with artists, which results in aesthetics consisting of combined
images that re-represent reality.
The “environmental project”10 research trend also confronts overcoming
the traditional conception of the relationship between settlement and
context. The project is not conceived to adhere to the immediate context,
like a physical frame that is strictly contiguous, but brings to mind dilation
of the concept of inhabiting, favours the adoption of a collective
conscience of the “environmental dominants”, places and spatial concepts
rich in nature and history that preside over the organised life of a territory,
strengthening contiguity between the environmental project and the urban
In the approaches we have examined, the operation of selection that
establishes the context may, in fact, leave the immediate spatial frame of
an architecture out of the field and legitimately prefer: determinant
spatiality that globalisation or networks impose on the local, the terrestrial
biosphere (in the case of bio-architecture) as the last context; places rich in
nature and history; total interiorisation of the context of the building. It can
18 The Discomposed City

be seen how the context of an architecture can equally be identified with

the internal environment created within its walls, such as happens in
buildings made autonomous by the progress of technology, for example, in
technical plant design, as is clearly illustrated by Reyner Banham in his
book The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment (Banham 1949).

Crisis of the Ethics of Proximity

On the basis of the considerations set out so far, we have to acknowledge

that the concept of ethics linked with place is actually getting weaker and
weaker. This is the crisis of the ethics of proximity, the “breaking of the
links” – to use Giuliana Mandich’s11 expression – the break in a field in
which two pairs of elements enter into tension. On the one side the space
of contact, on the other the space of distance communication, a tension be-
tween opposites inherent in the perceptive dimensions of our spatial life.
Sprawl is considered the phenomenon that emblematically expresses the
break in proximity. Sprawl is, nevertheless an ambiguous expression that
increasingly highlights numerous facets, much potential and many worries.
A basic worry of planners is, for example, that sprawl represents an intro-
ductory phenomenon to the metamorphosis of the city from being organic
and corporeal to being virtual. In this sense, detachment from corporality
creates sprawl both in the forms of mental nomadism produced by the ten-
sion between anxiety over inclusion in an absolute space and the aspiration
of surpassing all boundaries, and in the conditions of terrible mental distor-
tion of a foreigner obliged to make a long metaphorical journey of forced
elaboration of concepts from his country to the country of destination
(Tagliagambe 2000). But in this journey Franco La Cecla reads the con-
struction of the urban landscapes of globalisation as a search for a new
“terrain” of identity (La Cecla 2000).12
The crisis of the ethics of proximity means that our behaviour is more
and more influenced by relations that are independent of physical distance.
This condition emerges just when the spatial forms of the urban are
changing, and different ways of imagining the space of settlement are
opening up. A mutation characterised by the dilation – above all mental –
of the urban condition beyond a classical concept of the city, causing the
emergence of what Massimo Cacciari (Cacciari 1990) defines as the
contemporary contradiction between the need to maintain a relationship
with places, and the request for mobility which is indifferent to it. It is the
necessity for reconciliation of cosmopolitism and rootedness that are
present in the city, but also the opposite traits – observation of a specific
Crisis of the Ethics of Proximity 19

place and general scientific knowledge – that also amalgamate in the well-
known figure of the “planetary gardener” proposed by Gilles Clément in
his essay Le jardin en mouvement (Clément 1994), and which are at the
origin of the two protagonists of the epistolary novel, Thomas et le
Voyageur (Clément 1999). The first, Thomas, stays in his house in Saint-
Sauveur: a scholar and practical man, a teacher, he is used to
managing/querying what he finds within the limits of his own vegetable
garden. The second, the Traveller, is a man of science: used to abstract
reasoning, to thinking globally about the functioning of life on the planet.
His letters from Africa or Australia make Thomas’ convictions waver on
several occasions (de Pieri 2005). “We are getting ready”, Thomas writes,
“to reconcile the irreconcilable: on the one hand the state of things – the
environment, that you appear to know – and on the other the sentiment
drawn from it – the landscape, where I am more at my ease” (Clément
1999). These “traits” that oppose local-sentiment and global-science and
also local-landscape and global-environment, remind us that the destiny of
“practical reason” in our society has more and more as a premise the
assumption that our organised life is increasingly influenced by relations
that are independent of physical distance.
But how can we reconstruct urban ethics even in a condition of distance
from place? This is the common premise from which Antony Giddens and
Zygmunt Bauman’s positions on the destiny of moral reason in our society
grow, positions that have common premises but significantly different
solutions as they are at the extremes of a range varying from Giddens’
“radical modernity” to the “morality of spatial and temporal distance”
affirmed by Bauman (Giddens 1990 p. 222; Bauman 1993).
Arnaldo Bagnasco (Bagnasco 1999) notes that the two sociologists have
in common the idea that to understand the present society it is crucial to
consider the intensification of the process Giddens calls disembedding:
social relations are more and more released from close contexts and
engaged in at a distance, our actions therefore being increasingly
conditioned by factors for us uncontrollable and unknown, just as, in their
turn, they have unpredictable consequences in the long term. The risks are
now dramatic and in this situation Giddens recognises the limits of
rationality. He nevertheless has faith in the intrinsic reflexive nature of
modernity, which permits risks to be assessed and can think of colonising
an open, uncertain future. Re-appropriation practices may also be set
against disembedding tendencies, which within certain limits bring the
conditions and outcomes of the actors’ behaviour back under their control.
Bauman’s position is more radical and explicitly touches on the moral
dimension, thus taking shape as an “ethical” solution, departing from the
idea that traditional moral thought is also in difficulty due to the time and
20 The Discomposed City

space distancing of social processes and their outcomes, since it concerns

proximity morals. Moral thought thus ends up being dramatically disarmed
in the face of today’s moral problems. So the need prevails for “spatial and
temporal distance moral thought” that will take on consequences that are
difficult or even impossible to foresee; from this originate both a fear
heuristic and a self-limiting ethic, for it only needs one man to be irrational
for the others to be so, and for the universe to be so (Borges 1974). The
history of the universe abounds with confirmation of this fear.
The premises for an organisation of relations not physically constituted
open up questions on the destiny of the urban condition – dealt with by
Silvano Tagliagambe (Tagliagambe 2000) – in the sense that the mental
nomadism of the human condition in boundless, immanent space in
Russian philosophy and literature anticipates forms and modalities of the
human condition in the network, like a journey beyond the confines of the
real world and an aspiration to inclusion in an absolute space. This is a
condition examined with effective critical crudeness by Ricardo
Dominguez, who, taking the concept of “machine” to extremes and
imagining a post-mass media science fiction scenario, dreams of non-
digital macro-networks of civil disobedience against the “new order”
ratified by globalisation which acts, in its turn, against the “disobedience
of reality” (Dominguez 2000).
A crucial knot of urban and territorial politics thus affects the new
relationships between “territory, economics and society” which form at the
border between proximity and detachment from places, reminding the
project for the city to register its position with respect to this conceptual
geography. For the territorial planning figures that the environment is
adopting are increasingly present – its richness in nature and history – as a
strategic nucleus for urbanity prospects of territories. If this conceptual
background is adopted, the project for the city tends to radically modify
the environmental behaviour of inhabitants and in this perspective affects
the destiny of our moral reason. Referring to Bauman and Giddens’
(Giddens 1990; Bauman 1993) positions quoted on this theme, they define
a range of possible behaviours in respect of the problems presented to our
moral reason once the physical relationship with places no longer appears
decisive in the definition of territorial behaviours. To reflect on these
positions will perhaps enable light to be thrown on conceptual and
operative ambiguities underlying the various entities that populate
territorial planning, such as urban projects, parks, territorial marketing, etc.
The conceptual picture outlined by the positions of Bauman and
Giddens might be useful to attempt a clarification of some recurring
figures in territorial planning and policies.
Crisis of the Ethics of Proximity 21

If we analyse these positions with regard to environmental policies,

Bauman’s “morality of spatial and temporal distance” helps us to
understand how some negative values of the past, like fear and self-
limitation, have today been turned into values. There are values that we
must hand down to future generations, at a great temporal distance; there
are interventions that we cannot perform, because they would have a
negative reflection at a great spatial distance, far from our eyes. In this
position two sorts of practical behaviour very far from each other seem to
be recognisable that we can evaluate, for example, with regard to problems
of protection of areas of particular environmental interest. Those who
support this position think of the protected area as a confined area
constituting first of all a service for the collectivity. They consider that the
collectivity should work with the aim of conserving these areas for future
generations. That major economies should not be invented for these areas,
but only marginal economies compared with urban economies, as we are
used to understanding them. But in the same position are placed practices
in which conservation of resources and understanding of environmental
processes are inseparable components for opening up possibilities for new
modalities of spatial life of the inhabitants. So the time necessary for
awareness raising is the waiting period for new horizons of meaning and
new practical developments.
Giddens’ position is identified with “radical modernity”. At the centre
there is the conviction that it is precisely modern man’s reflexivity that
enables him to stop before he ends up in the chasm.
This attitude based on the capacity of reflection seems to me nearer to
the project, nearer to those situations in which the notion of environment
principally recalls the need to structure a local economy. Those who
support this position consider that local economies can be built that take
into account the relationship between population and environment in a
satisfactory way. They believe that within the different territories there
may be different visions of the population/environment relationship and its
components, that differentiated structural economies with concrete
perspectives can be imagined in other terms.
In the interval between these two positions there may be mixed
situations. At any rate the different nature of public intervention in respect
of the patrimony of nature and history is clear; it is – to use two
simplifying expressions – “protective conservation” in the first case and
“reflective planning” in the second.
Both the positions that we have synthetically illustrated refer to the
crisis of ethics founded on spatial proximity, in the sense that this is no
longer an element able to guide urban and territorial cohabitation in a
decisive manner, no longer determinant in an exclusive way on social
22 The Discomposed City

processes and their outcome. This concept, at the base of regionalism,

seems to have lost its fecundity. We are therefore faced with an important
problem of a conceptual, operative nature: if we do not want to give up
urban and territorial conviviality, we have to imagine other models of
urbanity, in which urban ethics can be reconstituted.

Deconstruction of the Space of Proximity

Françoise Choay maps out a brilliant analysis of “liquefaction” of the city

caused by the spatial impacts of the industrial revolution (Choay 1994a).
This analysis also enables us to interpret urban phenomena from the view-
point of liquidatory, conservative or resistant utopias.
It is, for example, the Deus ex machina technique that pulls the strings
of the liquidatory utopias of the city, starting from the great cataclysm of
the environment of the 19th Century. The role played by technology in the
mutation of the European city has been too unknown not to be privileged.
Technology was simultaneously and directly involved both in the
morphogenesis of urban space and in the genesis of urban behaviours and
mentalities, especially with regard to the change in the statute of the urban
plant, progressively become an exploded object made up of buildings
transformed into autonomous technical objects, freed from any contextual
articulation or dependence, while citizens extended the field of action and
transformed their experience of space and time and the structure of their
behaviours (Choay 1994a).
From the beginning of the 20th Century, however, signals heralding an
imminent deconstruction of the European city had not been lacking, such
as, for example, the model of the Ciudad Lineal, which was destined to
suppress urban concentration and densification. In 1882 a Spanish
intellectual, Arturo Soria y Mata, published in the Madrid daily newspaper
El Progreso, an early project of a linear city, the outcome of his reflection
on the new transport and telecommunications technology and its social
effects. Instead of imagining the process of communication generalised,
like urbanisation, in terms of homogeneous, multidirectional explosion, he
conceived it in a purely linear form: a street 500 metres wide that could be
indefinitely extended, which grouped together the transport routes
(railways, tramways, roads), the technical networks of water distribution,
gas, electricity and telephone, as well as municipal services and parks.13
Soria thus imagined an unbroken “linear city” from Cadiz to St.
Petersburg, posing for the first time the problem of human settlement on a
world scale.
Deconstruction of the Space of Proximity 23

The same pattern of development was taken up at the end of the 20s in
the Soviet Union by a group of engineers and architects for whom linear
settlement meant the abolition of the city, and they named themselves
“disurbanists” (Choay 1994a).
But the principal liquidatory utopias correspond to the ideas developed
in the years of radical inventions between 1917 and 1929, which led to a
first attempt at theoretic ecumenism, as almost literal applications of a
specific doctrine.
The CIAM, in particular, tried to put together the experience of different
European cities to establish a common methodology and doctrine: the
“functional city” was to substitute the ancient, obsolete, historic city so
that efficacy of the urban system and the happiness of individuals could
coexist.14 The Ville Radieuse (Le Corbusier 1933) may serve as a paradigm
to schematically define CIAM urbanistics, of which Le Corbusier was the
inspirer in 1928 and afterwards one of the main protagonists. Ville
Machine and the disappearance of urbanity were for Françoise Choay two
associated concepts, since the utopia of the Ville Radieuse presented itself
as the systematic deconstruction of all previous types city, of all forms of
continuous, articulated agglomeration, of a possible role of ancient centres
as nuclei giving dynamism to a new development, as had happened in
Hausmann’s Paris and Wagner’s Vienna. For this reason it can be
conceptually considered liquidatory, but also effectively liquidatory, due
to the international influence without equal that it exerted on territorial and
urban planning after the Second World War. The proposals of the first
CIAM congresses, including the Charter of Athens of 1933, were more
hypotheses than realities, but in the later post-war period ideas on the
modern city were able to take off because the partial or total destruction of
cities had converted them into fields open to experimentation (de Solà-
Morales 1994). At the same time the “total experiences” of third world
countries, realised on a new base and in complete independence from what
existed, such as, for example Le Corbusier’s Chandigarn in India, or Costa
and Niemeyer’s Brasilia in Brazil, made manifest the schematism with
which liquidatory utopias conceived the complex processes of formation of
new cities.
This schematism, a model of a complete city underpinning a project for
the global society, belongs to the conservative utopias, its anachronistic
nature being in a conception of modernity linked with the re-proposal of
completed forms, crystallized, abstract, even diagrammatic, of the city,
rather than the awareness of the processes and new systems of relations
that feed urban complexity.
Ebenezer Howard’s Garden City (Howard 1898), is a figure of
conservative utopia for its emblematic value does not lie in participation,
24 The Discomposed City

symbolic or concrete, in the process of disgregation of the European city,

but in the antagonistic reaction it has against it, with its fixed, discreet
model of the pre-industrial city and its intrinsic rural quality. But, in spite
of appearances, the attempts to give a finished form to the city that
developed between the 1950s and 60s are also conservative utopias, with
the ambition to solidify the liquefaction of the city, refusing too difficult
reality, or reality too unpleasant to be faced. Neo-historicist suggestions
appear also in this case. The history of urban forms, so illuminating for
understanding the past and dealing with ancient fabric, has served as a
guarantee of “ludic historicism” (Choay 1994a) and has legitimised the
projection of overdue models of the post-modernist architects, a utopia
emblematically conservative because it gives the prospect of “the idea of a
better life” relegating it inevitably to the memory of a mythical past.
The resistance of the image of the discreet city is also tied to the
persistence of another image and another illusion, that of the eternal city,
celebrated in 1978 by the Roma Interrotta exhibition. But, for Antoine
Grumbach (Grumbach 1994), Roma Interrotta goes beyond the simple
exercises of “gymnastics of the imagination on the parallel bars of
memory”, to recall Giulio Carlo Argan’s expression in his inaugural
speech. The question posed in filigree in Roma Interrotta is that of the
future of the past of urban forms, faced, on the one side, with the excesses
of the safeguarding and promotion of the historic value of urban fabric
and, on the other, the indifference of urban renewal with regard to history
and the mechanisms of formation of the fabric constituted.
As Grumbach (Grumbach 1994) emphasises, this is a case nevertheless
of a situation that is unique, where the Mayor of a capital city is a great
intellectual, for whom Roma Interrotta will become the concrete
expression of cultural motivation for the city, already nurtured by
numerous writings, all published in the 60s and 70s.15 All the proposals
support the thesis according to which history is an instrument on the
architect’s sketch-pad, and the context the material of urban operations.
The form of the city of tomorrow is written in the traces of its history.
This unwritten conviction, shared by all the participants, produced,
however, extremely different expressions and positions. The
heterogeneous juxtaposition of all these projects highlights – as has
already been said in previous pages – a new aspect of the context,
intrinsically connected with the mental universe of each designer, and for
this reason more akin to an invention, a representation, in a certain sense,
fiction. Conservative utopias do not rest only on neo-historicist
temptations, but also on all those defined “pseudotechnical utopias”
(Choay 1994a) by Maymont, Friedman and Schöffer, megastructures
designed to crystallise the city that is discomposing, attempts to design the
Deconstruction of the Space of Proximity 25

collective city with strokes of large agglomerations that represent, in

Reyner Banham’s words, the desperate intent of virtuous architects to take
power again over a political and technical world from which they were
feeling increasingly excluded. Never, after the 60s in Paris, would so many
architects be seen to propose at the same time such an “impertinent” vision
of non-city, halfway between the pure utopia and the ghost of potentially
constructible realizations (Vayssière 1994). Like Ludovico Quaroni’s
Italian megastructures (Astarita 1994) at Lagune di San Giuliano, which
tackle the theme of the residential megastructure in an attempt to find the
principal instrument of control of the urban scale in the form proposed.
Leonardo Ricci in 1963 also proposed a residential megastructure in the
Sorgane quarters up in the hills of Florence, which had the ambition of
correcting the errors of Le Corbusier’s Unité d’Habitation, practically
reduced to a building-hotel lacking in organicity (Vayssière 1994), and of
creating, starting from zero, a piece of city. Some of Vittorio Gregotti’s
projects refer to another meaning of megastructure, near to city-territory,
such as the 1971 project for a new site for the University of Florence, but
above all the project for the University of Calabria, a gigantic structure of
a linear bridge, on which the units of settlement are attached crosswise,
and which depicts the territorial future of urban form.
With respect to these positions, the resistant utopia presents itself as an
example of reciprocal integration of past and present. It characterises those
positions that, in the face of city deconstruction, have managed to involve
the experience of the past in the fecundation of our times, but with the
heresy of those who live already anticipating the future.
Françoise Choay refers to this, attributing these features to “regularising
urbanism”, thus indicating a pragmatic character without scientific
pretence of the project for the city compared with the need to face the
spatial and social impacts of the industrial revolution. Hausmann, Stübben,
Wagner, Cerdà, Hénard, Prost and Jaussely were the protagonists of this
approach, with which another approach is contrasted, rich in theoretical
elaboration, that supports a new discipline declaring itself autonomous and
considering itself the science of the conception of the city, critical analysis
of the existing city and the working out “on the contrary” of a model of a
constructible, reproducible city ex nihilo, and includes the progressive
positions of the CIAM and Le Corbusier and the culturalist positions of
Howard (Choay 1965, 1980).
Targeting a past future of the city characterised by sprawl, Françoise
Choay calls the “last figures of urbanity” (Choay 1994a) those cities that
were the most effective field of regularising urbanistic experiments to face
the process of deconstruction of the European city: Paris, Vienna and
26 The Discomposed City

Hausmann’s Paris, which left its imprint on the majority of European

cities, is a resistant utopia for its boundary value “as the outcome of one
tradition and departure point of another” (Choay 1994a). The involvement
of the historic centre in the construction of the new city is total. The new
city is born of the “regularisation” that the Prefect imposed on it by the
percements, taking the old quarters from their isolation and making the
entire city a system of communications. But trying above all to find in the
new state of the metropolis spatial reconciliation between the social
relations of proximity of the pre-industrial city and the anonymous,
fleeting, cosmopolitan relations of the industrial metropolis that discovers
the crowd, explored by the Baudelairian flâneur.
In Otto Wagner’s Vienna the historic centre has a different dynamising
role. In contrast with Paris, Wagner’s project gives shape to a radiocentric,
though not hierarchical, model. The annular arteries of the model take on
the role of service axes, with the Ring being the first annular artery, but not
the only one, since the new city with its demands cannot have a single
centre in the historic centre. The radial arteries support a system of
agglomeration units (stellen) along the radials. This road system, infinitely
extendable, does not define the finished form of the city, but the generating
structures for its evolution. In a certain sense, it enables the city to grow
without discomposing (Choay 1994a).
In Barcelona Ildefons Cerdà was the protagonist of an urbanistic
experience that has many conceptual similarities with the previous ones.16
He did not design the finished form of the city but its generating structures,
that are founded on the interconnection of two orthogonal grids of a
different scale, a larger grid crossed by diagonals and destined for heavy
territorial traffic, and a smaller grid destined for light local traffic which
cuts out blocks constituting the basic urban element, a sort of unit of life
and neighbourhood. In this way Cerdà also tried to organise cohabitation
between the personal social relations of the pre-industrial city and the new
social relations breaking out in the metropolis. The historic centre becomes
an integrating part of the new city through the spatial model of the double
grid that puts it into a relationship “with a territory virtually enlarged over
the whole of Europe” (Choay 1994a).
The resistant utopia figure is present in the role the historic centre
adopts in these experiences, as the will to demonstrate that “the experience
of the past continues to give evidence of values that keep intact an internal
susceptibility to reconsideration” (Cherchi 2001, p. 80), as the place of
transformation in Hausmann, as one, but not the only, centre-point of
services in Wagner, as one of the parts of the new city in Cerdà. In
Barcelona indeed the comparison between the ways in which the historic
centre is dealt with by Cerdà’s plan and that of Rovira y Trias, winner of
Deconstruction of the Space of Proximity 27

the competition for the regulatory plan for the Catalan city, is emblematic.
Cerdà involves the historic centre in the city project without attributing an
improbable central role to it but integrating it in the double spatial grid
system, while Rovira y Trias proposes a plan featuring a radiocentric
scheme that puts the historic centre in the middle of the new city,
underestimating the problems of spatial organisation that the industrial
revolution posed for the city. But Wagner himself in Vienna drew up a
radiocentric scheme whose functioning puts the different parts of the city
on the same level. In this sense he contrasted a modern vision of the
scheme with the tritely hierarchical interpretation of the radiocentric model
by Rovira y Trias.
If the resistant utopia presents itself as “an example of reciprocal
integration of past and present”, Gustavo Giovannoni’s (Giovannoni 1913)
realist anticipation of the future of settlements in the advanced
technological society rightly interpreted this utopian figure for its capacity
of understanding the role of historic patrimony as a local organisational
scale in a dialectic relationship with the territorial one revealed by the
large communications and telecommunications networks.
Faced with the deconstruction that had taken place, there was a
flowering in the 80s of negative liquidatory utopias narrated by science
fiction literary trends dealing with sprawl as a lethal phenomenon for the
city. “The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead
channel.” With this sentence William Gibson begins Neuromancer,
inaugurating the cyberpunk era and the so-called “sprawl trilogy” (Gibson
1984, 1986, 1988), the portrayal of a marginal humanity swarming in the
urban environment, nocturnal and degraded, the undisputed protagonist of
the three novels, where characters disappear and reappear with different
names, not always easy to reconstruct. Science fiction of the city no longer
has a moral function like when it warned us of the dangers of the industrial
city, but has adopted an informative function, and can only give a
chronicle of what happens in the megalopolis.
To negative utopias correspond positive conservative utopias. The small
city is defended with moralism by Leon Krier: to wipe out sprawl we must
go back to the size of the small pre-industrial city. It is probable that the
Prince of Wales, Prince Charles’ project workshop, his Poundbury, in
Dorset, and a refuge in the fine world of the past, offer better urban
quality, but it will probably use, as soon as it can, the commodities of the
generic city, contradicting the ethical bases of the model.
New Urbanism, an urbanistic trend promoted by Peter Calthorpe, tries to
condense the ideals of the Garden City. For Calthorpe, the American
suburbs should behave like small urban nuclei with their “pedestrian
pocket” and with a centre of public transport reachable on foot in ten
28 The Discomposed City

minutes. Theorist and founder of New Urbanism, as well as first Chairman

of Congress of New Urbanism, Calthorpe rethinks the American city with
an entirely innovative approach aimed at redefining the limits of urban
development.17 Initially New Urbanism was defined as a “neo-
traditionalist” type of planning, in that it was inspired by urban models of
the pre-war period. Its application was not addressed exclusively to new
planning areas, but rather to degraded urban areas to be recuperated and
reused, with a view to reviving the existing buildings and containing
indiscriminate growth. Little by little New Urbanism encountered the
favour of local governments, architects, urbanists, investors and citizens,
since it was the discipline required to manage to channel urban growth into
a physical form more in tune with the quality necessary for human
existence. By combining his visionary images with territorial, economic
and social reality, Calthorpe achieved widespread consensus. Even the
Governess of Louisiana, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, began to rely on the
New Urbanists in consultations over reconstruction. The newborn
Louisiana Recovery Authority chose Calthorpe to develop a long-term
regional plan for the areas devastated by floods following the hurricane.
The idea that New Urbanists like Calthorpe could collaborate on
drawing up plans for a new Gulf Coast raised much criticism. Eric Owen
Moss, the Director of the Southern California Institute of Architecture
reported to the Washington Post in October that the New Urbanists were
finding space on the Gulf Coast because their programme brought to mind
“an anachronistic image of the Mississippi winking at the good old days of
the Old South, slow, well-balanced and airy, where everybody knew his
own role”. Mike Davis has defined the New Urbanists an “architectural
So how has New Urbanism managed to acquire a stronghold on the Gulf
Coast so quickly? The Congress for New Urbanism, founded in 1993,
promotes objectives that every architect can support, at least in theory: get
suburban sprawl under control, link the new settlements with collective
mass transport, make quarters more habitable both for pedestrians and
cars.18 But the architects and urbanists loyal to modernist principles have
denounced for years not just the neo-historicist approach, but also the fact
that beneath the principles of New Urbanism was an idea of new building
that deformed the inheritance of the modern movement and was too
friendly towards constructors. This exposed the New Urbanists to recurrent
criticism of a conscious complicity with a model of development far less
illuminated than it claimed to be (Hawthorne 2005).
Nostalgic architectonic forms apart, it is not clear how this type of
settlement helps to contain sprawl or break up the love story between the
Americans and the private car. To construct quarters fit for pedestrians and
Deconstruction of the Space of Proximity 29

public transport requires significant, painful changes in our cultural

priorities. But the New Urbanism projects do not request any sacrifices
from their potential homebuyers. Instead what both propose is the idea –
an idea that the American consumer finds irresistible – that we can turn the
clock back to a culture having greater ties and neighbourhood, without
giving up the garage for three cars and other not very environment-friendly
luxury goods we are used to. Anyway, the debate on the growing influence
of the New Urbanists in reconstruction work after Katrina, and the way it
has begun to bounce from the Gulf Coast to Washington, D.C. and as far as
southern California, has ample developments for contemporary urbanistics
(Hawthorne 2005).
But sprawl is also considered a different modality of city construction as
a space of relations and interaction. Joel Kotkin uses the expression “new
suburbanism” (Kotkin 2006) to define the positive prospects of the process
of peripherisation of the city maintaining that, even though Lewis
Mumford defined the outskirts the “anti-city”, the outskirts are actually a
reinvention of the city. “It is probable that, compared with those of the
city, suburban inhabitants will be more inclined to vote, go to church and
accept involvement in school and community. The idea that they are
alienated individuals is simply a myth. We should also remember that the
outskirts are in a very early phase of evolution. I think they represent not
the end of urbanism but its triumph in a completely new form and
dimension.” (Kotkin 2006).
Studying the negative correlation between urban density and the
increase in births, Kotkin maintains that as a rule, when a population has
achieved a certain degree of education and acculturation in terms of urban
life, if the people live in a high density area, they will not have children.
Seoul has become one of the most densely populated cities on the planet
and has experienced one of the greatest collapses ever seen in the world in
the number of births. Once worried about over-population, by 2050 the
country will catch up with Japan as to the level of ageing. The fact is, that
if people live in a culture where they have to wait till the age of 40 to buy a
50 sq.m apartment in a huge block, they will obviously not have children.
One of the reasons why Americans and Australians are more prolific –
Koktin emphasises – is that they have much more space. Only the less-
educated, first generation immigrants will have children even where space
is lacking.
In 2005, the book L’esplosione della città came out, summarising the
outcome of a comparative analysis on urban diffusion in some European
urban areas and cities. The authors interpret the phenomenon as
spontaneous geography in which a continuous need for cities is evident
against any antiurban hypothesis, almost a resistant utopia. The hypothesis
30 The Discomposed City

is that diffusion has dimmed an underlying phenomenon, the tendency of

the territory to “metropolise”, i.e. the tendency for integration of different
urban aggregates and also of territories with widespread urbanisation, a
different, more enlarged modality of constructing relations and
interdependence (Indovina et al. 2005).
Among these there is also a landscape planner like Frederick Steiner,
whose position on “saturnal planning” applied to the Sonora region in the
Mid-West United States, outlines the possibility of “planning good sprawl”
(Steiner F 1994, 1995).
These are definitions belonging to the resistant utopia, in which the
instance of integration of past and present lies in the concept of city as a
space of relation, as the will to demonstrate that the experience of relation
of the space of contact of the past continues to keep intact an internal
susceptibility to reconsideration in the urban language and space of our
time. This conception of sprawl may also be referred to positions that
belong, for example, to Regional Planning, a planning trend created by the
Regional Planning Association of America (RPAA), founded on 18 April
1923 in New Jersey. Projectual exploration and garden-city practice, tying
up with Howard, are the prime inspiring guidelines. The Garden City
scheme fit in well with the principles of “The Fourth Migration” which,
according to Downing’s expression, considered nature a friendly partner in
the construction of the city.
This is a utopia because it features great experimentalism, including the
awareness that this is a model to be adapted to the American context. In
some ways the project follows a model that is considered one of the first
forms of planning process and one of the first examples of American
community planning. Thus, ways of letting ethnic minorities into the
community were envisaged, optimal dimensions for the functioning of
collective services and the interpretation of the model in the light of
American legislation on land use.
The group worked on the project using a different method from that
traditionally applied in architecture. A multidisciplinary group was
organised to make use of the contributions of consultants external to the
association. Completion of the garden city of Radburn needed, according
to Mumford, to be in a regional sense, since one garden city alone would
be a mere artistic object. The theme of the low-density city was faced here
for the first time with a comprehensive regional plan that included many
garden cities (polycentric model of small and medium cities), an objective
that could not be realised due to the lack of interest of the political class
and the impresarios. This was the event that, according to Peter Hall, led to
the professional break between Stein and Wright and had repercussions on
the winding-up of the RPAA.
Deconstruction of the Space of Proximity 31

The background to RPAA activity is represented by various phenomena:

the weakening of conservationist policy due to the First World War, the
1920 Census, which showed how city inhabitants exceeded for the first
time the number of inhabitants of rural areas, the collapse of Jefferson’s
dream of a nation based on widespread small agricultural communities
(family farms), urban concentration, and metropolitan explosion, which
required the triggering of planned forms of growth.
The New York State Commission of Housing and Regional Planning
Report (1926), the first example of planning on a state level, refers to the
idea of a widespread city region which was to be created following the
The Fourth Migration, an image evoked by Mumford to represent the
exodus from the city metropolises towards the surrounding region. The
Fourth Migration is Mumford’s interpretation of the socio-geographical
theories of society worked out by Geddes in Cities in evolution of 1915.19
The first migration coincided with the process of urbanisation that
followed the great migrations westwards. The second migration
corresponded to industrialisation becoming established and greater ease of
movement due to the expansion of the railways, directing the population
flow towards towns and river valleys. After the civil war, growing
technological progress produced the third migration towards large cities,
causing congestion in metropolitan centres. The Fourth Migration, due to
the spread of automobiles, communications and the transmission of energy
at a distance, was to lead to the retrieval of links with the non-urban
environment lost in the previous migrations. The RPAA members’
resistant utopia consisted of proposing an alternative to the centralised
metropolitan society, profit-oriented, with a territorial one that was more
decentralised, more concentrated on social values and grafted onto regions
that were well-balanced in terms of their environmental profile. It is in this
sense that the alternative proposal to Thomas Adams’ Regional Plan of
New York and its Environs and the ironic and disparaging use of the
expression “metropolitan planning” should be considered, which the
RPAA had Henry Wright pronounce to fail the New York plan proposed
by Adams himself in 1926, a plan that for Mumford in 1932 resembled a
In The Story of Utopias of 1922 (Mumford 1922) where the concept of
regional balance and interrelation appears, Mumford recognises the
weakness of the utopia due to its maturation outside the complexity and
diversity of the environment in which men live. The challenge is to take
our utopia from inside the world of ideas and bring it into contact with the
real world. This is the resistant utopia: to build a method to put together
the pieces of our fragmented world, a base on which to construct livable
32 The Discomposed City

communities, create relations between arts/sciences and the problems and

conditions of specific regions and communities.
The territorial future of the city as a resistant utopia – in this case as a
need to prove the fecundity of the languages of our time in the languages
of tradition – is present both in Giancarlo De Carlo’s reflections on the
form of the territory and on the concept of city-region (De Carlo 1962),
and in the experience of Adriano Olivetti’s Comunità movement in Italy
(Olivetti 1960), which faced the themes of inter-municipal relations and
those between city and rural area, taking on the role of design and
projectual invention within an interactive process favouring self-
organisation. The Comunità movement was born in 1948 as a new
organisation that was at the same time a protest (against party regime) and
testimonial (that it is possible to create a new system capable of giving
freedom and welfare to all Italians). The main experience was that of the
Canavese League of Councils which proposed the unity of local policies
and an inter-council plan, this being a fundamental instrument in the
debate on the construction of the Turin-Ivrea motorway due to possible
repercussions on the territory, linked in particular with the choice of route.
Olivetti’s resistant utopia is a concrete utopia, compared with that of the
“pre-urbanists”20 who were searching for somewhere else, though not a
real, precise place. But since none of the existing towns seemed able to
satisfy the desire for happiness, justice, freedom and solidarity animating
the utopian writer, Olivetti started with a decidedly concrete fact: a
business company known throughout the world. Olivetti understood the
role of the new electronic technology that heralded the spread of mass
informatics, and especially the cardinal role of territorial planning in
defining the community. In his role as a designer within a “concrete
community”, the urbanist should not propose pre-established destinations,
for his task consists more of discovering them and above all helping the
community to give itself a purpose. The new city would therefore be
brought alive and enhanced by the discovery of its vocations.
Olivetti drew attention to the need to make urbanistics responsible by
giving this the important role it deserved, seeing that it was instead
“reduced to inspiring small municipal police measures to regulate traffic.
We wanted something quite different!” This was a reflection that showed
Olivetti’s thinking opening up to the macro dimensions of urbanistic
policies. From this the need arose for an instrument that would lead to a
“great synthesis” of the territory: regional plans and coordination of them
with economic programmes; regional plans for “the defence of man” that
enabled the balance that had been lost between agriculture and industry to
be restored. Olivetti left us ample reflection on the concept of “region”, for
example on the great need for distinguishing whether the term “region”
Deconstruction of the Space of Proximity 33

corresponds to a traditional historic or geographic entity, or whether it is

an artificial creation empirically useful for studying a particular area, a
reflection that also materialised with the participation in the UNRRA
(United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Administration) plans for the
populations hit by the Second World War.21
The “territorial city” of Fernando Clemente, the Italian urbanist
distinguished for his highly environment-oriented conception, may also be
considered a resistant utopia. The “environmental project” is the
disciplinary trend characterising it which, in order not to be considered a
slightly ambiguous formula, requires interpretation in different terms from
the usual. The expression “environmental project” is associated with a
form of action of a community that constitutes its own life environment
through processes in which the planner participates by contributing his
specific knowledge and his ethical intentionality to stimulate collective
awareness of the environmental dominants that preside over the formation
of the settlement, and to promote the sharing of coherent outcomes of the
organisation of settlement space. The term “environmental” – the abuse of
which has unfortunately diluted its density – takes on an overall meaning
in the sense that processes and outcomes are interpreted adopting as a
reference base not only the physical environment, but also the salient
stories with which the population identifies itself, activities and places of a
territory as a shared background from which construction action emerges
of an environment that is favourable for organized life. In its turn, the term
“project” envisages a non-formalistic vision built up of requisites no
longer sectorial but involving the entire environment and requiring dense
articulation of relations between environmental system, project drafting
and urbanistic action, for space organisation. Projectual orientation is thus
characterised by the search for coherence of interventions within non-
resolute plan forms, but which include the extended time of the values of
an environment endowed with its own identity that it is possible to bring to
the light as shared outcomes of community processes. Moving from a
resolute conception towards a more complex conception of projectual
orientation that envisages the interpretative and cognitive functions
belonging to a specific environment, urbanistic action, building itself on
argumentative forms tied to its environmental constitution, is legitimised
in that it is an integrating part of the life of a settled community.22
But sprawl also evokes a liquidatory utopia. It may be considered the
outcome of a process of self-organisation but, being market-determined, it
generates processes of social selection, segmentation and discrimination.
In this sense it reminds us of the liquidatory utopia, in that it admits and
certifies the “already become”.
34 The Discomposed City

The liquidatory utopia may be described, for example, by Robert

Bruegmann’s (Bruegmann 2006) reflections on sprawl, who departs from
historic legitimisation of the phenomenon.

… in the last 500 years at least the main development of the rich cities throughout the
world has been growth outwards, characterised generally by a decrease in density of
population and the thrust of the wealthy ranks in one direction and of the less wealthy in the
other. This type of development characterised ancient Rome, it has characterised London
since the 17th Century and characterises today’s American cities. For actually, almost
everything nowadays considered central in a city has been, in some moment in history,
peripheral. For this reason I am sceptical about the history of suburbs discipline. If applied
properly, this field would coincide completely with that of urban history… The idea that in
the 21st Century it is useful to suddenly prevent cities expanding further is for me
decidedly debatable. Projects that try to block growth outwards by imposing limits on
development, from immediate post-war London to today’s Portland, in Oregon, have
produced many undesirable effects, including in particular restrictions on the supply of land
and the high transfer costs of the excessive impact on the lowest socio-economic band of
the population. (Bruegmann 2006).

Bruegmann argues against the reasons of the environmentalist groups

who in the 90s strongly fuelled the movement fighting uncontrolled urban
development, accused of the problem of global warming. Bruegmann
maintained the thesis that global warming seemed in every way to be a
problem worthy of note, but the link between this phenomenon and urban
development was weak. The fundamental problem is not in housing
dynamics but in the inefficient use of the old technology and excessive
recourse to fossil fuels. If we depart from this premise, we cannot
understand why a widely disseminated urban form cannot use energy with
greater efficiency and pollute less than a city with high demographic
density. If we lived in a society where each settlement had a couple of
acres of land at their disposal, the entire energy requirements could be
satisfied on a local level by exploiting Aeolian, solar and geothermic
energy. Thanks to low and high technology solutions, the concrete
possibility would be realised that a large number of people would no
longer need to rely on the distance communications system that became
necessary for sustaining the industrial cities of the 19th Century
(Bruegmann 2006). Finally, according to Bruegmann, the opinion of
sprawl is spoilt by a weakness in the debate on uncontrolled urban
development, which, being founded on the compact model of the 18th
Century city, lacks both any curiosity with regard to other possible urban
models and any interest in the way in which technological innovation can
shape the future.
The network city is also a liquidatory vision in that it “dismisses” the
widespread concepts of urban strategy, which are today surpassed by the
Deconstruction of the Space of Proximity 35

entry on the scene of a new paradigm of network that urban geographers

have adopted in an attempt to adapt words to things that happen in the
urban field. But above all because the network metaphor is the
reproduction of the “already become”, for it reproduces its course with
surprising precision. The expression network city in effect emphasizes the
importance relations take on in the new “kingdom of the urban” that are
linked with mobility and “material” and “immaterial” communication
flows of data. “Urban network” and “city network” are expressions that
have been in use for some time in urban geography to indicate groups of
cities linked together by regional, national or transnational relations
(Dematteis 1990).
Networks of interurban relations are certainly not a novelty, but – as the
French geographer Jean Gottmann underlines – in our times they have
spread universally with such intensity, density and variety as to dominate
the life of most regions (Gottmann 1991). It is this fabric of industrial,
commercial, cultural and finally political relations that enables us to see
how, in spite of regional and national resistance, the tendency towards
“globalisation” has materialised and how a network of global cities is
being born, an “intercity geography”, as Saskia Sassen defines it (Sassen
Radical overcoming of the habitual representations of the urban world
has, moreover, been underway for some time, where cities are basically
seen as discrete entities, definite images with a definable perimeter even
when their dimension takes on a territorial character. In the contemporary
urban panorama these situations are still present, predominantly in less
developed areas, but now they are increasingly being assigned to a
secondary role compared with other types of city that have started to
occupy the stage of the contemporary urban theatre.
We are dealing with networks of cities that are recognisable in the most
recent forms of “selective polarisation” typical of the metropolitan areas,
which causes the role top cities are playing to emerge, in the competition
between cities with regard to attracting valuable functions and with regard
to transregional and transnational dilation of the area of influence (Gibelli
1990). For this polarisation is in fact based on functions connected with
high technology, research and development, decisional functions and
financial control, and ideological and cultural orientation, which preside
over contemporary modalities of urban development.
Thus the concept of urban strategy changes radically, shifting from the
traditional task of regulation of development – also because the area of
expansion has ended – to a position that tends to minimise urban risk, the
loss a city can undergo with respect to the external world. Cities are, in this
sense, preparing their urban strategies to get ready for the new scales of
36 The Discomposed City

urbanity with interventions to improve the “urban machine”, such as

modernisation of transport and telecommunications networks, but also
with interventions tending to illuminate the shared natural and historic
background of an urban area.
In this metropolitan picture, in which there seems not to be any escape
for other cities, cohabitation in great dignity is seen on the part of urban
situations, networks of small and medium cities, whose vitality is
indifferent to the closeness of centres of a higher rank and whose
localising conditions due to their activities are indifferent or insensitive to
traditional factors of localisation, such as proximity of demand, economy
of scale, etc. For these reasons Giuseppe Dematteis defines these networks
of cities as “localization-indifferent”. Such situations are not, however,
indifferent, indeed they are particularly sensitive to other factors, like less
urban congestion, environmental quality, accessibility, lower cost of work
and collaborative attitude of administrations. They include those cities that
are capable of rediscovering in their own past, in the inseparable
relationship between population and places, the strength to put into effect
knowledge with a degree of rarity such as to enable these situations to
participate in this new world of cities (Dematteis 1985a, 1988, 1990).23
To the interaction between the metropolitan level and this type of
network of cities would correspond, as a strong image of urban suggestion,
the megalopolis, the pluri-city that Gottmann pinpointed already in the 60s
as the new, emerging urban structure of the more developed countries. In
its turn, the megalopolis would be the densest part of a single, planetary,
network system on a metropolitan level, for which Doxiadis had coined the
term ecumenopolis (Doxiadis and Papaioannou 1974).
In this metropolitan picture, almost a symbol of a liquidatory utopia, the
small and medium city networks are in some ways resistant utopias in that
we recognise in them cities that are capable of rediscovering in their own
past, the inseparable relationship between population and places.

This is the expression adopted by Bruno Taut in the book Die Auflösung der
Städte, Hagen, Volkwaang Verlag, 1920. Bruno Taut’s production, still exemplary
today, both if studied, and if restored (e.g. in the outskirts of Berlin), translates the
search for local counterpoint in the face of the process, fully taken on by the
Auflösung der Städte, of liquefaction of the city, as is the title of Taut’s book.
Vitruve, Les dix livres d'architecture, corrigés et traduits en 1684 par Claude
Perrault, Pierre Mardaga Editeur, Paris, 1988.
“Culture, distinctive of human society, is organised/organises by the cognitive
vehicle made up of language, from the collective cognitive capital of acquired
knowledge, learnt know-how, experiences lived, historic memory, mythical beliefs
Deconstruction of the Space of Proximity 37

of a society. Thus ‘collective representations’, ‘collective conscience’ and

‘collective imagination’ are manifested.” (Morin 1991).
Cf. Ittelson 1973; Downs and Stea 1973; Downs 1981; Duncan 1987; Soja
1989; Jameson 1991; Duncan and Ley 1993.
The following may be a useful brief collection on espace vécu and on the
concept of lived and daily life. Lefebvre 1972; Frémont 1976; Bourdieu 1980;
Buttimer and Seamond 1980; de Certeau 1984; André 1989; Di Mèo 1996, 1998.
In the sense that perceptive experience is made up of dynamic processes
organised according to autonomous structural principles: the function of the parts is
determined by the organisation of the whole. A circle, for example, may be black or
red, large or small, and so on, but still maintains unchanged its own global
characteristic of circularity. Unlike other movements of thought characterised by
naïve globalism, a generic and often irrationalist globalism, gestaltism introduces the
new globalist examples into the context of rigorously experimental research.
Theories formulated by some trends of environmental psychology, deriving
more from social psychology than from the psychology of perception-cognition.
Usually defined as the discipline that studies interactions and reactions between
people and their environment, it conceives space and place as elements susceptible
of activating three types of mental process in an individual: cognitive
representations associated with these, the sentimental reactions triggered, the
behaviours induced or hindered. On the evolution of environmental psychology
over the last 20 years (cf. Gifford 1987; Proshansky 1987; Stokals and Altman
1987; Bonnes and Secchiaroli 1992; Kitchin et al. 1997; Baroni 1998; Bechtel and
Churchman 2002).
Roma Interrotta is the event that in an emblematic way celebrates this illusion.
The historian and art critic, Carlo Argan, Mayor of Rome, inaugurated the Roma
Interrotta exposition in May 1978 at the Traiano markets. Twelve architects, P.
Sartogo, C. Dardi, A. Grumbach, J. Stirling, P. Portoghesi, R. Giurgola, R.
Venturi, C. Rowe, M. Graves, L. Krier, A. Rossi and R. Krier were asked to
reflect on the basis of the Nolli plan drawn up in 1748.
This extended conception of the context refers directly to the problems of
autonomy and heteronomy of the conception of the architectural project posed
after orders in architecture were surpassed, what P. Eisenmann calls the end of the
classical (Eisenmann 1984).
The establishment of this trend goes back to studies led by Fernando
Clemente on the relations between university and territory at Bologna, Parma and
Pisa, published respectively in the following books edited by Clemente 1969;
Clemente 1973; Clemente 1974. For the most recent developments on the
“environmental project”, the following contributions can be consulted: Clemente
et al. 1980; Clemente and Maciocco 1990; Maciocco1991a, 1991b.
Giuliana Mandich actually refers to other pairs of opposites. On the one hand
the opposition materiality (understood as an “external”, objective character, as
what is perceived) and metaphor (“internal” character, modality of perception of
reality), on the other the opposition culture (socially constructed nature of space)
and nature (its existence regardless of the different ways it is represented in
38 The Discomposed City

different societies): a tension between opposites innate in the perceptive

dimensions of our spatial life (Mandich 2000).
An imaginary journey by means of a rug, which La Cecla adopts as a
metaphor of the Islamic world.
The “Linear City” is set out on a hierarchically organised, extensive
orthogonal road network, creating spacious 200 × 100 blocks. Building of a sparse
type, not tied to alignment restrictions, insists on regular plots of various sizes.
The “Linear City”, served by the main public facilities, but economically
subordinate to Madrid, is thus to be understood as a large, decentred residential
quarter. The axis, destined for fast traffic, is characterised by separate
carriageways. Around it, constituting the great artery of development of the
“Linear City”, the residential zone gravitates, bound to keeping back. The planted
area takes on particular importance for aesthetic and hygienic effects.
As known, the Modern Architecture International Congresses (CIAM)
represented at regular intervals a culminating point of militancy and doctrine
formulation for the members of a Committee, which gathered together architects
united by their will to break with the past and by faith in technology (Choay
Aldo Rossi had published L’architettura della città (1966), Robert Venturi,
Denise Scott Brown and Steven Izenour Learning from Las Vegas (1972), Colin
Rowe and Fred Koetter Collage City (1978), Antoine Grumbach L’architecture et
l’évident nécessité de la memoire (1975), Paolo Portoghesi Le inibizioni
dell’architettura moderna (1975), James Stirling, a collection of his works of
1975, the Krier brothers numerous projects and theoretic propositions. But the
intellectual climate in which Roma Interrotta developed cannot be dissociated
from the publication of Joseph Rykwert’s books, Adam’s House in Paradise,
published in 1972, and Idea of the town, in 1976, nor from those of Norberg
Schulz, who wrote a long article on the “genius loci of Rome” in the preface to the
Cerdà also carries out theoretic ordering of experience with his Teoria general
de l’urbanisación (1867), which also coins the term urbanisación which has since
then defined the discipline dealing with the project for the city.
Among the books published by Calthorpe: Sustainable Communities with Sim
Van der Ryn; Pedestrian Pocket Book with Doug Kelbaugh; The Next American
Metropolis; Ecology, Community, and the American Dream; The Regional City,
co-author William Fulton.
The “bible” of the movement is Suburban Nation, a book written five years
ago by Andrés Duany together with Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk and Jeff Speck. It
proposes to balance out the bad effects of sprawl with settlements that put the
houses nearer to offices and public transport. It also hopes for an architecture that
will respect and also bring back to life its historic precedents.
Mumford’s “Fourth Migration” precedes the starting off of “New
Exploration” by MacKaye. Benton MacKaye gives an original boost to regional
planning with two papers. One is theoretical with the text The new explorations of
1928, where regional planning philosophy is linked with the wilderness of
Deconstruction of the Space of Proximity 39

civilisation, contact between the indigenous world and the metropolitan world.
The other is practical, with the planning of an excursion route: the Appalachian
Trail, proposed in 1921 and completed in 1937. The images of the “Fourth
Migration”, “New Exploration” or “Dinosaur City”, coined by Clarence Stein,
intended to establish a comprehensible vision abounding in images to assert the
need that the whole nation be involved in the process of singling out new forms of
Robert Owen one hundred and thirty years earlier.
Olivetti also attempts to provide a classification of “communities” based on
the most vital administrative experiences, referring to the number of inhabitants:
first degree community: rural municipalities and quarters with a population of
between 500 and 5,000 inhabitants; second degree communities: cities with
75,000 inhabitants or a network of small municipalities and hamlets or a quarter in
a metropolis with a total maximum number of 150,000; third degree communities:
those that comprise from 10 to 50 of second degree ones; fourth degree
communities: nations or groups of nations.
This co-presence has to do with the matter of identity, which is associated
with proximity relations with places. But it cannot be only this for if the place is
considered a fundamental component of the individual conscience (Norberg-
Schulz 1979) to bind identity exclusively to places results in impoverishing and
restricting personal experience (cf. Indovina et al. 2005).
For the various aspects of the reticular paradigm, cf. in particolar G.
Dematteis, who has dealt with them in a systematic way in various essays
(Dematteis 1985a, 1988, 1990).
The Generic City

The Revenge of Functionalism

The generic city is the form without name of the standardisation of urban
space, where there is a dominance of consumer activities compared with
other activities. It seems to us a city adrift because it shows itself as a ne-
gation of the city in the plural, decreed by the pervasivity of shopping, as
the unavoidable outlet of the doctrine of form (of the city) that follows the
(consumer) function in the same way throughout the world, the “unex-
pected revenge of functionalism” (Chung et al. 2001). It is the city that no
longer has any specific reference point in its territorial birthplace and drags
into this indefinite state those who live there, too (Koolhaas 2000).
As the generative engine of urbanisation, shopping has become an
element that defines the modern city and in many cases the reasons for its
existence. In a certain sense it is “the apotheosis of modernisation”
according to Sze Tsung Leong’s definition (Chung et al. 2001). “It seems
that the retail trade is ready for anything when it is a question of attracting
the client” was said in an article that appeared in ’97 entitled “Star Wars
floods the market” (quoted in Chung et al. 2001). “Just notice what
happens in the Safeways supermarket chain which recently had an
artificial intelligence system installed by IBM called AIDA (Artificial
Intelligence Data Architecture) originally conceived to intercept any
Russian missiles in space, it is used today to analyse data on purchases by
customers from the data shown on their Client Cards.” When the desire of
consumers is “aroused” and encouraged to proliferate, the great
imagination the control system is allowed is to trace and follow flexible
As Art Weinstein, the business guru, writes in his book Handbook of
Market, basically mass marketing is dead; it has been replaced by
marketing that is extremely precise in pinpointing its targets. By focalising
segments of the market that are increasingly smaller and profit-bearing, a
closer relationship is born between companies and consumers, and

42 The Generic City

technologisation of products is now able to invent a market for companies,

i.e. it is now the consumers who decide on the features of the products the
companies will produce. When feedback mechanisms are carried out
within the distribution channels themselves, consumers’ needs become
immediately accessible to company monitoring. Now anyone can
contribute to perfecting production from the inside.
But if up till not long ago these tendencies seemed pleasantly
ambiguous, prices reasonable and freedom increasing, since the 11th of
September the feverish need for safety has thrown a different light on
everything due to the imperative of enlarging and perfecting a system that
has no scruples (Holmes 2002).
In science fiction literature, criticism of the city anaesthetised by mass
consumerism often takes on the features of a resistant utopia. This is the
case of the city-civilisation described by Mark Adlard in the Tcity trilogy:
Multiface (1977b), Interface (1977a) and Volteface (1978). The setting is a
hypothetical England of the future where the population lives in gated
communities controlled by the enormous organisation Stahlex. The trilogy
begins by describing the population as a single mass of consumers that
should have no reason for being unhappy. Gradually, as the trilogy
progresses, the leaders realise that discord in the city is caused by
something missing in the life of the inhabitants and they are thus forced to
resort to a new concept for this society: supply the people with work.
A visionary writer like James Ballard goes much farther, showing – as
he does in other books (Ballard 2000) – that when the organisation of
space and urban life is “unnatural”, phenomena of social disease are
produced that also lead to madness. The dark side of the shopping
economy is what Ballard also narrates in his last novel Kingdom Come
(Ballard 2006a). It is the story of Richard Pearson, an unemployed publicity
agent, who visits a mega shopping mall on the edge of London two weeks
after his father has been killed precisely in the shopping centre by an armed
maniac. Metro-Centre, as it is called, is a sort of monster with 20
supermarkets, 30 pharmacies, two hotels, a stadium and its own football,
hockey and rugby teams, with masses of supporters who go around waving
the national flag with the St. George cross on it. Pearson decides to get to the
bottom of his father’s death and discovers that the city where the deed took
place is actually the place of a contemporary apocalypse, where people are
gripped by boredom and the fear of emptiness, where the life itself of the
individuals is regulated by the craving to continuously possess new objects,
at any cost and at any price. Consumerism is just a sort of opium used to
numb people, a new fascism that keeps the vacuous minds occupied of those
who, without the daily, compulsive purchase would devote their energy to
wrecking society.
The Revenge of Functionalism 43

The generic city is an articulate chain on a planetary scale of mimetic

urban forms that reproduce ad infinitum the same model of circulation and
consumerism. A post-city conceived and lived in which has no past or
identity, its principal attraction is its anomia, according to Koolhaas’
definition (Koolhaas 1996). Over-equipped, watched over and competitive,
reducing interpersonal contact as much as possible, the generic city is
more and more identified with the city. Of the minority and privileged, it is
the place where political and economic domination of the rest of the world
is decided. Koolhaas himself recognizes that the generic city implies a
refusal of identity. Even if it is perhaps a myth that cities have clear
identities, we think of them that way, or at least so it seems, and that is
how we dream of them. This is why the generic city is a liquidatory utopia,
in that it tends to take on the existing as a single horizon, the “already
The generic city gives the idea of a city with neither quality nor specific
identity, suffering from amnesia, destined to spread inexorably throughout
the world, to be, like airports, always the same, identical to itself, given
that the staggering growth under way seems to finally demonstrate that the
historic city and the past in general (and perhaps European culture
altogether) are in a certain sense “too small” to contain so many human
destinies and so many phenomena, and such a great number of economic
transactions (Chaslin 2003). The generic city is the metaphor for all things
that possess some commercial, functional or ludic usefulness, which
nowadays come under the goods categories. This also entails the
disappearance of historical traces, except for those used to act as alibis or
logos. Koolhaas links these reflections with the concept of junkspace
(Koolhaas 2000). Koolhaas is, moreover, convinced that throughout the
planet the extraordinary molecular diffusion of trade and consumerism has
generated a new spatial paradigm, whether we are dealing with airports,
shopping centres, operations for urban renovation, urban re-use, theme
parks or simply ordinary public space. We must convince ourselves that
the physical sediment of modernisation in this century is not to be found in
forms of modern architecture, but rather in a sort of junkspace; junkspace
stands for what remains of modernisation, or better, the container itself of
modernisation. It brings to mind the idea of a place, once tidy, completely
reorganised by a hurricane; but this is only an impression. We judge this
junkspace as if it were an aberration, a delayed, temporary stage, but we
are mistaken: junkspace is real; it developed in the 20th Century and will
reach its apotheosis in the 21st. It is a condition that creates a constant
mixture of boredom and excitement in those who live in it, of incredible
beauty and absolute mediocrity (Koolhaas 2000; Boeri 2000).
44 The Generic City

Koolhaas’ explorations, his surveys on the extremes and paradoxes of

the contemporary urban dimension have often been accused of cynicism,
almost as though they were self-satisfied descriptions of uncontrollable,
regressive processes. In effect, as Koolhaas says, our interest in
understanding the forces that transform space often continues to be read as
a sort of surrender; we really believe that describing these phenomena is
already in itself a form of criticism of the existing, especially if we choose
to look at things as they actually happen, without hiding them with “good
intentions” and the nostalgic moralism that constitutes the daily bread of
contemporary architecture (Koolhaas 2000).
Furthermore, in the tendency to concentrate on everything that reflects
the existing city, there is the risk of what psychologists call “reflective
sliding”, a phenomenon in which the social element is traversed by the
sum of the subjective contradictions deriving from it, so that behaviour
itself, the apparent manifestations of the social element, becomes the
primary content of the project for space, often “at a level of evidence that
transforms it into an advertisement for itself” (Gregotti 1993). It reflects in
a certain sense attention to everything that is included (and at the same
time an indifference to what is excluded), an “amnesty for the existing”
(Chaslin 2003) as an aware refusal to modify it. In spite of the fact that
Koolhaas began a radical revision of the interpretative categories of urban
phenomena (putting copyright on about seventy expressions of phenomena
directly or indirectly linked with the city, thus significantly modifying the
vocabulary), this conceptual, operative world is a closed system, in which
the rules are given by everything that is included, which is the system of
This attitude which urges confirmation of the “already become” has the
flavour of a refusal, in a certain sense negligence, as distraction, a logic
that leads to the uprooting of ideas and places in order to enable global
interchange, without restraint, of goods and information.

Thematisation of the City

As we have emphasised in the previous pages, the modern condition is

repelled by the hindrance and energy of the established hierarchies since it
aspires to promoting absolute fluidity, to connecting up what was till now
distant and separated (Costa 1996). The modern world will take possession
of the experience of places based on free circulation and unproductiveness
– i.e. idleness, play – through a concrete model of spatial articulation like
the theme park.1 The shopping city is in this sense organised like a theme
Thematisation of the City 45

park, modelled for a set of irregular, picturesque itineraries, dictated by

spectacular, changing experience, which is also the model of the place of
pleasure (Jacobson 1998). In the shopping city the visitor lets himself be led
along a path that will offer him surprises, an unexpected wander, exotic
pavilions, various artifices in simulated nature, aimed at seeking an ecstatic
effect, namely an effect of relief, disarming for the observer. Pleasure
consists of yielding, letting oneself be influenced, confused and even
intoxicated by spatial experience. The shopping city is a park city, with
pavilions dotted throughout for consumers; it allows and promotes losing
oneself therein (Costa 1996). Distracted experience in the park is the
experience of the wanderer, of disorientation. But it is also the experience of
the formless, the visitor’s abandoning himself to the place, this letting
himself be led that presumes a weakening in the difference between the
figure of the visitor-observer and the place perceived, between figure and
background, a glance turning everything into a show, that tends to blend in
with the surroundings present. This is a process that can be tied up with Roger
Caillois’ studies on imitation and camouflage, understood as the subject’s
abandoning a laborious, constant task of definition/differentiation in respect of
his surroundings. For Caillois, a specific condition of the formless emerges
during this process, i.e. that which is not separate from the place where it
occurs (Caillois 1984). The park enables the “taming of the distant”, in the
words of Joseph Rykwert, namely assimilation of the other, of what is outside
the boundaries of our experience (Rykwert 1980 quoted in Costa 1996). For
this reason the generic city has an assimilating, pervasive character.
Referring to the central city of San Francisco, Joel Kotkin defines
thematisation of the city with the expression “ephemeral city” (Kotkin
2006). But in general the prosperous urban nuclei of the West are mostly
home to rich people, couples without children and to the population made
up largely of the immigrants in their service. The first group will stay in
the city until it feels able to extend its adolescence. This “ephemeral city”
is an environment that offers poor mobility, even though it is possible that
some members of the service class manage in the end to improve their
destiny and move to the outskirts, too. According to Kotkin, San Francisco
is an extreme example of this phenomenon. The city has a very high
percentage of residents who have inherited money, people who work for
non-profit organisations and are, in some way, kept. Most of the scientific
economic activities have moved out of the city and now what remains is
basically a boutique lifestyle. It is the kind of place that the Californian
historian Kevin Starr, a native of San Francisco, has defined “a theme park
for restaurants” (Kotkin 2006).
Modern urban space also appears to be shaped on the model of spatial
experience that interested the French writer Georges Bataille in the 30s.
46 The Generic City

For Bataille, it is the space of the labyrinth that makes the contemporary
cities uniform (Bataille 1970). The spatial structure of the labyrinth is that
of a body without hierarchy, without a head, as Bataille was to say. The
labyrinth is a body in which everything is intestine, a locus without end,
without reason. The labyrinth resists being described or defined like an
object represented by a topographical plan or construction map, since only
one route exists to get through. This overexposed city, about which Paul
Virilio writes that it translates into a space deprived of control and
originates in recognition of insecurity (Virilio 1991).
It is what is felt in some areas of the Costa Smeralda in Sardinia, a
tourist paradise honoured by the Jet Set, that enables a reflection to be
developed on some types of labyrinth: a survey on a spatial archetype that
may be considered a paradigm of private construction of space, an aspect
of the “non-city” of the Costa Smeralda.2 To dwell on an archetype and the
myths that have expressed it – and which we have sometimes found
deformed – has revealed itself to be a stimulating experience: on the other
hand, if the Gods become illnesses, all our ailments may be imagined as
the embodiment of mythical realities, of archetypal events (Hillman 2001).
If the itinerary winding along the Costa is followed, departing from
various localities which take their names from famous beaches, like Cala
di Volpe and La Celvia, an “urban” landscape is outlined with
morphological features that reveal the up-to-date nature of the labyrinth
image, in its mythologenic and functional variants.
One of the first categories is that of the “labyrinth as screen”, the city
seen only from the sea, a sort of stage-set for Odysseus. “When I designed
Porto Cervo I posed myself the problem of expressing a presence to
navigators coming from the blue sea, who would have liked to reach land
among different forms and different colours” (Vietti quoted in Consorzio
Costa Smeralda 1987). In the words of Luigi Vietti, head of the team that
designed the Costa Smeralda, there is the conception of the project as a
screen, ingrained in the risk of designing in places without “an evident
history”. The maze of houses offers the limit, as it is deceptive, of a better
view for the visitor arriving from the sea, as if the urban space had been
designed from the sea: the maze-like structure that so often intervenes
between the interior and the shore seems to have been constructed for a
second Odysseus, therefore, and not for those who live there or try to cross
it. Planning seems to have been addressed to the myth.3 On the other hand,
“elite tourism needs a mythological origin” (Bandinu 1980). An urban
space conceived in this way – a private project for space – could only
express a relationship with the sea of a private type, with the houses
occupying a position on the coast taking the sea away from those who are
not part of the adventure. But the labyrinth proposes a false adventure: it is
Thematisation of the City 47

the theme of the game that considerably characterises holiday production

and leads to the creation of the theme park (in effect, the game cannot take
place except in a limited way). This reveals the willingness to perceive the
territorial context as fiction which enables users to live a make-believe life.
There is an analogy between the labyrinth and that sort of screen placed
in the middle of the central nave of the temple, aimed at protecting from
evil influences (Chevalier and Gheerbrant 1986). And also the
representation of the labyrinth on the door of the Cumaean sybil’s cave,
described in Book VI of the Aeneid, can be traced back to a screen
function that drives away the incautious visitor (Guénon 1975). But the
image of labyrinth as a screen, reminds us of an attitude rather than precise
choices, a general tendency of tourist planning: “the Costa Smeralda”,
Bachisio Bandinu has written, “has created a world of objects that keep all
evil away from the holiday and guarantee the tourist ‘a perfect Paradise’”
(Bandinu 1980). The holiday is conceived as a production by the
organisers and the context as fiction by the visitors.
Another category is that of the “labyrinth as game”, it is Dedalus’
intoxication. “The architect Jacques Couëlle ‘creates’ Cala di Volpe.
Couëlle defines himself as an ‘artist’ and not an ‘architect’ or rather a
‘house sculptor’. And in this case also he has modelled the forms of the
hotel as if it were a statue, a large statue with wings that open as if to
embrace the sea.” (Consorzio Costa Smeralda 1987). The aesthetic
odyssey is a fundamental aspect of the visit to the various localities of the
Costa Smeralda. But to this characteristic attention towards visual and
superficial (Mossa 1973) corresponds indifference towards the deep
meanings of the nature and history of territories. The mystification of the
relationship with the environment and the construction of fiction determine
an amorphous situation of “invertebrate” territory, whose function is
relegated to the false-wild. A peculiar aspect of this particular planning for
space is clearly outlined: the mystification of the relationship with the
environment. Ways of designing space do not pass (except superficially)
through the relationship with the environment, with its deep meanings, but
we witness the importation of models and urban forms that lead to
superficial transfiguration of the language of construction and determine
an image of estrangement that has nevertheless imposed itself over time.
Promises have been betrayed concerning many aspects: in the light of
the problems that have arisen over the course of the years, abandonment to
a sort of creative delirium has led to the risk of being conceptually
imprisoned by the project itself, with the residents themselves imprisoned
in the intertwining of the labyrinth. Dedalus, too, the maze builder, also
experienced a decline from symbol of ingeniousness and shrewdness to the
exalted image – without measure – of an architect becoming the victim of
48 The Generic City

his own construction, the labyrinth-prison. It is also the image of the

inventor that betrays promises and the witch’s apprentice unaware of the
limits of his power, as the story of Icarus (whom Dedalus supplies with
wings) and his ruinous fall reveals, an event that developed from creative
intoxication to betrayal of promises (Chevalier and Gheerbrant 1986).
Another category is that of the “labyrinth as enclosure”, which is the
sign of a split between city and territory. As Jean Brun writes in his essay
Il vertice e l’abisso, the panorama, to which the rising path permits access,
possesses a resonance that infinitely surpasses the sphere of cartography.
This panorama is, more or less obscurely for us, of an ontological order;
we have the sensation of finally having access to the being of man’s
dwelling (Brun 1994).
From Monte Moro, the highest land in the Costa Smeralda, some
important environmental signs can be recognised which characterise the
territory: it is by experimenting these apertures that we make contact with
the environmental dimension.
Recognising the most significant environmental signs makes acquisition
of a fundamental fact possible: that the territory and its environmental
processes in particular become part of urban organisation. It is the territory
that contributes to the construction of the city. Whereas it has been
possible to note a large number of settlement nuclei without territorial
identity and expression of a private organisation of space, a simil-city that
takes away intrinsic public space from the city. The absence of the
relationship with the deep structure of the environment has determined a
substantial split between the territory, with its environmental processes,
and what we still call city, in spite of it being perceived by the metaphor of
the labyrinth, in this case understood as the metaphor of the artifice and
Another category is the “labyrinth as enclave”. Ovid in the
Metamorphoses reminds us that “meanwhile Dedalus, hating Crete and his
long exile, and longing to see his native land, was shut in by the sea.
‘Though he may block escape by land and water’ he said ‘yet the sky is
open, and by that way will I go. Though Minos rules over all, he does not
rule the air.’”4 Currently the debate on the territory of the Costa Smeralda
basically concerns modalities of organisation of the offers for sustainable
tourism, but the recurrent aspect is that of considering a territory as an
enclave with extraterritorial features. The expectations of the new
Consortium, with alternative programmes to the previous ones, confirm the
search for tourist development of high quality and the aspiration of
lengthening the tourist season: “the tourist should last the whole year”.
Once again, the first theme is the environment, with a precise identity: “we
are the myth of the green.” Departing from unedificability, or the
Thematisation of the City 49

awareness of no longer being able to intensify, the choices of the future

seem tied to planning minimal volumes of environmental plant: resorts far
from the sea with a park around them; a villa must have a public park
because “the tourist seeks privacy”. Balance between volumes and
environment is resolved following one modality: enclose.
Another category is “the labyrinth as defence”. Searching for the sea
near La Celvia beach, often begs the question: how do we get access? A
paved road that seems promising – apart from representing the last
possibility – reveals itself to be a meander leading to a closed space, a dead
end. Sporadically public spaces are recognized, as narrow as a ravine. We
read “La Celvia” painted on a large stone: we look for the parking place
again but the road leads to another closed, walled-up space. Along the
route – which anyway is a one-way road taking us back to the exit (to
leave is very simple) – it is easy to miss the access to the beach, a narrow
path between two stone walls a little more than a metre wide.
As René Guénon notes the labyrinth permits or prevents, depending on
the case, access to a certain place where not everybody indiscriminately
should enter; only those who are “qualified” may follow it to the end,
while the others will find it impossible to get through or will get lost on the
way. In this is implicit an idea of “selection” clearly related to admission
to initiation (Guénon 1975).
The problem of accessibility is closely connected with that of
privatisation of access to the sea. We read: “Access forbidden except for
residents”, but it is not an authorised sign. On the beach private land is at
less than 15 metres from the shore. Public connections seem private, with
house numbers hung by the side of a public passage. Sometimes the road
has been deliberately neglected, to hide access. The meander becomes
narrower and narrower, while the sea continues to be a postcard.
Roundabouts take away the sense of travelling towards the sea, which is
that of touching the horizon. What we see is the opposite of the horizon: it
is the spiral likened to the labyrinth.
“The labyrinth of the search for the centre in its absence” is the category
of the labyrinth as absence of centre, understood as absence of place, i.e.
loss of place. We build the city through territorial content that represents
its centre. In this way the project for the city incorporates the meanings of
the territory. Whereas the labyrinth hides the centre. Even with the spiral
motif, as can be seen in these tourist settlements: the labyrinth as a spiral
and as a form of unfinished mandala. “Dedalus, a man famous for his skill
in the builder’s art, planned and performed the work. He confused the
usual passages and deceived the eye by a conflicting maze of diverse
winding paths. Just as the watery Maeander plays in the Phrygian fields,
50 The Generic City

flows back and forth in doubtful course, and turning back on itself, beholds
its own waves coming on their ways.”5
The labyrinth must simultaneously allow access to the centre by a sort
of initiatory journey and forbid it for those not qualified. The labyrinth has
therefore drawn close to the mandala which sometimes presents a maze-
like aspect. It is, however, a representation of initiatory, discriminatory
tests, preliminary to the journey towards a hidden centre.” In the
psychological sense, the labyrinth is the expression of the “search for the
centre” and it can be considered a form of unfinished mandala (Chevalier
and Gheerbrant 1986 ad vocem).
Arianna suggested to the hero to attach the thread up high at the
entrance to the labyrinth and not let it slip out of his hands: on the way
back he would need to take the same route used to enter and that would be
difficult. (Kerény 1951, 1959). This is the labyrinth as prison: from the
wings of Dedalus to the thread of Arianna. The labyrinth that hides the
centre. “Delfi is no longer at the centre of the world” said Epimenide, one
of the seven sages, linking the loss of centre with the loss of place. The
possibility of finding the place is the possibility of finding the meanings of
the place in the territory. The city builds itself incorporating the meanings
of the territory. The territory saves the city. “Destinies will find their way”,
Fata viam invenient, is the engraving on which the alchemic symbol of the
labyrinth is represented.6 “But as an archetype, as a primeval phenomenon,
the labyrinth cannot pre-shape anything but the ‘logos’, but reason. What
else, if not ‘logos’, is a product of man, in which man loses himself, goes
to his ruin?” (Colli 1975). This is why the labyrinth produces
transformation and awareness in man.
The correspondence between labyrinth and generic city is bound up with
the consideration of the labyrinth as the form and representation of chaos,
of psychic dulling, of what James Hillman defines as the “anaesthesia of
our sensitivity” (Hillman 2002) which prevents us from grasping the
differential quality of the city. The contemporary city, moreover, finds
itself immersed in a radical process of redefinition that does nothing more
than lead to a new stage in the process of slow dearticulation of the
traditional city, in the sense that the modern city always tends to be less the
place of accumulation and multiplication of wealth to convert to the place
of squandering and wasting energy. Contemporary cities recreate the
erratic, amused experience of the city, which refers to – as the figure that
gave paradigmatic expression to this new condition – the flâneur described
by Charles Baudelaire, the inhabitant of the new boulevards who strolls
along without stopping, half distracted and half stunned by the sight of the
shop-windows, department stores, landscapes and the splendour of the
Second Empire.
Thematisation of the City 51

The generic city is in this picture also a figure of liberation from the
urban spatial experience, that was introduced in some ways by the figure
of the baudelairian flâneur. In his article “Theorié de la dérive” (Debord
1956) of 1956, Guy Debord wrote about the spatial experience of the city
that departed from the figure of the flâneur, but proposed a new condition.
With the term dérive, Debord defined an experience of absolute
abandonment of productive activity or consumerism to let oneself be taken
by the city and its flow. Thus, Debord proposed that one or more people
who committed themselves to the dérive abandon for a specific period of
time every reason for action, their relations, their work and entertainment
activity, letting themselves be taken by the attraction exerted by the city
and its places, and the meetings it involved. In the dérive proposed by the
Situationists the modern condition of the city was celebrated, in which
public places ceased to be the agorà, where power found its privileged
scenario faced with a tidy congregation of citizens, to pass to being the
random fabric of multiple, widespread itineraries directly in the logic of
mobility. A possible graphic expression of this interpretation of the space
of the city is present in Debord’s collage entitled The Naked City in which
the map of Paris is broken up into nineteen parts, connected between them
by arrows which indicate the change of direction the subject can
spontaneously take, who is wandering round these places without paying
attention to the useful connections that usually govern his behaviour and
which, according to the Situationists, reflect the image of the city
propagated by the structure of power.
The generic city has in a certain sense, as its underlying epistemology,
attention for everything that is included and at the same time indifference
for everything that is excluded. But Saskia Sassen (Sassen 2006a) points
out to us, however, that history teaches us that the excluded, the weak,
everything that is excluded from the processes of development of the
contemporary city is an important factor in the development of new
historic phases. The generic city is also the sentry of functionalism, which
Musil, in his fading satire (Musil 1954), configures as the quintessence of
modernity, it is the capital city differentiated by functions, which, in the
20s came under discussion with the crucial word “Americanism”; it was,
however, also the development that characterised urban centres up to the
70s. The key words that describe it are: the enormous growth in the
expanse of the city produced by the exodus from rural parts; the
demographic increase and deregionalisation; dilation of space not just
horizontally, but also vertically; the spatial separation of production,
services, entertainment, culture; temporality and velocity opposed to the
cautious rhythms operating in agrarian spaces; reorganisation of the city
adjusted for the imperatives of traffic; predominance of the machine like a
52 The Generic City

model which governs communication itself between human beings; the

city, finally, dependent and articulated by the same laws that regulate the
functioning of the production system (Böhme 2001). In a word, the
triumphant march of Fordism with its principles of apportionment of work,
of automation and rationalisation. Principles on which not only production
was shaped, but which, moreover, permeated all sectors of society. The
modern city seems like a gigantic piece of machinery to Musil. It is not the
ancient squares and markets that make up its centre, but the link-roads for
traffic. In all this is reflected, as Musil was already able to observe in the
20s, the progress of management sciences. A strategy, whose effect is to
remove any fundamental difference between men, apparatuses, materials,
things, processes, actions, motives, aims. All this is thus conceptualised as
a community of compacted forces, as a system of energy that correlates
inorganic and organic, human and non-human (Böhme 2001). Individuals
disappear in the production process of society. Private traits have the same
form as elements of the general dynamic flow. The individual, if meant as
a person, is either not functional or a replaceable fiche. Life and happiness
consist of conforming to the system without electric shocks. The social
body is split into the segments of the different roles and into the sectors of
local functions with the purpose of achieving division into functional
sections. The physiognomy of the city ends up being dominated by this
topographical differentiation of its functions that welcomes, together with
the new, all the old differences, letting them settle, localising them and
drying them up, levelling them out from the point of view of traffic and
communications: here public, there private; here work, there spare time;
here family, there entertainment; here production, there reproduction; here
the factory, there services. Exactly the opposite, in other words, of the
obstinate cultural self-preservation of provinces and regions (Böhme
2001). Everything that originated after 1970 in urbanistic conceptions – the
postmodern city, urban re-aestheticisation, the collage city, the fractal city,
the rediscovery of regionality and historicity, the increase in the
importance of urban culture and the urban social element, the vivacity of
the identity of district, cities seen as texts susceptible of cultural
interpretation, attempts to give life to new forms of collusion at many
levels between functions and culture, accentuation of the difference in
opposition to homogeneity, the re-appraisal at one moment of the centre, at
another of the outskirts, at another the city, another the suburbs, the subject
of new theories formulated in architecture and urbanistics; the rediscovery
of nature in the city, the discovery of urban ecology, as well as the
opposite aspiration of circumscribing the country with respect to the city,
the desire to substitute the dilation of spaces with thickening as urban
quality – all these reforms, in the end, were exhausted, giving life to the
The City as a Simulacrum 53

“super-American city” or, if preferred, the generic city, an effort to create

cities without quality for the “man without quality” (Musil 1954) and, thus,
to construct a sort of functional shell of techno-economic modernity
obtaining a human species socially and technically similar (Böhme 2001).
In the system man is “man without quality”, which means with each of the
qualities that, on each occasion, are expected to be manifested by him in a
segment of the system with the fact, however, that these “qualities” no
longer prove to be integrated in a “personal identity” (Böhme 2001). It is,
as we have already stated, “the unexpected revenge of functionalism”
(Chung et al. 2001), a liquidatory utopia of the city which, as an entity
without identity, is no longer representable.

The City as a Simulacrum

The generic city, always the same as itself, cannot be represented, or bet-
ter, is not representable using the forms and modalities with which we
have represented the city over time. The matter is important because we
nevertheless have in the city the principal store of our memory and the
nerve centre of our civilisation. “To give up this privileged mirror would
make us dumb and blind. But, in spite of this, is it representable? Painting
and drawing were enough for the ancient city; the word gave an account of
the industrial city.”7 For the city of the 20th Century the word was insuffi-
cient. The first to acknowledge this change in representation of the city
was – as is known – Walter Benjamin, who asserted in his writings of the
30s that the metropolis could only be represented by the cinema and pho-
tography. Benjamin knew intuitively that editing was not only a specific
technique of these new mechanical visual arts, but a new aesthetic cate-
gory that arose from the essence of the industrial metropolis (the juxtaposi-
tion of images, the assembly line as the condition of factory work, etc.). It
is the city itself that equips itself with the instruments necessary for its rep-
resentation (de Azua 2003). The wide-angle magnifies the technical reali-
sations of triumphant capitalism: bridges, railways, iron and glass build-
ings. When we fly in a hot-air balloon with Felix Nadar, the city seems
simultaneously real and unreal.8 The spectacle offered from above is no
longer false, like in panoramas. Distance neutralises details and transforms
space into a mass of roofs similar to the cogs of a machine (D’Elia 1994).
Representation of the city is a montage of stills.
Painting, the word, photography, the cinema, the means that have
represented the city over time have had to do with the differential quality
of the urban world, today lost in the generic city. Contemporary post-cities
54 The Generic City

have gone far beyond what can be represented by the cinema and
photography. “Should we perhaps understand that the city has disappeared
as a conceptual unit? The answer will be that the city, in its classical
significance, already does not exist, but in its place and upon it a
simulacrum of classical city is being built that is notably convincing. And
this simulacrum is truthful. And this gives rise to our bewilderment.” (de
Azua 2003).
Baudrillard, with La société de consommation, in 1970 (Baudrillard
1970), linked the simulacrum phenomenon with the passage from an
industrial economy to an economy based on consumption and services,
with the transition from the production of goods destined to cover needs to
the production of desires as the moving force of the economy (Ritzer
2000). Just as men’s needs have a clear, rational definition that proves
easily representable, desires on the other hand do not: they change
constantly, lack a fixed object and at the moment in which they are
satisfied are reborn embodied in a new fetish. Cities also follow this trend
that leads from construction to cover needs to the construction of settings
of desire, of the way present cities are adopting an oniric aspect coinciding
with the disintegration of the social classes. This was what Felix de Azua
maintained in his essay La Necessidad y deseo (de Azua 2003). This loss
of the capacity to represent the city corresponds, according to the Spanish
scholar (de Azua 2003), to the loss of the city as a conceptual unit. The
contemporary city cannot be represented because it has become a
“simulacrum” (de Azua 2003) of the city, light, fake, and as such,
consumable, a copy of the copy of cities that have never existed, were
never inhabited by any man but depended on mass consumption.
In this city – according to De Azua – the citizen enters like the main
character of a show that includes a series of more and more abstract
imitations which lack an empirical original, such as the “John Silver”
chain of sea-food shops, which imitate on their premises the set of
Treasure Island (film), which, in turn, imitates Treasure Island (novel),
which represented a treasure island that never existed geographically, nor
was ever inhabited (de Azua 2003). It is not just a question of isolated,
very specific cases: shopping malls are like this, and theme parks, thematic
urbanisations and many other similar figures. A lot of American and
European urban centres currently sell, remodelled following the method of
inventing a simulacrum that departs from a copy with no original. Let us
look at the case of Times Square in New York. What was for a century
the symbolic world centre of show business, Times Square, had decayed
to the point of turning into the most dangerous quarter of the city in the
decade of the 70s. But the decay of the urban centre began to be fought
at the beginning of the following decade and an army of estate agents,
The City as a Simulacrum 55

multinational show business companies, financial consortia, lawyers and

top municipal executives began the project of gentrification in around
1980. The operation lasted twenty years between negotiations and
implementation. Its history, without doubt exciting (Sagalyn 2002), is that
of an urban space created by image technicians, who set out to realise a
“reproduction” of the historic model of Times Square to be realised, with
their luminous advertisements in bright colours and other spectacular
scenes. The areas devoted to luminous advertisements, like the technology
behind them, were regulated with the purpose of producing an effect of
anarchy and spontaneity, similar to the “old” Times Square. It seems to have
grown, like the previous one, in a chaotic manner with disjointed private
initiatives, with the anarchic poetry of classical capitalism, whereas it is
actually the result of a technical, political and financial operation planned
with almost scientific rigour. It is thus a simulacrum or an “urban theme
park”, as some critics certainly described it. In no case a reconstruction, and
even less a revival (de Azua 2003).
The social imagination is being more and more incorporated in
simulacrum-like panoramas, like theme parks, historic quarters and
hypermarkets which are cut off from the rest of the city. Traditionally its
greatest theme parks were fundamentally architectonic simulations of films
or television. This possible horizon of modernity is a liquidatory vision of
the city that pretence disguises as a conservative vision.
The contemporary city that has become a “simulacrum” (de Azua 2003)
of a city, light, fake and consumable is the city without problems that we
desire. It recalls in some ways the contents of the video-cassette on sale in
the United States for those who would like to have a child at home without
any of the nuisance. On screen the child smiles at you, grows day by day,
cries a little, too, but does not wet the bed and lets you sleep at night…
Simulation, the artificial level of reality, can be useful only if it does not
eliminate the evidence of that “something” that is beyond our
representations, the “datum”, made of limits and other by us and our
intentions, which alone can guarantee us the future. And, as it happens, we
have discovered that we are much more similar to, sharing more in the
nature of, that “datum” than of the representations of it. We are mortals as
is the world, we are not inside the screen but, though only a little, outside it
(La Cecla 1991).
Detachment of the images from reality has the shape of a loss.
Entrusting its image to the virtual, and with the image its cultural ways, its
notional worlds, its perceptive worlds, what is real becomes residual, while
the simulacrum is an escape, an easy vision, almost marginal, of reality for
men who seek original, genial machines because they no longer believe in
56 The Generic City

their originality and therefore want to free themselves of their own

reflection and knowledge.
It is – according to Baudrillard – the theorem of the incomprehensibility
of the world, where it seems that the task of human thought is that of
making it more incomprehensible and enigmatic and, since the true world
is incomprehensible, there is the temptation to produce a world that goes
ahead on its own (Baudrillard 1999). At this point it is technology that
marches alone, it is technology’s automatic writing that marches without a
subject. This is what happens in the virtual: there is no longer a subject, it
is calculation that works alone, a number, a logico-mathematical synthesis,
the self-production of a system rotating tautologically around itself
(Baudrillard 1999).
It is in a certain sense the Dorian Gray syndrome the other way round:
men grant the Web the image they consider the best,9 splitting the time
dimension, entrusting the real world with past time and the Web with real
time, the time we are in, in all parts of the globe and all corners of time
(Baudrillard 1999). We entrust “becoming” to the real world and change to
the Web. This is the nth pair that takes its place in the sum total of pairs in
tension which – according to Giuliana Mandich (Mandich 2000) – structure
the new perceptive worlds.
This changing without becoming is the virtual world. It is the possibility
to adopt all forms that is specific to a certain task on the computer and that
constitutes a sort of morphism. And the morphism in this continuous
formal change is exactly the opposite of the concept of metamorphosis
(Baudrillard 1999). Referring again to the inverted Dorian Gray metaphor,
metamorphosis is entrusted to the real world, morphism to the virtual,
changing without becoming, without growing old. The world goes ahead
on its own, the Web images observing us become autonomous, they
acquire autonomous power and take us hostage to the point that we
ourselves become an image, without identity, if this ever existed, since the
world of images is autonomous, it unfolds on its own, is self-referential.
Paul Virilio’s La machine de vision (Virilio 1989) shifts perception from
the topic to the tele-topic, superimposing a virtual, filmed/projected
territory on the mapped, described one, a real “war zone” between a
territory first hypothesised then applied, and another “corporeal” one that
does not cease to show new aspects of its complexity, legitimising its
existence. It is this phenomenon, the symptomatology of the disappearance
of original landscapes, that, according to Tiziana Villani, shifts points of
view and “geographies” (Villani 2000) and registers the separation
between bodies and territories.
This change in landscapes is reflected in our perceptive worlds and our
behaviours (Vos and Meeks 1999). If post-modern landscapes are
Desired Landscapes 57

explored, as in previous epochs, in our times, too, there is not a single

direction to landscape development. A feature of our times is, nevertheless,
the rapid change in production and information technology, and in the
demands of society too, which completely change the economic base of
the types of landscape. All things seem possible: people go shopping in the
landscape. The “unity of the world” has definitely ended: man is at a
distance from the landscape and this distance has the dilated dimensions of
a wasteland (Maciocco 2000).

Desired Landscapes

This development of our shopping society with its variety of requirements

results in a complete mosaic of different types of landscape in our post-
modern universes (Vos and Meeks 1999). These types show different in-
tensities and styles of controlling man, the products of which are all de-
sired by society. In this sense, to industrial production landscapes corre-
sponds as the desired product the landscape as industry, where each form
of “nature” or scenario is an involuntary product of agriculture; to the mul-
tifunctional landscapes subjected to pressure beyond all limits in areas
with a growing urban population, is associated the landscape as supermar-
ket, where the market has very recently asked our landscapes for a wide
spectrum of functions à la carte: food production, industrial use, recrea-
tion, residence, water extraction, nature conservation, etc.; just as the land-
scape as historic museum is made to correspond to traditional archaic
landscapes; to landscapes that are disappearing, being marginalised, is as-
sociated the landscape as ruin, where the spontaneous development of na-
ture takes over and within some twenty years nature dominates landscapes
that had been used for centuries, while natural landscapes, wrecks, corre-
spond to the product landscape as desert (Vos and Meeks 1999).. This de-
sire for different landscapes is only an apparent struggle against the grow-
ing uniformity of landscapes, it is really a “fraud” (Clément 2002). The
question of identity of the landscape, of the features of a place might re-
veal itself to be more complex: as Gilles Clément notes, a place might no
longer be defined by its largest common denominator, the most visible, but
for the smallest, the most fragile. The question is to know how far the cul-
tural loss represented by this oscillation of the identity system is acceptable
as such, without any traumas (Clément and Blazy 1995).
The representations, images, our society creates for itself of landscapes
as “desired products” cannot, however, be separated from reality because
if we lose their identity in images, we also lose it in reality, thus we cannot
58 The Generic City

entrust our life to images because we will lose it in reality. In this

“detachment” between reality and representation lies the contemporary
incapacity to “represent” the city, to “see it”. It is the discomfort described
in Lisbon Story,10 in the film director, Friedrich’s, monologue which
expresses the anguish of those who no longer manage to “see” the city, the
despair of men to whom the city no longer shows itself. The city
withdraws, it does not let its soul be filmed because man’s glance in the
city has turned into the glance of cultural consumption, the glance that kills
the city, in that it annihilates men, their life of reciprocal relations, civitas,
since it is directed solely at the spaces indicated and tidied up by the
The contemporary incapacity to “see” the city, to represent it, seems –
Italo Calvino is aware of this in Lezioni Americane (Calvino 1988) – like
an epidemic of the plague that has hit humanity in the faculty that is its
greatest feature, i.e. the use of the word, a plague of language manifest as a
loss of cognitive strength and immediacy, as an automatism that tends to
level out expression in the most generic, anonymous, abstract formulas, to
dilute meanings, attenuate expressive points, quell each spark that spurts
from the clash of words with new circumstances, a plague described with
mastery, for example, in Peter Greenway’s filmography which, with all its
studied excesses, its cruelty flaunted from a literary point of view, is more
vulgar, more popular, more coarsely extreme in its description of the
world. And the world described really does seem to have lost all its
fascination, including that of lightness of spirit, dominated as it is,
exclusively, by the aggressive vulgarity of the function.
This relationship between language and the world is even seen as an
analogy with regard to the city. One of the most famous paragraphs of
Wittgenstein’s Philosophical Investigations compares language to an old
city: a labyrinth of lanes and little squares, old and new houses, and houses
enlarged in different periods; and all this surrounded by a number of new
quarters with straight roads lined with houses all the same (Wittgenstein
1958). The diversity of the play of words is thus similar to that of the
quarters or other urban structures and the description of this play relates
them with a form of planimetry, also able to include outlines of paths.
According to this text, language is not similar to a labyrinth of lanes and
little squares but to a “labyrinth of paths” (Wittgenstein 1958). Every
comparison being reversible, it is not surprising that some have, in contrast
with Wittgenstein, taken language as a model of intelligibility if not of
cities, at least of the spatial practices they give rise to.
There are risks, however, in the sense that an aberrant use of language
can produce involution of sensitive knowledge of the city, of the capacity
to see it. This perspective is effectively interpreted by the aberrant use of
Desired Landscapes 59

the “geographical system” for artistic or para-artistic purposes that

formally characterise the “urban works” of the situationists, like Guy-
Ernest Debord and Constant, and some conceptual artists like Douglas
Huebler and Stanley Brouwn. Of course, every map is, as Nelson
Goodman has noted, “schematic, selective, conventional, condensed and
uniform”, and these features are more “virtues” than “defects” since
without them the map would tend – the hypothesis was developed by Jorge
Luis Borges (Borges 1965) – to merge with the territory to which it refers
(Goodman 1972). However, the planimetry of Debord’s Naked City and
that of Constant’s New Babylon, without mentioning Stanley Brouwn’s
This Way Brouwn, drive schematism, selectivity, condensation or
uniformity to such a point that reference to a territory is somehow radically
absent, favouring the adoption of an urban image as such. Their works – in
many cases it is a question more of outlines or plans of works than actual
works – in effect have in common making an image such as the
geographical form of the map or urban plan play like a linguistic sign that
is perfectly identifiable as such, but clearly deprived of its capacity to refer
to its normal spatial referent. No territory can be described by these
diagrams or fragments of real maps, as if the cartographer were struck by
blindness concerning the relationship his work should have with a precise
What is projected in images aberrant to the extent of losing their
reference point is nothing more, probably, than the loss of the reference
point as such, a loss affecting language, the same loss that affects the
inhabitant when he tries to imagine the city. But the inconsistency is not
perhaps in the images or the language alone: it is in the world, for an
indissoluble bond associates language impoverishment – and the images
with which we try to understand the world and picture it for ourselves,
expressing its nature – and world impoverishment. So from this point of
view the world ceases to appear as an object, an event, a process in itself
and independent. Actually, it is more like a background, a scenario and
field of action for all our experience which, nevertheless, cannot exist
separately from our structure, our behaviour, our consciousness.11 This
growing process of integration between reality and the representation of
reality, which are not totally independent, detached spheres but end up
influencing each other to the point of constituting a united whole, makes
contemporary man adapt and react not only to the “world” as it actually is,
but to the images he creates of it and the representations provided of it,
images and representations that therefore acquire their own “physicality”
(Maciocco and Tagliagambe 1998).
Here lies the connection between genericity and fiction, referring
back to unsettling pairs of opposites like real city/simulacrum city and
60 The Generic City

citizen/non-citizen (De Azua 2003, p. 20). This perspective is reflected, for

example, in the geography of city centralities. Problems of accessibility to
consumption are pointing in many small and medium urban centres to the
creation of new “central places”, an alternative to those of the large urban
areas (Bellicini 1988), within a vision of malls intending to be more
diversified than the replicating operations of the large sponsors, given that
the mall has different influences, depending on place.
Dealing with the Italian case, Michele Sernini puts forward the
hypothesis that one of the current tendencies that should be studied is the
creation of “city two”, a second version of the city next to the existing one.
Maybe we are at this point, though Italy, so full of cities, would show that
it has made a disastrous choice requiring a very long period of adjustment
and unimaginable costs. This would, however, be proof of aspiration to
centrality, sought in every way elsewhere and even insisted upon when
forbidden, making the historic centre a limited zone (Sernini 1989).
Exclusively entrepreneurial logic, utterly neglected by urbanistic
administrators or perhaps deliberately facilitated by them, even denies the
usefulness of urbanistic policy in that this would hinder the efficiency of
the commercial distribution system (Lugli 1983). This possible horizon of
modernity is a liquidatory utopia of the city disguised through pretence as
a conservative utopia. We might ask ourselves if it is worth pursuing such
a long, costly renovation process, from the city outwards and back, from
inside to outside to recreate a centre (Sernini 1989). Or if it might not be
the case to accept and appreciate centrality and the city that are already
there and work around them. For there is some significant relationship
between the simulacrum city and the city “centre” theme and its
There is nothing strange, nor theoretically or politically unseemly, therefore, about
centrality in general, and the urban centre in particular being an attraction. It is because they
are attractive. Only the recent arrogance of residents in the centre may have it upheld that
the centre “belongs” to those who live there rather than to the whole city, which gets life
from it but gives it life; no public administrator would have tolerated just a few years ago
such conceptual oddness. Where spatial centrality finds a way of spreading, expanding,
there will be, in large cities built not too discontinuously and in compact metropolitan
areas, centrality and city blending together, the great urban centre, where the thousand
tensions of attraction towards “the centre” become variegated practices of a thousand social
interlacements, ultra-enhancement of novelties, activities and creativity and a built-up
complex of great consistency. (Sernini 1989).

Perhaps humanity does not really want to give up what Braudel

indicated when studying French history: “the most obvious feature of a
city is the way in which it concentrates its activities in the smallest area
possible”; in the city-centre “everything meets up and everything is
Desired Landscapes 61

decided”. Usually, if the large centre attracts, it is because for many it is

like taking part in a lottery.12 “Knowing well how much the centre counts,
many people nowadays, especially in a country where the city-centre is
also a “historic centre”, re-propose around the most internal centre and,
putting forward reasons of safeguarding antiquity and monuments of
historic beauty, the walls, possibly suitably restored and enclosed, the
boundaries, and the gates of the city.” (Sernini 1989). It sounds false when
this actually wishes to be a retrieval of local “identity” largely lost, since
with population shifts it is no longer clear who the “true” citizen of a city
is. In both cases the study, always interesting, of the city walls and walled
cities, when conducted honestly, rather than “demonstrate” the need to
reinstate the socio-spatial device of gates and walls today, may cautiously
at most raise the question of whether the urban boundary is disappearing
(Sernini 1987; De Seta and Le Goff 1989).
To the admiration and recent enthusiasm for walls and boundaries to be
reinstated is added a reactionary medieval frenzy. Also false because
entirely remade – but the false, as we know, is legitimate in a society of the
baroque and the debatable – the medieval city seems to be liked.13 Among
intellectuals since the end of the millennium demand for the medieval has
been gushing. So irrepressible that software packages are ready with
which, starting from the really flat urban images of Giotto’s paintings,
medieval cities are simulated, as random as they are improbable and ugly,
which never existed and are disorienting and unnecessary. The medieval
society was enclosed within the boundaries of that urban form. Within “the
antique circle” of Dante’s Florence “one was in sober, modest peace”.
“See our city”, says Beatrice in Paradise. A city and a society: the state
itself, conceived as a Christian community (McClung 1983; Sernini 1989).
The world of the simulacrum city is interpreted by the town of Seaside
in Florida, which appears as Seahaven in The Truman Show, Peter Weir’s
film set in this affected little town covered with a great glass dome and
separated from the rest of the world by the filter of television. At Seahaven
the longest and most fortunate soap opera in television history is running,
the one that has Truman Burbank as its protagonist, the unaware star since
he was in his mother’s womb, of a show that never stops and has as its
gigantic studio the whole city: the “candid camera” of a true life (if it can
be called that), spied on day and night by five thousand operators, with the
complicity of a population of actors and extras who help, so to speak, the
protagonist to live his existence under the hypnotised, involved eyes of the
television public (Bignardi 1998). The Truman Show is a clockwork
mechanism, a highly sophisticated satire of the American Way of Life:
departing from the sociological-urbanistic dream of Seaside which, with a
double somersault, Weir takes from reality, using it as the apparently false
62 The Generic City

background of his little television world, to finish with the fact that the life
of Truman Burbank – the one that everybody, in bars, in their homes, in
drive-ins, avidly watches, without losing a single hour of it – is the most
boring existence, we might say the “most generic”, and has become an
exciting show for the simple fact that it is available for everybody on T.V.
(Bignardi 1998). But the scene of the storm at sea, as part of the set, is
particularly emblematic, where Truman risks being shipwrecked and the
sailor cannot help him because he does not know how to do, he only
knows how to act. The difference between doing and acting corresponds to
the difference between the true city and the simulacrum city, where doing
is in close connection with inhabiting, a concept Heidegger faces in his
analysis of Holderlin’s poem “Poetically inhabits man”, referring back to
the Greek root of poetry, poieo, the Greek expression for the word do
(Heidegger 1971).
The contemporary city simulates or is like a hallucination in at least two
crucial ways. First: in the era of electronic culture and economics the city
repeatedly re-duplicates through the whole of its information structure and
the media networks. Perhaps, as William Gibson (Gibson 1986)14 suggests,
the computer’s three-dimensional interfaces will soon allow post-modern
flâneurs to wander through the luminous geometry of this mnemonic city.
This way urban cyberspace, as a simulation of city order and information,
will be experienced as more and more segregated and deprived of true
public space in contrast with the traditional city. Second: social
imagination is being more and more incorporated in simulacrum-like
panoramas like theme parks, historic quarters and hyper-markets, that are
cut off from the rest of the city. Mike Davis underlines how widespread
the conviction is that Los Angeles is the world capital of “hyper-reality”.
Its greatest theme parks have traditionally been fundamentally
architectural simulations of films or television. Disneyland, of course,
opens its gates to the “magic world” of cartoons and caricatures of historic
figures, but today it is the city itself, or rather the idealisation of it, that has
become the subject of simulation. With the recent decline in the air-force
space industry in southern California, the tourist/hotel/recreation sector has
become the greatest source of employment on a regional level. But the
tourists have become increasingly reluctant to venture into the obvious
dangers of the Los Angeles “urban jungle” (Davis 1994).
The MCA (Music Corporation of America) and Disney consider the
solution to be to recreate the urban vitality of the city inside the safe
boundaries of fort-hotels and theme parks surrounded by walls. As a result,
the artificial Los Angeles is gradually coming to light. Since these
simulated scenarios compete with each other with regard to “authenticity”,
strange dialectical relations ensue. The simulations tend not to copy their
Desired Landscapes 63

“original” but the other simulations. Davis recalls in this sense the number
of hyper-realities involved in industrial battles to monopolise “Hollywood”
that have tried to sort out the not so simple pairing of made-in-Hollywood
charm and Hollywood’s decayed quarters. The Hollywood in the
imagination of the world cinema public was consequently kept lightly
anchored to the homonymous location by rituals with a regular cadence,
such as film previews, the Academy Awards, etc. But after the last
generation, while true Hollywood became a hyper-violent slum, the rituals
ended and the magic vanished. While relations between the past “signifier”
and its “signified” declined, an opportunity was born to resuscitate
Hollywood in a safer district. After some very harsh battles with small
local owners, the larger landowners managed to obtain the city’s approval
for an aesthetic operation costing a billion dollars on Hollywood
Boulevard. In their scheme the Boulevard would be transformed into a
fenced-in, linear theme park, linked to mega-malls at each end. But while
the renovators were still dealing with the potential investors, the MCA
upset the apple-cart by announcing that Universal City, its almost tax-
exempt enclave, was going to build a parallel urban reality called
CityWalk. Designed by Jon Jerde, CityWalk is an “idealised reality”. As
Davis emphasises, the best attractions of Olvera Street, Hollywood and
West Side were synthesised in “tranquil emotions” for consumption by
tourists and residents who “don’t need the exciting activity of dodging
bullets… in that Third world city” Los Angeles had become. To alleviate
the feeling of artificiality in this mixture, a “patina of antiquity” and a
“handful of gravel” have been added.

Using a decorative conjuring trick, the designers plan to disguise the new streets with a
cloak of instant past; on inauguration day some buildings will be painted so as to give the
impression that they were already occupied before. Sweet wrappers will be stuck to the
terrace pavement as if they had been dropped by previous visitors (Davis 1994).

As the owners of MCA have taken the trouble to point out, CityWalk is
not a “hypermarket” but a “revolution” in urban design … “a new type of
quarter”. An urban simulator. “Actually some critics are asking themselves
if it isn’t the moral equivalent of a neutron bomb: the city emptied of all
experiences of human life. With all its fake sweet papers, fossils and other
tricks, CityWalk takes us for a ride while it cancels out every trace of our
true joy, pain or weariness (Davis 1994).
In the proposals so far illustrated there is a sample collection of
entertainment industry attitudes: satisfy the tastes of its public arousing the
least resistance possible, with the constant intention of increasing turnover.
In a certain sense this “entertainment urbanistics” works with the same
64 The Generic City

tricks as Hollywood, the greatest enthusiasm in the simplest, most

economic way, that kind of enthusiasm typical of anticipation, of the
promise, “but at the end of the film, when you leave the cinema, the
surprise almost always remains that you have paid for it. For you go away
depleted, with the feeling you have received nothing, you have only given:
two hours of your own time for a great sarabande that leaves everything as
it was before (Wenders 1992). Entertainment urbanistics lies in the fact
that it also takes liberties with future inhabitants, but then it will be up to
them to realise they have to pay for it, that they are getting nothing, only
giving, giving away the secret stories of places to the dissolution of the
city. In this frame memory conservation entities like the “archaeological
park” as understood in a variety of proposals, be it on the transformative
side or on the conservative, also incarnate this type of urbanistics: it is cult
entertainment, conserving the past just for fun, or through a sense of guilt;
first it is knocked down and left as waste, but then immediately
recognising that a mistake is being made, an arch or archeological park is
left as an alibi, actually a sign of ineptitude of the inhabitants, who,
devouring their history and imagination are divesting themselves of the
city project. This is urbanistic fiction that has the tendency to close our
eyes on the world by its own definition, make us forget it, because
entertainment urbanistics is pure oblivion.
The conception of history as fiction is not – as we have seen – a novelty
for architecture, which has often adopted it explicitly, sometimes with
almost caricatural amplifications, like, for example, the experiences of
“simulated architecture”, which even go as far as the “simulation of the
simulation”, creating second grade parasitic objects, imitations of
aesthetisation of the historic centre, but phenomena that are actually
secondary (Nicolin 1994). We find ourselves faced with pure fiction,
while, as August Endell demonstrates in his book entitled Die Schönheit
der Grossstädte, only lived experience can become the homeland and the
homeland only shows itself to those who seek it (Endell 1908). For we will
always have pure fiction, oblivion of the world, while the project does not
have the role of distracting our attention from the world but of stimulating
it, taking on a different concept of space, of order, as creative potential to
be used, rather than always being forced to destroy in order to recreate
order. If we do not move towards what is real in lived-in space, we will be
wasting the poetic expressive potential of places. The city would lose its
conceptual unity, it would become a simulacrum of a city (de Azua 2003),
a theme park, or perhaps a group of theme parks, islands without an
archipelago, closed in and self-sufficient, that are often the background to
urban segregation, to what may be defined as the segregated city.
Desired Landscapes 65

Sorkin 1992; Warren 1994; Augé 2000; Glaeser et al. 2001; Jost 2003; Low
and Smith 2006;.
The theme of the labyrinth connected with Costa Smeralda architecture was
developed by Franco Masia and Salvatore Altana in their series of lectures on “City
and Territory”, directed by Giovanni Maciocco, Architecture degree course, Faculty
of Architecture, Alghero, University of Sassari, academic year 2003–2004.
Insistence on the myth arose during the meeting with the representatives of the
Consorzio della Costa Smeralda. Persico (lawyer), the Chairman of the Consorzio:
“We are a mythical object and the myth must be maintained.”
Ovid Metamorphoses vv. 183–187 Vol I, with an English translation by Frank
Justus Miller, Loeb Classical Library, London, 1971.
Ibid., vv. 159–163.
“Destinies will find their way”: motto engraved on a chest-of-drawers in which
the alchemic symbol of the labyrinth is represented. In Fulcanelli Le dimore
filosofali, Vol. II, Edizioni Mediterranee, Rome, 1973–1996, pp. 61–62.
In premodern urbanity the ancient cities, like the new ones, were engraved,
painted or sculpted. Only at the beginning of the modern era does literature give
the first symptoms of interest in geographical description. In what may be
considered the first modern novel, Don Quixote (1605), Cervantes worries about
informing readers about the villages and cities that appear in the text of the novel,
such as the known “elogy on Barcelona”. The last passage is produced in the 19th
Century. The attraction between urban space and narrative space is such that each
is incomprehensible without the other: London is Dickens, Paris is Balzac, Madrid
is Galdós, Dublin is Joyce (cf. de Azua 2003).
F Nadar, Photographie de la Place de L’Etoile, 1898.
With his single novel, published in 1890 in the American magazine
Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, the English poet Oscar Wilde left us a long
metaphorical fable with a deep significance. The story of Dorian Gray and the
portrait given to him by his artist friend, Basil Hallward, who portrayed him at the
height of his youth and beauty, onto which, under the arcane spell of a vow, all
traces of the vices and crimes of the protagonist are transferred, is much more than
one of the stages, though highly significant, of the long history of the “double in
literature”, which reached its highest peak in German Romanticism. Together with
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, which came out in 1886, it is
one of the two exceptional points which, at a brief distance one from the other,
gave new content and depth to this history (Maciocco and Tagliagambe 1998).
Lisbon Story, directed by Wim Wenders, Road Movies Filmproduktion/Berlin,
Developments in the modern theory of evolution reach the same conclusions,
where it is stated that the organism and the environment are not actually
66 The Generic City

determined separately. The environment is not a structure imposed upon human

beings from outside, but is actually a creation of theirs; it is not an autonomous
process but a reflection from biology of the species. In the same way as no
organism exists without an environment, thus no environment exists without an
organism (Lewontin 1983, pp 63–82).
Sachs 1988. The concept was already in Sauvy 1975.
An example: De Seta 1989.
William Gibson, the torchbearer of “Cyberpunk”, describes this super-
technological world as decadent: the atmosphere breathed in this novel is that of
films like Blade Runner, a universe populated by adventurers and women
wrestlers, prostitutes and mercenaries, all ready for any “deal” as long as they
stand out. In this composite humanity, slave of the Simstin television system as
much as of drugs, a new race of hero emerges, lawless and roguish, the cowboy of
the console (Gibson 1986).
The Segregated City

The Urban Project of Inequality

The segregated city is a relatively recent phenomenon that corresponds to

the formation of powerfully structured spaces that host the new urban
elites. Substantial research activity has flourished on this theme.1 Saskia
Sassen, in particular, has worked out effective theoretical and conceptual
reflections on the theme in very well-known essays (Sassen 1991, 1994b,
1996, 1998, 1999), which have the merit of attributing a strategic role to
the city in globalisation processes, in that they are processes situated in
specific spaces. As is known, we are dealing with a new type of conceptual
architecture of the urban universe, which Sassen describes in her studies
on the cycle of formation of global cities stating that the future phases will
have global cities and global city-regions as the core element of the global
economy’s organisational structure. These entities show substantial
differences with regard to scale and competitiveness in the urban world.
As regards scale, the global city-region is a concept fit for questions on
the nature and specificity of urbanisation models. Its characterising elements
consist of basic infrastructures and artefacts. As far as competitiveness is
concerned, in the global city-regions there are infrastructure issues on which
competitiveness is based; a greater emphasis on competition is present.
The global city is characterised by strategic components of global
economy that have to do with power issues, industry being represented by
finance and specialised services, and there is a specialised division of
functions between global cities, of which on-line connection is an intrinsic
element. But recurrent features of global cities are the disproportion
between the concentration of workers with a very high and a very low
income, and the inequality issues between very well-supplied city spaces
and spaces that are severely disadvantaged.
In this picture an important novelty introduced by Sassen is the
relevance attributed to the role that the production of IT services plays in

68 The Segregated City

city transformation. In this sense the cycle of formation of global cities

(Sassen 1991, 1994b) is described by the Dutch sociologist following a
particularly interesting pattern.
The first phase is characterised by the geographical dispersion of the
activities and the growth in importance of the central functions. Activities
due to the effects of globalisation of the economy are more and more
independent from place. Since activities are independent from place,
geographical dispersion is generated, but at the same time a request for
integration of these urban activities that are scattered.
Since there is this geographical dispersion and a request for integration
of activities, there is need for central control, for someone somewhere who
checks the distribution of activities. Central functions grow in importance,
like, for example, the headquarters of manufacturing activities spread
throughout the territory.
The second phase involves central administrations subcontracting some
or parts of these central functions to highly specialised service companies,
e.g. for data control. As in a multinational concern with activities spread
all over the world, it has a central function exerted, for example, by the
marketing control, quality control and data control needed to manage this
activity (Sassen 1991, 1996).
In the third phase these highly specialised service companies are subject,
in complex global markets, to agglomeration economies. For example, a
company that supplies IT services joins up with other companies to supply
better IT services on a global market. These are new dynamics of urban
agglomeration in the sense that being in a city means being in an extremely
dense, rich mesh of data. To produce highly specialised services better,
companies agglomerate spatially, forming pieces of city.
In this picture, the headquarters that give out the more complex, non-
standardised functions to subcontractors, are not subject to agglomeration
economies, they can choose any location: they are in a certain sense hyper-
The key sector underlining the characteristic advantages of global cities
is therefore that of production of highly specialised services. Since many
of the central functions needed to control all the scattered activities are
delegated to highly specialised companies, the headquarters become hyper-
mobile and the highly specialised companies become fixed. In this
conception there is a reversal, a great difference compared with the
dominant argument in which productive activities are defined as hyper-
mobile or can be relocated in various ways, and headquarters fixed. The
key sector is no longer the one exerting the central function, but the
productive one that supports central function activity (Sassen 1991, 1996).
The Urban Project of Inequality 69

The production of a highly specialised service happens in a place, while

corporations are hyper-mobile, the aggregates of specialised services,
which are urban aggregates, are specialised. Nodes of urban services are
formed because these highly specialised nodes arising from the
agglomeration create a network, are connected with each other, and form
new urban systems. Strategic nodes are thus explained as aggregations of
specialised service companies that have to supply a global service for
which the following are created: global networks of subsidiary offices,
network transactions crossing borders, transnational urban systems.
One of the outcomes of this process is the growth of the service class, an
increase in the number of high-level professionals and high-profit
specialised service companies, which causes the level of spatial and socio-
economic disparity in these cities to widen.
The city made up of dense nuclei of services is an unequal city. In these
aggregates of highly-specialised services there is a growth in the number
of high-level professionals and high-profit specialised service companies
in the same way as in the agglomerations there is a growth in executive
levels and high levels of activity, but there are situations of extremely high
income and extremely low income.
Urban science fiction literature has for some time faced the theme of the
segregated city. The skyscraper in High-Rise (1975) by James G. Ballard
(Ballard 1975) is a psychotope that summarises in its unusual character the
“universal” of the city. More than a building it has become an autarchical
mini-metropolis nullifying the city, with its swimming-pools, restaurants,
social divisions, borders between the three class-environments that
compose it: the proletariat, the middle class, the economic oligarchy.
According to Marco d’Eramo, however much skyscrapers are the symbols
of American metropolises, skyscrapers lead to crises and ultimately nullify
the city, if by city is meant the place where people mix, where individuals,
cultures and activities merge. The skyscraper as a dwelling nullifies the
city because it is itself an enclosed, autonomous city (d’Eramo 2004).
In Ballard’s novel those who are below aspire only to move upwards,
while those above dictate the rhythms of the city-block, which, as the story
goes on, “goes mad” almost without a trigger, to the point of degenerating
into chaos. The mall on the tenth floor was a clear border between the nine
lower floors, with their proletariat. The central two-thirds of the condominium
formed its middle class above them, and on the top five floors of the
skyscraper there was the upper class. And thus the technological paradise
of the miniature-metropolis becomes an authentic hell, a return to the
Middle Ages (near future) very similar to that of La morte di Megalopoli,
where tiny enclaves form, from which, however, a new social order will
arise. “As was often repeated, the current skyscraper crisis might mark the
70 The Segregated City

beginning of success rather than failure. Without realizing it, it had given
those people a means of escape to a new life, and a model of social
organisation that would become a paradigm for all future skyscrapers.”
(Vacca 1974).
But it is perhaps Super-Cannes, a more recent book by Ballard, that
better represents the irruption of the service class, the professionals, onto
the urban horizon. A horizon somewhat different from that of the High-
Rise that Ballard himself explains (Ballard 1975), revealing many
differences rather than similarities between the two books. In both novels
we see groups of successful professionals – lawyers, doctors, accountants,
businessmen, and so on – but in the novel High-Rise the people who live in
the block and decide to go back to a barbaric, Stone Age, state completely
refuse their lifestyle, rediscover themselves, their primitive selves. In
Super-Cannes the executive managers living in the business park
completely accept their lifestyle and their role in the community and do
not want to go back to a barbaric state or anything else. Eden-Olympia, the
business park in Super-Cannes, has lost its ethical values because this is
not necessary, there is no need of them to keep the Eden-Olympia
community united. Eden-Olympia is kept together by the requirements of
office life. There not being any crime, there is no need for the voluntary
organisations we have in the ordered societies we know: people who join
together in local congregations are involved in local elections, people who
are elected or elect councillors to be their representatives. All this is not
necessary, because the Eden-Olympia business park is like a machine. It
does not need the personal involvement of its population. Everything is
already organised. It is like going to stay in a fantastic hotel: you do not
need to elect the person at the reception desk or in the management office,
because everything is perfectly efficient. The culture of pleasure and fun
can be seen to make room for a new type of fun: hard work. The elites of
this world – the top managers, the most important companies – never play,
they are too busy. But in Super-Cannes violence is lying in wait to bring
men back to their primitive, ancestral selves. “When we became human,
500,000 years ago, we were violent creatures and this is still in our blood.
There is no doubt that violent sports, dangerous sports, really do have a
rejuvenating effect.” (Ballard 1975).
As we have seen, with her global city construct Sassen does not just
explain what the phases of urban change are, how cities are formed
nowadays, but also maintains that cities are being formed as nodes rich in
functions, and systems of these dense nodes that are the product of the
dynamics of agglomeration of highly-specialised services. These urban
situations have an extreme blend of destinations, dwellings and services
and a formal mixture of great iconic evidence.2 But, as we have underlined
The Urban Project of Inequality 71

in the previous pages, in these “dense nodes” there are very high levels of
profit compared with other situations where profits are extremely low. It is
the geography of an unequal city.
The theme of the unequal city is a theme almost intrinsic in the
urbanistics discipline, dealt with, for example, by Koolhaas with the
Exodus project in 1972 (Koolhaas and Zengelis 1973). “There was once a
city divided into two parts …”: Exodus is a tale that narrates the story of the
separation between the good part of the city and the bad; it is the
enhancement of this break until architectonic and urban construction and the
life itself of the inhabitants are reduced to ensuring and perpetuating this
difference. One works to realise, to extend and defend a zone of “great
metropolitan desirability”, the other to forbid its inhabitants access by
putting up an insurmountable wall. A scenario that departs from the idea of
London as an underdeveloped city and that building the “metropolitan ideal”
would create an authentic exodus of inhabitants wanting to immigrate.
Exodus, which responds to the competition launched by the magazine
Casabella in 1979 on the theme of the “city as a significant environment”,
is part of the line of “radical” projects drawn up by the young Italian
generation of the late 60s, committed to a united criticism of the modern
city, of functionalism, capitalism and the oppression that every system
exerts (Rouillard 1994).
The “radical” Italian criticism generated completely new images
manipulating excessively and “in the reverse sense” the architectonic and
formal traits of modern rationalism, betting everything on the
senselessness of the concept of a continuous linear city and
undifferentiated urbanistics. In Exodus, Koolhaas, with a parallel extremist
vision, transforms the linear city of Leonidov3 into a realist concentration
camp utopia: the continuous band is enclosed between two insurmountable
rectilinear walls, and the “squares”, also pools, that split it into functions,
develop a demented scenario, following perfect zoning: the condition of
the extremity where, day by day, the band progresses by planned tranches
being dug; individual plots to balance out collectivism and the intense
community way of life; the ceremonial square paved with marble; the
reception area looking out onto the decrepit state of old London and the
splendid manifestations of the band; John Nash’s London, conserved and
accessible at a lower level by escalators; the toilets; the park of air, fire,
water and earth; the square of culture (the British Museum); the university;
the science research complex (Rouillard 1994).
Koolhaas takes up the fascinating themes, the critical method, the
architectonic forms and ways of narrating discovered in 1969 by the
radical Italian generation in the Superstudio Continuous Movement or the
Parallel Quarters of Archizoom in Berlin. As one of the last projects of
72 The Segregated City

radical architecture, Exodus summarises its traits: narrative fiction as its

programme, the project as polemic demonstration, criticism of the
contemporary city by enhancing its “qualities” and taking the utopian
themes themselves to extremes (the ideal, isolation, preference for the
island), the reversal of values on the part of an Orwellian universe, precise
graphic representation, photomontage technique which creates a dreadful
hyper-reality. Exodus shares with the radical projects the theme of
continuous, magnificent movement, and a band crossing and proceeding,
slowly and regularly, unrelentingly, over the existing world reduced to the
silence of a ruin, while the city looks ahead to its prospects of spatial and
social segregation (Rouillard 1994).

Elitist Segregation as Global Identity

In these drafts urban segregation appears as an unavoidable destiny of the

city. Hartmut Böhme (Böhme 2001) even goes as far as maintaining that
the global identity of cities is indeed elitist segregation. Davis, who has
chosen Los Angeles, the “city of angels” or the “metropolis of illusions”,
as a world laboratory of city transformation, moves in his book Dead Cit-
ies: And Other Tales (Davis 2002) among science fiction, philosophy and
social ecology to denounce urban segregation as privatisation of public
spaces and gated quarters, but also bloody conflicts between gangs of
youths, the logbook of a “second civil war” conducted by the establish-
ment against the poor. The American scholar retraces the history of urban
development in the United States outlining the new shapes of metropolises
marred till death by environmental and social disasters. An apocalyptic vi-
sion that takes the attention away from another important mutation: the
large urban agglomerates have become a single, enormous productive atel-
ier where urban segregation is becoming a socially necessary convention
to maintain the status quo.
The declared objective of this and previous books is easily summarised:
to demonstrate the use of urban redevelopment as a social and economic
space to produce profit, but also as a place where space organisation is
aimed at reproducing existing social inequality. Thus was it in Los
Angeles, so too in Las Vegas.
The metropolis was becoming the place of a thousand centres giving a
serious blow to some generations of urbanists who considered planning
work on the lines of city development to be indispensable. Each centre, it
was asserted, possesses its own logic and capacity to mould the
surrounding environment. Basically, urban sprawl and gentrification were
Elitist Segregation as Global Identity 73

indeed the result of a deep crisis in this conception of the metropolis. But
at the same time, however, polycentric development of cities responded to
very clear political and economic criteria. The fleeing of the middle class
and the bourgeoisie from the old quarters to escape from the traffic and the
presence of the new “dangerous classes” is certainly no novelty. In the
same way as the shift of productive settlements to new areas has been
constant. Elements that have fed urban sprawl indeed and the exodus of the
middle class and the bourgeoisie from the city centre, phenomena
supported and nurtured, moreover, by city commissions appointed to draw
up urbanistic projects (Davis 2002).
Nevertheless, in the 80s a profound change took place that concerned
the eclipse of the old magnates of the property market, determined by two
factors: on the one hand, the new residential and productive settlements
required technology for surveillance and communications, making the
presence of high-tech businesses increase; on the other, the quantity of
capital from national and international finance swelled to become a river
that flooded “urban redevelopment”, shifting large investments to the
property market (Vecchi 2004).
In Los Angeles these two factors fuelled the gold rush to recuperate
Downtown. The same process, though with obvious differences, also
repeated itself in Las Vegas, where the transformation of the “city of the
desert” into a sparkling series of theme parks initially caused the
proteiform development of the city, but in the last ten years the reverse
tendency was suffered. With remodernisation of the old city centre an
authentic “urban revolution” took place, which had the old owners of the
city as sacrificial victims and saw the arrival of thousands of latinos and
fortune-seeking capitalists, not just looking for lucrative investments. The
Los Angeles scholar notes that the highly-praised polycentrism of
metropolises can be interpreted as a transition phase still underway
towards a widespread metropolis stratified along class, ethnic, and
functional fracture lines. Themes already dealt with by Davis in previous
studies (Davis 1990, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2004), but which he develops
further here, spelling out the features of the segregated city in the fortified
quarters of the professionals, in the elimination of public space by
privatisation, in the conflicts between Afroamericans and latinos, in the
ghetto as a basin of disadvantaged individuals and just-in-time factories of
criminal economy (Vecchi 2004).
Dead Cities: And Other Tales is, however, a very dark and apocalyptic
book, almost as if the fate of the metropolises is sealed. Or rather that
cities as we have known them in modern history are destined to succumb,
due to the environmental disasters and social apocalypses that they
continuously produce. Admirable in this direction is the conclusive essay
74 The Segregated City

in which Davis, also in this case, asserts, amid references to science fiction
and scientific literature, that metropolises are not eternal because they are
social formations that can be substituted, just like other social formations,
by other ways of “inhabiting together” (Vecchi 2004).
Davis’ tone is very far from the dynamic image other scholars of the
metropolis have described in recent years. He certainly has little to do with
Sassen’s global cities, where sociology elects some metropolises for the
role of coordination of the entire global economy. And he is also far from
Manuel Castells’ reflections, in which cities are authentic nodes of a thick
network potentially embracing the whole world in the information era
(Castells 1996, 1997, 1998). At the same time Davis’ studies of
metropolises are diametrically opposed to those of scholars like the
architecture historian, Michael Benedikt, who has pinpointed the future of
the metropolis-form in the possibilities offered by virtual reality (Benedikt
1993). Beyond the suggestions in Benedikt’s theses, it is however obvious
that here the perspective has been turned around: the city is no longer the
space where living in society is structured, but a gateway of access to an
infosphere where the plurality of forms of life present outside the screen
live harmoniously together. And if between the “global city” and the
“quartz city” there is no point of contact at all, then the “silicon city”
becomes the “totalitarian” device represented in the cinematographic
trilogy The Matrix, where men and women are heterodirected by a
technostructure which guarantees a “vision” of social relationships defined
in a separate location (Vecchi 2004).
In this frame “urban redevelopment” is nothing more than the laboratory
where models of reticular organisation of urban space “functional” to
widespread production of goods are finely adjusted. So is it in Los
Angeles, Las Vegas and the global city itself par excellence, namely New
York: the metropolis is thus an enormous, single, productive atelier, a
conflictive space in which surveillance policies and those of organisation
of urban fabric, mobility and access to knowledge are the numerous
manifestations of the entire workforce being put to work. To oppose the
segregation trend, the metropolis should be considered, according to
Davis, a place of radical policies, with the possibility of subverting the
dominant social relationships in metropolises.
According to Davis, every American city has its official symbols and its
motto: some have mascots, colours, songs, birds, trees; sometimes even
mountains. But only Los Angeles has adopted a nightmare as its official
symbol (Davis 1990). In the book City of Quartz (1990) Davis enumerates
various tendencies towards militarisation of the panorama. Events like the
spring rebellion of 1992, including the progressive recession, the leak of
capital, the savage cuts in the budget, the rising murder rate (in spite of the
Elitist Segregation as Global Identity 75

cease-fire between black gangs) and the boom in purchases of firearms in

the suburbs, only confirm that social polarisation and spatial apartheid are
accelerating. While the “endless summer” is about to finish, it seems quite
probable that the Los Angeles of 2019 be able to comfortably be in a
distopian relationship with every ideal of a democratic city (Davis 1990).
In Neuromancer and other stories, Gibson gives astonishing examples
showing how realist and “extrapolative” science fiction is able to prefigure
social theory, like an opposition policy that anticipates the cyber-Fascism
lying in wait behind the future horizon. The American scholar offers a
“Gibsonian” map, already partially drawn, for the future of Los Angeles.
Paradoxically, the map itself, though inspired by a vision of Marxism for
cyberpunk, resembles, according to Davis, the “combination of the half-
moon and the dartboard” that Ernest W. Burgess of the Chicago School of
Sociology had much earlier made “the most famous diagram in social
science” among the canonical studies of the North American city; with this
“dartboard” Burgess represented the five concentric zones of the city in
which it was supposed that the struggle for survival of the fittest (as
imagined by social Darwinists) generated the urban social classes and the
type of housing. It portrays a “human ecology” organised by biological
forces of invasion, competition, succession and symbiosis. The re-mapping
of the urban structure done by Davis brings Burgess into the future. It
retains certain “ecological” determinants like salary, value of land, class
and race, but adds a new decisive factor: fear. With the refusal to make
new public investments to rebalance social conditions, citizens are obliged
to make private investments in public safety. The rhetoric of urban reform
persists, but the substance is extinct. In the first place, the border between
urbanistics and the policing authorities has eroded further in the sense that
the Los Angeles police have become the principal actor in Downtown
planning; no big project is launched without their participation. To
reconstruct Los Angeles – Davis emphasises – means simply to reinforce
the bunker.
In contemporary metropolitan Los Angeles a new kind of special
community is emerging in sympathetic synchrony with militarisation of
the territory. For convenience we might call them “social control quarters”,
SCQ. They merge penal and civil code sanctions with planning for the
territory to create what Michel Foucault would without doubt have
recognised as a further example of the evolution of the “disciplinary order”
(Foucault 1976)4 of the 20th Century city (Davis 1994). With these
Orwellian-style control technologies the border of communities and the
communities at the border will in the end mean the same thing.
When Davis began to study the “gated communities” in southern
California in the mid-80s, this was a tendency that only concerned really
76 The Segregated City

rich quarters or new settlements at the far metropolitan frontiers (e.g. the
areas that Burgess described as “strictly residential neighborhoods” or
“commuter-zones”). After the spring 1992 rebellion, however, tens of
normal residential quarters in Los Angeles claimed the right to self-
segregation from the rest of the city. From 1980 onwards there was the
mini-market boom; after 1990 there would be the mini-city boom. In
Davis’ opinion, at the same time electronic ghettoes were proliferating for
the poorest, like Southcentral, a black hole of data and media, without
local TV broadcasting via cable or links with the major data networks. Just
as it turned into a residential/work ghetto at the beginning of the 20th
Century in the industrial city, it is now turning into an electronic ghetto
within the emerging city of information. If we go on allowing the centres
of our cities to deteriorate into criminalised “third worlds”, all the clever
safety technology, present and future, will not save the anxious
bourgeoisie (Davis 1994).5
Böhme’s position confronts this apocalyptic but realistic picture
(Böhme 2001), and may be considered a resistant utopia for his insights
that on the basis of the analysis of “superamericanisation” of the city,
requisites can be pinpointed that urbanists must lay down for structuring
the cultural space of large cities opposing urban segregation prospects.
Böhme describes the Berlin of 1932 as a place where the experience of
Americanism and Fordism was assimilated, of new, rapid rhythms of
massification of cities with millions of inhabitants, where functionalism
had begun its triumphant march in all fields of modernity, including
architecture and design. In the Berlin metropolis the way of perceiving big
cities had been re-examined for the first time. Precisely in that year Robert
Musil focussed on the social obsession of a sort of “superamerican city”
where everybody ran or stopped with a chronometer in their hand.6 The
“superamerican city” fantasy reflects society’s approval of the megalopolis.
Modern life is the life of the megalopolis. Regions and cultural traditions
are absorbed by the functional spaces of economy and technology. Taking
over from the “local” and the “historic”, globalisation, in an expansion
without a past, is constructed by technology, traffic, telecommunications
and economy. What is historically heterogenous and a cultural heterotope
is destroyed by the insatiable hunger for space and the intimate segregation
of the city. Atomisation of human activities and thus the tendency towards
dissolution of the social, the past and the “regional” leads, in Musil’s
opinion, to dominance of the abstract over the concrete.7 This geography is
expressed in some cities, or rather, in their circumscribed areas
representing the compact, thick control network of a “worldscape of
flows”. This space of circulation of invisible and autopoietic capital is
managed with the help of gigantic information systems. So the new
Elitist Segregation as Global Identity 77

Manhattan Downtown is, like the global cities, also and above all the
effect of the information technology revolution, as are in fact the cyber
cities, materially expressed in only a few, though extremely concentrated,
architectural complexes. It is the symbolic materialisation of what Sassen
has defined as the new global triangulation (Sassen 1994a; Fuchs and
Moltmann 1994), The axis mundi – to quote one of Constantin Brancusi’s
central sculptures – of a reality that, though of American origin, is
nevertheless transnational.
From 1970 onwards the global cities have taken their place, in the
manner of authentic management centres, beside the classical institutions
of national States and world economy. All this has had effects no less
sensitive than paradoxical on urban geography and, in particular, on the
mechanisms of spatial and social segregation. New York, just a couple
decades earlier, was a metropolis of industrial production and transfer of
goods, to which corresponded precise social stratifications, immigration
flow channels, and the shaping of quarters regulated specifically by class
and/or ethnic group. Space articulation was configured by the dynamic
tension between centre and suburbs and by the characteristic ethical
“nests” of a classical city of immigrants, with their socio-economic grids
(Park 1967; Lindner 1994). Spaces faced eastward towards Europe, from
where the mass of immigrants arrived. Consequently white people made
up the majority of the city population. In the space of thirty years the white
people became a minority. Nowadays Afroamericans, Latin-Americans
and Asians make up 55/60% of the population. Together with the increase
in multiethnic proliferation and the new demographic profile of the city,
New York’s decline was accomplished as a “machine of industrial
production” and, in the urbanistic sense, as an “integration machine”. In
contrast, New York City began to take off as the capital of financial and
industrial services, a launch associated with economic and financial
management anchored to the gigantic IT potential. This management,
what’s more, was created by recruiting its staff both at a national and
international level. But economic globalisation and social segregation are
phenomena that are closely linked (Böhme 2001).
The work and life of the new Newyorker elites, in no way tied to any
specific place, nevertheless determined the extraordinary demand for many
little services carried out by the new groups of immigrants. The economic-
financial management elite, culturally and geographically out of their
element, and at the same time extremely active, numerous, with plenty of
cultural and consumer requirements, needed an on–site concentration
without equal of extremely specialised, private and semi-public cultural
services, made to fit their lifestyle. A collection of services which made
Manhattan also a centre of tourist attraction. Disegregation policy grew
78 The Segregated City

weak as a consequence of these demographic shifts and the economic

structure. In its place segregation processes grew, not only in New York,
once the melting pot par excellence, but also in all the global cities and the
Taking Los Angeles as an example, Edward V. Soja (Soja 1986, 1988,
1996; Scott and Soja 1996) has described the urbanistic strategies of the
post-Fordian era, strategies that lead to the disintegration of the dual
centre-suburbs city and create new geographies. Deindustrialisation of the
classic industrial sectors leads both to gigantic neoindustrial technopolises,
such as are to be found in Korea or the Orange Country near Los Angeles,
and to the global cities that make up the control network, at city level, of
the expansion movement of capital in the global dimension of cyberspace.
The consequence is, as Soja maintains, that almost every corner of the
world can become part of a global city. Thus, if global cities are materially
and locally present, they are nevertheless entrusted, as are the brains of the
management, with the control of local realities. They can therefore be
operative just as well in a South African goldmine, as in a textile factory in
Thailand, on an Arab oil-field, an Argentinian automobile factory, even a
coca plantation in Colombia, a Siberian natural gas-field or a
woodworking site in the Tropics. This is due to the new organisation of
Earth space, in such a way that the global is localised in some spots and the
local is globalised everywhere. The two geographies, one complementary to
the other, activate segregation in a new way. They create, in other words,
for the new elites enveloped in the powerful cloak made up of the service
suppliers totally enslaved to them, powerfully structured social spaces with
security technologies, separated like fortresses (Böhme 2001). The
production of segregation is in itself a service, provided as much by
companies specialised in security, as by the city police itself. These
policies are the effect of a new form of social segregation, of polarisation
and dismemberment of the city, that have ended up giving life, both
internally and at the city edges, to pluriethnic, social subclasses, that are
immobilised, deprived of the hope of any opportunity, people who are no
longer to be assimilated, but only put into a ghetto. Which is like saying
that in the megalopolises the relationship is built up between a first, well-
circumscribed world and a third and fourth unlimited world. Next to highly
comfortable, efficient urban areas reflecting the colossal domination of
capital, utterly clean, zones spring up that are urbanistically-speaking
wastelands, with crumbling infrastructures, inhabited by ethnic groups
with a high rate of conflict; areas completely deprived of any instruments
of control or assistance on the part of the city or State, lacking in economic
support (Worpole and Greenhalgh 1996; Fainstein 1997). It seems almost
like returning to the dominance, typical of the premodern, of the ascribed
Flat Man 79

status, where the modern city based the attractiveness of its dynamic
quality on the fact that in it none of the almost natural status requisites
prevailed (birth, race, ethnic group, type of housing), whereas achieved
status did, the condition able to be achieved by work and performance
(Merten 1957). Besides, it was precisely on this that the American dream
was founded. Nowadays those who do not have certain necessary forms of
identification (the right housing in the right neighbourhood, account
number, telephone, internet site, credit card, health insurance, etc.) are
socially a “nobody” in the city’s no-man’s-land. He/she will remain fatally
in outer space with respect to the global cities and the global economy, in
the same way as in the Middle Ages he/she would have been pinned to
rank by birth. This also stands, on a planetary scale, for the billions of very
poor confined to the geography of poverty: their birth fatally defines their
life up until their death. Consequently, the elites of Manhattan, Frankfurt,
Hong Kong, Tokyo and San Paolo have more in common with each other,
on an economic, social and “habits” level, than with their compatriots,
housed a couple of miles away in slums, favelas, ban-lieus or one of the
German Elendsviertel (Böhme 2001). Globalisation also implies the
activation of entirely new dynamics of segregation, dynamics that, both in
the city and on the planet as a whole, produce a change in the structuring
of spaces (Böhme 2001).

Flat Man

Global cities also give shape to the model of space organisation for the fu-
ture, with the double form of localisation of the global and globalisation of
the local, which has produced an enormous reversal of space and made the
centre coincide with the suburbs. In this picture, certain requisites should
be remembered that urbanists can lay down for structuring the socio-
cultural space of large cities: cities have to be able to serve immigration
(Böhme 2001), which, in the present state, has generally taken on the form
of multicultural migration; they need transparent social and economic ag-
gregation strategies, though without destroying the “nests” of the subsidi-
ary economy of the different ethnic groups and the socio-cultural grids of
groups of immigrants which organise themselves in regional microcon-
texts. The work Flat Man by Gilbert & George,8 which shows some young
immigrants who resemble giants in the street compared with the small
apartment-men looking nervously from the large residential buildings they
are locked up in, proclaims the vitality of the immigrant generations and in
a certain sense is emblematic of the fact that cities should serve immigration,
80 The Segregated City

for above all immigration can give life to the cities. This means two things:
on the one hand, the need for cultural pluralism and socio-economic multi-
dimensionality, associated with the routes of integration and assimilation
in the macrospace of the city; on the other, the need of extraordinary den-
sity of forms of life and reproduction in the medium and microspace of
quarters that cannot be thought of as destined to arise in pre-determined
zones, and therefore separate from the city. The “economy of poverty” in
the ethnic quarters of migration and the proletariat and subproletariat quar-
ters has, however cynical the statement may sound, an essential function
for the survival of cities. This economy has to be “left to itself”. Hence the
usefulness of the city generally being able to dispose of spaces of access
and transit for the purposes of cultural collusion, exchanges, contacts, re-
ciprocal permeation and reproduction, and thus also of what is called the
“politics of visibility” (Böhme 2001).
The thing is destined to hit just as much what Michel Foucault and Marc
Augé call the non-places (Augé 1992; Foucault 2001), the places of the
heterotope and the transitory, where men and things cross paths and crowd
together in confusion, as the poor quarters also, even more shut off than
before, and the immaculate spaces, more strongly reinforced by security
technology, of the economic centres, of the government complexes and of
the enclaves of exclusive dwellings of the elite (Böhme 2001). In this way,
to use an expression dear to Musil, “superamericanisation” of the city is
delineated, oriented towards post-Fordist fragmentation of the city,
adjusted for the imperatives of safety and ethnic segregation. This would
be the final decline of modernity and at the same time the consequent end
of urbanistic architecture inspired by the great traditions of the utopian city
and the utopia as a city. It is therefore important to combat this danger,
nurture a resistant utopia to avoid destroying the space of a pluricultural
urban dimension and the conditions of its actual genesis.
One form of resistant utopia is that worked out by the French
anthropologist Michel Agier (Agier 1999a, 1999b), who proposes a
hypothesis of city regeneration beginning with what he defines as the
uncertain city, a place of instability but also of social practices containing
embryos of civitas. Agier illustrates his position departing from a critical
analysis of the “dissociated world” of the city of today, that has taken its
distance from the purpose for which cities were born: to reduce the cost of
interactions, bring men nearer together, facilitate trade, exchange and
collective production of goods, organise the social division of work
according to a system of solidarity no longer “mechanical” or direct, but
“organic” or indirect (Durkheim 1991; Webber 1996). The ideal city is
thus a complex socio-spatial form, the functioning of which presupposes a
series of social mediations between individuals, and not individualism.
Flat Man 81

Nowadays there is commiseration over the “end of the city”, the era of
the “non-city” is announced and models of urban conviviality are sought
by transforming historic cities into urban museums. What has happened?
The spaces of contact which once contextualised sociability through
subsequent proximities, have lost their ancient function (Choay 1994b).
Life in the city is more and more fragmented: in the management policies,
in routes, in representations. For some inhabitants it is dictated by the
rhythm of the tense flows of motorways, railways or airlines and Hertzian
networks via which people, goods and images circulate: well, what
functions and sense can the city still have, in economic and political
territories without a fixed anchorage? For others, it is confined to spaces
characterised by a pile of shortages: lack of housing, work, security, etc.
The effects of fear, of social segregation, violence and hyper-protection are
perceptible in the spread of small ghettoes – some luxury ghettoes, others
poor – and in the progressive disappearance of public spaces.
The world of the city is dissociating itself while it is, at this turn of the
century, the principal habitat of the inhabitants of our planet. For in
developed countries 78% of the population live in the city, 77% in Latin
America, 43% in Africa.
Agier develops the hypothesis according to which life in the city, as it is
being formed in the world today, relates to three main models: the generic
city, the bare city and the ban-lieu (or the uncertain city). The first, as
much a minority in facts as it is dominant as a model, reproduces the same
privileged forms of circulation, communication and consumption all over
the surface of the globe. The second is, in contrast, the space of extreme
spoliation due to the increasing number of persons abandoned. Between
the two, finally, the uncertain city is a zone of ambiguity, of precarious
social paths continually oscillating between failure and success. This all
suggests that the city of tomorrow will be shaped by ties, struggles,
passing and counter-balancing between these three paradigms, and we
wonder whether they will diminish or increase, if they will grow nearer or,
on the contrary, move farther and farther away from each other (Agier
The French scholar maintains that the large cities of the South were
mostly formed by recent urbanisation and “born in dissociation”. In black
Africa, for example, the dominant urbanistic model was the planned
expression of the “colonial situation”, on the Brazzaville model, studied by
Georges Balandier in the 50s (Balandier 1985): suddenly the opposition
was created between the “official” city, colonial and white, and the group
of African “centres” and “camps” placed under colonial administration.
Nowadays the majority of African citizens are to be found in non-
established cities, they occupy the townships, the quarters of the evicted or
82 The Segregated City

the spontaneous, illegal districts. In contrast with and to the advantage of a

minority, urbanistic policies are inspired by the more up-to-date models of
the rich countries and they multiply urban highways, large malls and
luxury residential ghettoes. A minority entrenched in its own spaces, this
little world is linked with global consumer and communications systems.
Agier tells us that Douala, the city-port and transit point for the West,
economic capital of the Cameroons, illustrates this dissociation. The city
has today a million and a half inhabitants and four-fifths of the industrial
and commercial activities of the country are concentrated there. Western
companies have promoted the settlement of a dense European colony of
investors, small or large businessmen, traders, oil magnates, executives,
administrators and technicians, generously paid by multinationals. The
white people of Douala (around 15,000 in the 80s) display daily their
consumer goods and their power. But for the large majority of the
inhabitants of Douala, life is marked by the inaccessibility of the modern,
developed, rich city. For each of these a form of segregation exists, totally
interiorised, which is expressed by the impossibility of walking through
the city without previously having worked out a personal mental map of
the proper and improper places to frequent (Agier 1999a).
The second entity adopted by Agier is the bare city, which represents
the space of extreme spoliation due to the increasing number of people
abandoned, a world in some ways the opposite (and the hell) of the generic
city. At the farthest edges of the world we find populations subjected to
exodus or uprooted, often scorned by the immediate neighbourhood. Other
peoples, still farther away, are gathered in refugee camps or national
evacuee camps, as a result of wars, natural calamities and large
development projects.9 It is there that a minimal, collective stage of “bare
life” (Agamben 1997) takes shape. It is the condition that leads to
postulating the possible existence of what should, using a generalisation,
be defined as a bare city. There, the question of humanity at the elementary
level becomes imminent, in the sense that “bare life”, as an extreme figure,
is an undefined life that has been separated from its context and that,
having, so to speak, survived death, has become incompatible with the
human world (Agamben 1997). It is total poverty, beyond any issue of
citizenship. Refugee camps will soon become the largest cities of these
countries, excluding the capitals, sometimes reaching a hundred thousand
inhabitants. In short, a new type of agglomerate of citizens appears,
without being a city at all. This world is just as global as the generic city,
but is attracted downwards, beyond any political existence (Agier 1999a).
How are social ties to be recreated in this context, and forms of
symbolisation of life and places of life? Far from being the places
experienced almost daily by a small part of humanity in the anonymous,
Flat Man 83

privileged and comfortable universe of airports and malls, “non-places”

are basically the result of a loss: loss of a land, a house, a village, that is,
the attributes of identity, of relations and memory connected with a place
(Augé 1992). This concerns emigrants of course but, even more, people
subjected to forced moves, confronted with various types of privation: loss
of work, housing, a family tie, human resources, nationality. In the pile,
nowadays become commonplace, of all these missing things the extreme
limit of life is delineated, there, where human beings are neither dead nor
human (Agier 1999a). The camp has thus become, according to Giorgio
Agamben, the extreme paradigm of our modern world. It is a “biopolitical”
paradigm: be it a concentration camp, transit or refugee, the camp
establishes spoliation around mere biological life (Agamben 1997; Agier
Finally, struggling between the bare city and the generic city, the
majority of citizens populate precarious, intermediate, uncertain places.
The most exact term to describe their existence would be ban-lieu, place of
banishment. Not a space, but a zone of indifference between internal and
external, exclusion and inclusion (Agamben 1997; Agier 1999a), they are
the places of the ban, of being recognised as valueless, perhaps by loss of
rights or even being sent away, but not anomic, not illegal. The ban-place
may be temporary (in individual trajectories or collective history). It is an
ambivalent universe, for it is there that “true life” is found again, as
François Maspero writes on the subject of the Parisian ban-lieues
(Maspero 1990; Agier 1999a), namely a form of spontaneous imagination,
devoid of an institutional project created a priori, more of a city life than
urban, therefore; but there, too, fear and death are greater, a place where
life has less value than elsewhere. A whole world of men badly placed,
evacuated, unemployed or, in the best of cases, workers, too, precariously
moving up the social scale, who invent forms of stabilised survival in this
context, on the edge of the large planetary territorial links. These citizens
reinvent their city in their relationships, along the paths they take, in their
occupation of space. Forced to get by, to improvise and indissociably
imagine forms of ties, moral values and little jobs. All of the many survival
strategies always experienced in the intermediate space.
An inventory of the resources, expedients and cunning tricks used by
citizens who live in contexts never defined with certainty, in a situation of
mobility, ascending or descending, of escape from or stabilisation of their
poverty, on a path of migration or exodus enables us to be aware of and
appreciate better the ban-lieu zones, those where survival, physical and
social, is still possible. This city is generous with solutions and creations,
more in general, it is a whole range of social, political or symbolic
strategies that allow daily life to be organised and, in a certain way, the
84 The Segregated City

city to be reinvented for oneself. These “resistant solutions”, tiny and

invisible, are all the more pressed for, the more the actors are situated in an
intermediate, indefinite context, susceptible, therefore, to being further
transformed. First step, or last bastion, of a social tie of proximity, of a
“minimal social life”, the ban-lieu makes certain paths through the city
familiar, surpassing also material and social barriers. At this level it also
becomes possible to enter a little into the circuits of the generic or global
city. But if these solutions are more vital than ambitious today, it is
because, from this side, the spectre of the bare city and social
disconnection is becoming more and more present and impressive (Agier
The conclusion Agier reaches is therefore that the urban world is split
into three large paradigms: the bare city, representing the extreme baring
of biopolitics with no other aid but humanitarian, the generic city,
privileged and reproducing the same models of communications and
consumerism throughout the planet, and, between these two cities, the ban-
lieu, the uncertain city, a zone of ambiguity between failure and
accomplishment, where people set up survival strategies. The city of
tomorrow is outlined in the ties, struggles, passages and balance between
these three paradigms, but it is the uncertain city, the intermediate space,
in which these citizens reinvent their city in their relationships, their paths,
their occupation of space. Survival strategies are always experienced in
intermediate space perhaps because there is a correspondence between
intermediate space and public sphere, where everyone tries to smooth
things out with reciprocally civilised behaviour, where all citizens have the
certainty of being able to live in reciprocal trust (Dahrendorf 2005).
In these places of intermediate space the first steps of a social: tie of
proximity, “a minimal social life” are still possible. This is why the ban-
lieu makes some paths through the city familiar. At this level it becomes
possible to enter a little into the circuits of the generic city and the global
city, opening up ways of contact in the segregated and fortified spaces. It is
the energy of hope that nurtures social and cultural creations and lays some
frontiers open to debate, like that of the ghettoes, whether they be true or
This hope feeds the resistant utopias of some scholars of the city like
Zygmunt Bauman, Richard Sennett, Saskia Sassen or the anthropologist,
Arian Appadurai, who keenly investigate late modernity categories. They
narrate the human condition in the global cities and the revolution under
way in the notions of space, time and social class.
In the past, the condition of man in the metropolis was investigated by
Georg Simmel, who devoted a famous essay to the figure of the “stranger”
(Simmel 1961; Bagnasco 1999), as a metaphor for modern man, used by
Flat Man 85

Simmel to interpret the metropolitan condition. The stranger – not the

wanderer that comes and then goes – is a member of the group, but in a
particular position. Present, but not deeply-rooted, he expresses both
nearness and farness, indifference and commitment. He is less bound and
freer in his opinion, and with him we have more abstract relations, since
we only share certain, more general qualities with him. The figure of the
stranger, or the outsider, takes on the significance of archetype of the
modern condition of man in the metropolis.
Simmel’s themes have some ramifications, one of which has directly to
do with reality and the metaphor of space in relation phenomena: the
tension between nearness and farness, or rather between access and
separation. The city may be understood as a relatively spacious, dense,
permanent settlement of socially heterogeneous individuals. In a spacious,
dense and heterogeneous social environment potential for accessibility to
others increases. If different urban structures permit greater or lesser
degrees of accessibility and fluidity, it is also not excluded that subsequent
processes of urbanisation might reduce these possibilities. This
circumstance may then be amplified by the tension, always active in
relationships, between access and separation.
In an emblematic way, Richard Sennett, accentuating the reach of the
separation strategy, speaks of the “modern fear of exposure”. The
dangerous, chaotic, conflictive, contemporary metropolis arouses reactions
of defence and detachment, but the fear of exposure also has ancient roots
in western culture. This fear is reflected in the way the city has taken shape
and reveals itself in full show nowadays in the metropolises.
As Sennett emphasizes, what characterises our way of constructing the
city is the ghettoisation of differences, implicitly considered threatening
for the collectivity rather than stimulating. What we construct in our urban
realm are therefore anonymous, neutralising places, spaces that remove the
threat of social contact (Sennett 1991; Bagnasco 1999).
The Greek polis and the medieval commune expressed a different
possibility of free access to the other, though with ambiguity and severe
limitations. Hannah Arendt reflected on this, to arrive at the idea of
political and public life (Arendt 1958). In the Greek polis politics was
born, understood as the public sphere of activities freely chosen and
practised, emancipated from the private sphere of the family and
economics, places of necessity. In politics one is among “equals”, among
men who are equally not subjected to other men; whereas in the family and
family economics, relations are between “unequals”, an inequality that is
maintained in despotic government systems. In the second place, in public
life decisions are made using persuasion and the word, not by force: to
force was indeed for the Greeks a pre-political way of dealing with men.
86 The Segregated City

Both points are clearly at the base of the principle of democracy, worked
out theoretically with reference to Aristotle’s polis. In this sense they are
also intrinsic in the concept itself of city.
In developing the theme we touch upon a crucial point that directly
affects another value of modernisation: universalism, opposed to
particularism, rediscovered by Arendt in relation to the theme of the
“exile”, which is quite close to that of Simmel’s stranger, and a metaphor
of the modern citizen.
The exile lives in a cultural world that does not belong to his heritage.
To have access to a new life his “I” and his identification with his cultural
roots have to become less important; the freedom of the present has to be
won by coming out of interiority. What the exile – the metropolis citizen –
has in common with the others may only be recognised at an abstract level,
far from the particular customs of a culture, in what is binding thanks only
to common humanity.
Transcending details this way, in the name of a value and a general,
abstract condition, corresponds to the principle of universalism as usually
thought of by sociologists.
But such abstract universalism as a principle – Sennett argues – entails a
problem, because it can prevent one from really communicating with
others, for it excludes understanding and sympathy: the emphasis on
impersonality hides the “modern fear of exposure” (Sennett 1991). The
remedy is to be found, according to Sennett, also in a different way of
designing the city, which excludes the confinement of differences, but
actually promotes a blending of them, even radical, an “urban change” that
requires innovation in form and language, formal and functional variety, to
reflect the complexity of contemporary life: in a certain sense a resistant
Sassen expresses what in some ways may be considered a resistant utopia
in her book Globalization and its Discontents. As is known, the global city
is the place Sassen presents as the sphere where the crucial functions of
global capitalism are concentrated:

It is just like this, finance, crucial decisional centres, the legal offices of transnational
companies and gigantic professional studios are concentrated in some forty cities. Here,
beside these planetary functions and those who work here, are the lorry-drivers, the
cleaning-ladies, those doing the ‘caring’ jobs, in short, the enormous mass of work needed
to make the machine function. This huge mass of people, often immigrants or members of
minority groups, are often pinpointed as backward and not a decisive part of the global
economy and its networks. I maintain that urban products, the economic and social
networks, are as crucial a part of globalisation and that everything that revolves around
these sectors can be a stimulus to the growth of large bands of city population. (Sassen
Flat Man 87

Globalisation is a process that generates contradictory spaces

characterised by disputes, internal differentiation, continuous overstepping
of limits. The global city is emblematic of this condition: it concentrates
within itself a disproportionate share of global business power and is one
of the key places where it is developed; but it also concentrates a
disproportionate share of disadvantaged population and is at the same time
one of the key places of its downgrading (Sassen 1998). Immigration is an
intrinsic constituent part of today’s globalisation and the reality of human
masses on the move makes us aware of the process underway. But this
humanity in flight, as well as the weakest, penalised ranks of the new
ruthless economy, find in large cities the place where they can state their
presence, in spite of the fact that it is indeed in these very metropolises that
the financial power is concentrated which gives globalisation its impetus
and reason for being.
The global city is a strategic place for actors without power, since it
enables them to state their presence (Sassen 1998), highlighting the
sometimes dramatic contradictions in conditions of life that place futuristic
realities of shameless affluence alongside situations of backwardness and
total exclusion. Globalisation is still very strong and in some areas still has
the capacity to grow. But the Dutch scholar maintains that the powers that
have governed the world are experiencing a crisis on many fronts. Her
thesis is that this crisis and the contemporary presence of networks of
informal participation will open up spaces for the construction of
economic alternatives and political action. Sassen calls these widespread
networks sticky webs, because of the way they are linked with each other.
Cities and territories are the privileged place of the sticky webs and will
have an increasingly important role because they are a space more suitable
by far for politics than the state is.
One of the leading themes of the book Globalization and its Discontents
consists indeed of the crucial importance that place has for many of the
circuits giving substance to economic globalisation. A strategic place for
these developments is the city. Economic globalisation has mostly been
represented in terms of the national/global dichotomy, where the global
gains power and advantages to the detriment of the national, and has been
conceptualised in terms of the internationalisation of capital, referring
mostly only to its higher circuits, especially the financial ones. Introducing
cities into the analysis enables economic globalisation to be
reconceptualised in that it is a complex of concrete economic processes
situated in specific spaces (Sassen 1998).10
According to Sassen (Sassen 2006b), “the creation of ‘intercity’
geographies” is offering fundamental infrastructures for new global
political economy, new cultural spaces and new types of politics. Some of
88 The Segregated City

these intercity geographies are rich and highly visible: the flows of
professionals, tourists, artists and immigrants are some of the specific
groups of the city. Others are slight and hardly visible: the financial trading
networks, highly-specialised networks that connect particular cities
depending on the type of instrument involved, or the global commercial
chains for various products.
This homogenised environment is destined to accept the most complex
globalised functions and is more similar to an “infrastructure”, though not
in the traditional sense of the term. The global economy requires
standardised global infrastructures and global cities are the most complex
expressions of these infrastructures. The “infrastructure” enables cities to
capture the advantages of globalisation. In order to do this, ultramodern
infrastructures and office districts are necessary, as well as all the
requisites for a life of luxury. In this sense a large part of this environment
is in a way an infrastructure inhabited by functions and specialised actors.
Situations like this have produced renewed enthusiasm for aesthetisation of
the city and for maintaining its public space character. The enormous
dimensions of the current urban systems have brought with them a
reassessment of the smaller spaces and terrain vague, where people’s
habits can contribute to the creation of public space, going beyond the
monumentalised classic public spaces (de Solà-Morales 2004). These
public spaces may involve a variety of temporary social practices that
materialise in the city in particular spaces at particular times of the day and
night, in the sense that the city “naturally” leads people to seek public
space (Williamson et al. 2002). But the pervasiveness of digitalised space
makes the city less permeable for the normal resident.
However, the city is at the same time also the site where digital control
systems can become visible, and this can cause political challenges, such
as has happened on various occasions in history when cities have
functioned as spaces that politicised society. According to Sassen, the
current epoch is also one of these periods, in that in the proportion in
which powerful global actors put forward growing requests for urban
space, thus removing from it less powerful users, urban space is politicised
while in the process of constructing itself. It is a question of a policy being
introduced into the physicality of the city. The emerging global movement
for the rights of the city is one of the emblematic examples of this fight:
the right to public space, to public transport, to a good neighbourhood
(Sassen 2006b).
The urban condition today is distinguished exactly by this juxtaposition
of very large dimensions and interstitial spaces (Salerno 2003), of global
flows and local features. This is why one of the main objectives of
research on globalisation is to find the fixedness and materiality obscured
Flat Man 89

by the dominant conviction that everything is becoming a flow (Beckmann

1998). Moreover, it has been demonstrated that the globalisation of
activities and flows depends to a large extent on a vast network of places
that are important for global flows (Sassen 2006b). These cities enclose
many under-used spaces, often characterised more by the memory than by
a current meaning, spaces that are part of the city’s interiority and which
remain, nevertheless, outside its functionalising logic, spaces the quality of
which may be captured by the creation and positioning of a public space
made up of various types of “public dimension” that need to be created
through the practices and subjectivity of individuals (Williamson et al.
Another of Sassen’s observations concerns the political character of
these cities (Sassen 2006b). The other aspect of the large complex city,
especially if global, is that it is a sort of new frontier zone in which an
enormous mixture of people converge. Those who have no power, those
who are disadvantaged, the outsiders or discriminated minorities may
achieve a “presence” in cities of this kind, a presence in the face of power,
a presence of one opposite the other. The city sphere is a much more
concrete space for politics than the nation is; it becomes a place where
non-formal political actors can take part in the political scene in a way that
proves much more difficult at a national level. A large part of politics
becomes visible on the streets; a lot of urban politics is concrete, and is
acted out by people rather than relying on the mighty media technology.
Today’s large city, especially the global city, is a strategic site for the
global capital of large companies, but it is also one of the sites where new
claims by informal political actors take concrete shape (Drainville and
Sassen 2004).
A large part of urban politics is real, not fake, carried out by people,
rather than relying on costly media technology. Street politics facilitate the
creation of new types of political subjects that do not necessarily have to
pass through the formal political system. The growth of movements for the
“right to the city” is a good example of this potential, in the sense that the
city recuperates its role of urbs through the civitas.
What Sennett proposes in his book Respect in a World of Inequality
(Sennett 2003) may be considered a resistant utopia. In his previous study,
devoted to the effects that the post-Fordian world of work, based on no
long-term rhythms, produces on the individual existence and “character” –
building, Sennett ends with some ideas heralding the central themes
around which his recent work, Respect in a World of Inequality is
developed, which he himself defines as a “complement” to The Corrosion
of Character (Casalini 2004). In this work he goes beyond the more
“physical” position present in The Uses of Disorder (Sennett 1970) of
90 The Segregated City

1970, in which he proposes the planning of physical disorder to facilitate

meetings with the “other” to free the city from the ghettoisation processes
underway. Whereas in Respect he refers to a new perspective of urban life
beginning with the civitas, by rethinking the link between autonomy and
dependence: promoting solidarity without crushing human dignity means
to make the Other self-confident and therefore autonomous, to realize the
right to the city in the name of respect for the excluded, considering the
asymmetrical nature that exists between state institutions and the excluded.
For in our society the condition of dependence is a source of “shame”.
Shame of the need of the other erodes the bases of confidence and
responsibility, and with them those social ties that make any society
function: to feel responsible the individual must be able to think that there
is someone who needs him, to cultivate confidence he has to give himself
the chance of needing the other, relying on the other, even in the sense of
confiding in the other (Sennett 1998).
The incapability of modern western culture to accept the dimension of
dependence, and at the same time the desire to free the modern individual
from the shame of dependence has, in effect, according to the author,
played a crucial role in the welfare state reform proposals that have arisen
in the last few years. Sennett’s investigation seeks the reasons, therefore,
why this inequality is made unbearable to the point of seeing in it an
element that can lead to the loss of self-respect, and he does this by
analysing the three codes of respect proposed by modernity: “fulfil
yourself in some way, take care of yourself and help others”. According to
Sennett, it is indeed the cultural interpretation of these three codes that is at
the origin of social dynamics that are negative, envious, competitive,
producing weak, introverse and reactive identities in the most
disadvantaged classes. The first code of respect corresponds to the fact
that, as an alternative to the hereditary system of ancien régime, modernity
recognised and rewarded the value of individual talent, inventing and
developing aptitude tests, tests that evaluate not results obtained but
inclination towards something. To try to honour the social results of each
one’s efforts, rather than the talent, might be a source of respect less
charged with socially negative implications. In its desire to free society of
servilism, liberalism was led to recognise a second source of respect in an
ideal of caring for oneself interpreted as the achievement of self-
sufficiency and independence: he who is able to look after himself by his
own work is considered worthy of respect. Shame, on the other hand, has
been associated with the incapacity to rise up from that state of
dependency that liberal thought has always associated with infancy. In this
case it is not so much the fact of needing the other that creates shame, as
not controlling and managing one’s own request for help. The error has
Flat Man 91

been to confuse independence and self-sufficiency with autonomy.

Winnicott’s psychology of objective relations teaches, on the other hand,
that autonomy is acquired by recognising others, their autonomy, i.e. the
fact that we may not understand the other but we still trust him. Autonomy
therefore establishes relations between people, rather than ratify a
difference that isolates them, and it is a process that continues even after
reaching adulthood (Casalini 2004).
The third source of social respect is giving help to others. Though
solidarity among unequals can be a source of great ambiguity. The
comparison between the experience of Sister Francesca Saveria Cabrini,
the Italian nun who emigrated to the United States to help poverty-stricken
immigrants, and that of the social reformer Jane Addams, founder of Hull
House in Chicago, a centre of social assistance and initiatives, is useful for
Sennett to illustrate two different conceptions of how to give help. For
Addams the compassionate initiatives of Sister Cabrini were the
expression of a paternalistic vision, of a hierarchical religious regime, that
practiced a type of charity which was hard to distinguish from a form of
severe, moralistic social control. For Addams, who believed in democratic
participation, it was more difficult to give help, precisely because she
posed herself the problem of which way to go to find a form of solidarity
between unequals that would be far from the risk of being a type of
compassion that wounded and lacked respect for the needy. This is a
lesson that he gains also from reflecting on his childhood experience of
living in Cabrini Green, a council estate built in Chicago in 1942 by
reforming urbanists who nurtured the ambition of being able to curb the
flight of the white population from the city and promote integration
between whites and blacks, offering the small white bourgeoisie and the
working class with economic problems a free home in a mixed dwelling
enclave. Cabrini Green was the fruit of that modernist architecture that
many similar council building programmes realised in Europe and in
particular in Great Britain already by the mid-1800s. The negative
elements of Cabrini Green which decreed its subsequent failure consisted,
for Sennett, above all of the passivity it took for granted and encouraged in
its inhabitants, who were in no way actively involved in the management
of their own lives. As the author has emphasised in his studies on the city,
from The Conscience of the Eye: The Design and Social Life of Cities to
The Uses of Disorder. Personal Identity and City Life (1970), up to Flesh
and Stones (1994), the way in which urban space is organised is
fundamental for the development of the individual’s identity, for the
development of his sense of justice, for building his character and those
“shared social instruments” that are for the social actor like “sheet music is
for the musician” and teach the art of gauging times and distances of social
92 The Segregated City

relations. After showing, in works like The Conscience of the Eye and The
Uses of disorder. Personal Identity and City Life, an image of the city that,
paradoxically, precisely for its “vastness and loneliness” has a positive
value for man; after having highlighted the virtues of urban space as a
meeting-place of differences that arouses our curiosity towards the
unknown, and also as a dimension in which the arts of urbanity, civility
and courtesy are learnt, essential for living among different people; once
more against the tide compared with the many nostalgic visions of the
community in fashion today, Sennett invites us, in Respect in a world of
Inequality, to reflect on the function of bureaucratic structures and, more in
particular, on welfare institutions as facilities for mediating compassion,
reproposing the image of a modern project to be re-examined, even
radically, in the light of its pathologies, and to be reformed but not thrown
away (Casalini 2004).
The importance of bureaucratic structures as an interface of the public
sphere is taken up by Ralf Dahrendorf in a “multicultural society” context
as a desirable idea.

Sitting, or more likely standing, in the “tube”, you never fail to be amazed at the
naturalness with which people subject themselves to generally stressful situations:
everybody – Jewish mothers or Muslim youths, businessmen from South Asia or
youngsters from western India, etc. – try to smooth things over with mutually civilised
behaviour. The experience of the terrorist attacks has demonstrated not only the willingness
of individuals to help each other but also the spirit of a positive reaction of the city
altogether. This is the positive side of a multi-cultural society. Nevertheless, the most
attentive observers have always noted that this aspect is limited to the public sphere, or in
other words, to the urban structures shared by everybody, but does not reflect the reality of
families, and even less the habits of life in the private sphere. London has now experienced,
also in this sense, the other, darker aspect of the multicultural society, and has had to realise
how thin the paint of multiculturalism is. It does not take much for individuals belonging to
a given group to rebel against those of a different group, even though they had always
apparently cohabited peacefully. But to bar their way war is not needed, nor a “war on
terrorism” with the vaguest rhetorical outlines. The need remains of reinforcing the sphere
of common values and cooperation, within societies that want after all to remain
multicultural. And it will be an arduous task, not to be faced naively. Differences will not,
of course, be eliminated. And, moreover, this is not what we need – we need to give all
citizens the security of being able to live in reciprocal trust. For this a way has to be found
of extending and reinforcing that attitude of trustful civilised cohabitation that we already
see in the public sphere. (Dahrendorf 2005).

Let us finally speak of one of the resistant utopias that may be defined
the “neo-community utopia” referred to by Alberto Magnaghi. The
“network of places” each equipped with its own ecological, cultural,
historic and social features and linked by relations of the socio-economic
type, is the now familiar scenario among ecologists and urbanists and
Flat Man 93

denotes the intention to exceed the aporia of the current model of socio-
political set-up with a vision “from below”, capable of protecting the
values neglected by them. Also following criteria dictated by a category
that nowadays often appears to be disintegrating – ethics – but projected
on practical requirements dominated by the need of impact on the different
basic contexts.
Coming from original working-class experiences of the 70s, Magnaghi
has over time enriched his personal experience as an urbanist to the point
of designing an approach that unites criticism of set-up with alternative
project. Magnaghi’s vision is perfectly coherent with the “world as a
network of places” quoted at the beginning and seeks to plan consequent
local development. The aporia of the set-up model, first industrialist and
today dominated by financial systems, and the continuous problems of
economic concentrations and territorial megalopolises of our times are
read by Magnaghi following the triad “territorialisation –
deterritorialisation – reterritorialisation”.
“Territorialisation” consists of the capacity each human society has of
protecting and making good use of the anthropic and natural patrimony
already deposited on the territory in the past, adding the current “ecological
and quality” stamp. According to Magnaghi, western civilisation already
overstepped the climax of its “territorialisation capacities” some time ago
and from then onwards began to produce “deterritorialisation”, in terms
of environmental and social decay, destruction of local cultures and
economies, tendential elimination of the specificities and wealth of places,
in favour of set-ups and scenarios with growing concentration, reductionism,
decay and imbalance. Magnaghi first stated his plan, which could be
summarised in the slogan: “stop deterritorialisation to favour
reterritorialisation processes”. The scholar then illustrated the most
recent data on the distortions produced by the globalising and
metropolitan civilisation from the point of view of territory, environment,
local cultures and “developing areas” (Magnaghi 2000, 2005). Magnaghi
adopted, however, the representation of the world as a network of places
where he intended to promote new care of the environment, new local
identities, development that was again “sustainable”. The founding
category of the approach was precisely the place: not a monad, but a
“clear and open” identity, with its own ecologies, the endogenous
vertical values, to assert, while keeping horizontal relations with the
outside through socio-economic dynamics.
Magnaghi’s “context” offers a perspective for the interpretation of
reality and also constitutes a sphere to be developed. The territorialist
project is a scenario of self-sustainable development and therefore
territorial redevelopment and social regeneration to be planned through
94 The Segregated City

interaction of the inhabitants with the territorial patrimony deposited. The

planner is both “expert and inhabitant”, wavering between the two
conditions and supplying technical structuring for the construction of an
eco-social plan built from the bottom up, in which to involve, or with
which to overwhelm, the different institutional levels, and at which to
direct any resources coming from the outside (Ziparo 2001).

For bibliography on the subject, cf. among others: Davis 1990, 1998; Ellin
1997; Bauman 1998, 2005; Lyon 2002; Agamben 2003; Virilio 2004.
See Forum 2004, Barcelona, but also a series of projects at the English and
Dutch docks for the professional class.
This is the Magnitogorsk project, which develops over 25 km following the
pattern of the linear city ideated by Soria y Mata, taken up again at the end of the
20s in the Soviet Union by a group of engineers and architects, of which Leonidov
himself was part. The linear settlement meant for them the abolition of the city
and they referred to themselves as “disurbanists”. They knew Soria y Mata’s
publications and probably took inspiration from them. But their model, more
elaborate, with rigorous zoning, served different objectives: the realisation of
socialism and optimisation of industrial production (cf. Dethier and Alain 1994).
The essay offers a reflection on the roots of the criteria of detention and
education applied in prisons and schools.
“At assemblies rebellions will be planned, safety walls will be set on fire and
will collapse, the sale of weapons and their prices will go sky high in the oldest
areas. The young Latinos will portray the old as parasites who enjoyed all the
benefits of society when these were free and now continue to happily tax the
workers to maintain their tenor of life. The oldest will portray the young Latinos
as foreigners who have enjoyed benefits that should have gone to the elderly, and
will portray them as “non-Americans” who are threatening the purity of American
culture, like contagious criminals and outlaws. Each side will be ready for the last
attack.” (Davis 1994).
“Air and earth make up an anthill, crossed by the various levels of
communication routes. Air trains, trains on the ground, trains underground,
pneumatic post; chains of automobiles dash horizontally, high-speed lifts pump
masses of men vertically from one level of traffic to another; at the junctions
people jump from one means of transport to another, and their pace, which
between two speeds dashing and roaring has a pause, a syncope, a little crack of
twenty seconds, sucks and swallows without a thought people who in the gaps in
that universal rhythm hardly manage to quickly exchange two words …” (Musil
“The fact that Musil speaks of “superamerican” shows that this type of city is
certainly a clear American invention, but one that will be all right beyond America
to become the model, and with this global, of evolution of modernity. Without
Flat Man 95

meaning by this to raise doubts on the unusualness of urban development in

Europe, we can nevertheless assert that the reconstruction of the bombed German
cities, as well as the renewal and extension of European cities, have gone well
beyond the model of disintegration and dispersion in space focalised by Musil.
Ancient cities, distinguished by density, co-presence, synchronicity, correspondence
between men and functions, have been subjected to a model of decontextualised
system (Böhme 2001).
Gilbert and George, Flat man, 1991.
High Commission of the United Nations for Refugees (1997) Les réfugiés
dans le monde, HCR/La Découverte, Paris 1997. High Commission of the United
Nations for Refugees (1998) (V. Lassailly-Jacob, ed.) Communautés déracinées
dans les pays du Sud. Autrepart n. 5, La Tour d'Aigues, Ed. de l'aube, Paris.
The focalisation of the analysis on cities leads to the national economy being
broken down into a series of subnational components, some deeply articulated in
the global economy, others not (cf. Sassen 1998).
Reinventing the City


We have seen that discomposed city, generic city and segregated city are
expressions referring to phenomena which have in common the loss of the
city as a space of communication and social interaction and as a space of
the public sphere. This loss is manifest in different ways.
In the discomposed city, in sprawl, which is defined as the physical
manifestation of modernity, the loss is linked mainly with the crisis in the
space of proximity, which in our tradition was the place of personal social
relations on a local scale, but also of the ephemeral, impersonal and
cosmopolitan relations that characterised the birth of the metropolis. But
“metropolis” has a new god: the infinite, a new experience of space and
time that changes the idea one has of oneself and one’s way of
experiencing one’s relationship with the world.
If sprawl may be considered a phenomenon that causes the context as a
condition of proximity to enter a crisis, we have seen how this reflects on
the “destinies of our moral reason” (Bagnasco 1999), on ethics, which is
inherently linked to spatial proximity relationships (Cacciari 1990). The
crisis of the ethics of proximity (Bagnasco 1999) hits urban and territorial
policies due to the new relations between society and territory which form
at the boundary between proximity and the detachment from places, and
which call upon territorial planning to record its position with respect to
this conceptual geography, in particular as regards reflections of spatial
organisation on the environment but, more generally, with regard to
problems that present themselves to our moral reason once the physical
relationship with places no longer seems decisive in the definition of
territorial behaviours. As we have emphasised in the previous pages, it is
in this detachment from corporality, from a life we have considered to be
characterised by proximity, that our capacity to reconstruct an urban ethic
is measured, even in a condition of distance from the place.

98 Reinventing the City

In the generic city the relationship between fiction and reality has
altered, leaning clearly in favour of the first. The city shifts to an unreal
plane. The loss of communication and social interaction is connected with
the loss of the city itself as a conceptual unit. At this point it is its image
that marches alone, like automatic writing that marches without a subject.
This is what happens in the virtual: there is no longer a subject, it is
calculation that works alone, the number, the logico-mathematical
synthesis, the self-production of a system rotating on itself in a tautological
way. It is in a certain sense – as we have already emphasised – the Dorian
Gray syndrome the other way round, which leads men to grant the virtual
the image they consider the best,1 and to split the time dimension,
entrusting the real world with past time and the virtual with real time, the
time we are in, in all parts of the globe and all corners of time (Baudrillard
1999). In this sense we entrust becoming to the real world and change to
the virtual. This changing without becoming is the virtual world. It is the
possibility to adopt all forms that is specific to a certain task on the
computer and that constitutes a sort of morphism. And the morphism in
this continuous formal change is exactly the opposite of the concept of
metamorphosis (Baudrillard 1999). Referring again to the inverted Dorian
Gray metaphor, metamorphosis is entrusted to the real world, morphism to
the virtual, changing without becoming, without growing old. The world
unfolds on its own, the virtual images observing us become autonomous,
they acquire autonomous power and take us hostage to the point that we
ourselves become an image, without identity, if this ever existed, since the
world of images is autonomous, it unfolds on its own, it is self-referential.
Everything seems possible, the “unity of the world” has finally ended: man
is at a distance from the city and this distance has the dilated dimensions of
a loss. The development of our shopping society, which is the matrix of the
generic city with its manifold requests, seems in some ways to have the
simulacrum city as its horizon, a non-city inhabited by non-citizens (de
Azua 2003), entities indifferent to the public sphere and therefore to public
space, both in the meaning delivered by tradition, and in the meanings
nowadays associated with “contemporary public space” (Abalos 2004).
In the segregated city the loss of communication is innate in the concept
of segregation itself. The problem is conceptual, but above all factual, in
the sense that – as we have pointed out – the city that is losing its conceptual
unity, that is becoming a simulacrum of a city (de Azua 2003), is often the
background to urban segregation phenomena that have different causes,
among which the spatial agglomeration of the new urban elites, which
creates social spaces that are powerfully structured and separated like
fortresses (Merrifield 1994; Merrifield and Swyngedouw 1997; Low
2003a, b). Forms of spatial segregation are a phenomenon that is not
Externity 99

limited to the elites and the rejected, but which characterises our cities in
that it has to do with the “modern fear of exposure”. But it is in elitist
segregation as global identity (Böhme 2001) that a separative strategy,
explicit or implicit, dwells, which has as its outcome the loss of the
communicative and dialogical dimension of the city, and marks a
detachment with respect to the city that tradition has given us as a
privileged space for interlocution between different parties.
The question we must ask ourselves is how is it possible to recreate the
city as a space of dialogue and communication, create the spatial
conditions of the public sphere, reinvent the city. And what might the
features be of a city reinvented and restored to its citizens. We may assume
that the main feature is its externity, its being external, in that it is not
functional to the “city without city” (Sieverts 2002) passed on to us by the
drifts of sprawl, genericity and segregation.
To grasp this externity, we need to be able to know how to discern in the
indistinct space and accelerated time of urban flows. To rediscover the city
we need to see it, to know how to see the city in the crowd of the urban,
almost like the Baudelairian flâneur in 19th Century Paris caught swarming
with people. The flâneur that observes the crowd of the metropolis
resulting from the industrial revolution tries to give it a soul, just as the
rediscovered city that observes the contemporary “realm of the urban”
looks for its soul, something that represents “the guiding lights of an urban
path to invent”, which will oppose the “death of the city” (Choay 1994a).
Adopting the analogy with Baudelairian flânerie as a “working metaphor”2
(Steiner G 1975), urban flânerie may consist of being both witness and
participant of the urban path.
Benjamin analyses in depth the relationship between Baudelaire and the
crowd, this being an objective that imposed itself with more authority than
any other on 19th Century men of letters. In Benjamin’s opinion, to give a
soul to this crowd is the real purpose of the flâneur. Meetings with it are
the experience he never tires of telling. Specific reflections of this illusion
remain in the work of Baudelaire. It has – moreover – not yet stopped
having an effect. Jules Romains’ Unanimisme is one of its later and most
appreciated fruits.3 In these reflections can be glimpsed a retrospective
glance in contemporary man’s attempt to find a city soul in the urban
swell, a collective soul in each urbanised constellation, in the same way
that each aggregation of individuals expresses a collective soul in
Romains’ vie unanime (Romains 1908).
Benjamin’s critical analysis records the antithetical positions of the
literary attitudes that Poe and Baudelaire express with regard to the
surprising crowding of the metropolis.
100 Reinventing the City

Of course the diversity of the London and Paris urban contexts counts in
this differentiation of positions and the programmatic responses activated
to face the new metropolitan sky.
With regard to urban mutation that changes spatial relations, in effect
Paris stands out on the European horizon as a glorious example that has
left its imprint on most European cities. For Hausmann’s Paris, together
with Wagner’s Vienna and Cerdà’s Barcelona represent inimitable
experiences of the solution to the relationship between different scales of
urban space in the process of mutation of the European city produced by
the industrial revolution.
Hausmann’s Paris, the outcome of one tradition and departure point of
another, plays an inaugural role thanks to regulation imposed on it by the
Prefect. For the first time he treats the series of heterogeneous spaces in
the capital as a single entity that a global plan will endow with isotropy.
He makes a system of communications of the whole city by a hierarchised
network of roads that takes districts out of isolation and links up key points
of the city with each other and with the railway stations; he enlarges the
scale of the whole city, uniting opening-up operations with the integration
of all free spaces intra muros, granting the city a respiratory system of
green spaces (Choay 1994a).
If the enlargement of the scale of roads and buildings broke up the
situation of social relations of proximity characteristic of the pre-industrial
city, the new situation of new conviviality replaced it. A small scale
structure is set in the urban fabric, enlarged in its features, rigorously
proportioned and perceptible with continuity. Made up of a diversified
urban plan, conceived and installed with care, the small scale makes
pavements and gardens the theatre of new social relations: random,
anonymous, cosmopolitan.
While the traditional city was exploding under demographic pressure,
Hausmann realised an effective category of “urbanity”, in the sense that if
we call urbanity the reciprocal adjustment of a form of urban fabric and a
form of conviviality, then we can fairly speak of “Hausmannian urbanity”
(Choay 1994a).
During the same period the endless sectioning of London suburbs
symbolised savage expansion of the city, so the pessimistic picture
sketched by Poe certainly cannot be defined as “realistic”. In Benjamin’s
words, in it there is a consciously deforming imagination at work. Its
objective is “people” as such. In the spectacle they offer he notices
something threatening. He mixes with them at length to suddenly zap them
with a withering glance (Benjamin 1955).
Compared with Poe’s man in the crowd, the Baudelairian flâneur knows
how to observe the crowd, because he knows how to place himself halfway
Externity 101

between the private and the crowd that is developing as the new city
public. Just as, compared with the London described by Poe, Baudelaire’s
Paris maintains some traits of the good old days: galleries were still in
fashion, where the flâneur was hidden from the view of vehicles, which
did not tolerate the competition of the pedestrian and if there was the
passer-by who slipped into the crowd, there was also the flâneur who
needed space and did not want to give up his private style. Where the tone
is given by private life, there is so little space for the flâneur, like in the
frenzied traffic of the City. London has the man in the crowd. The guard
Nante, a popular character of pre-forty-eight Berlin, is in some way his
antithesis: the Parisian flâneur is halfway between the two (Benjamin
We can say, using a literary analogy, that there are places rich in history
in the city that are “participant observatories” of the urban path, which
enable us to look at the realm of the contemporary urban and see the city.
These places have in some way been initiated to the “principles of the art
of looking”, like the protagonist of My cousin corner window by Ernst
Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann, who has the faculty to amuse himself with
living pictures that he manages to selectively gather from the swarming
crowd without being dazzled by it (Benjamin 1955). 5
If we accept the hypothesis that perhaps the daily view of a moving
crowd was for some time a spectacle the eye had first to get used to, we may
perhaps suppose that once this task had been achieved, the eye could take
advantage of every chance to show itself in possession of the faculty just
acquired. Thus contemporary man may learn from places rich in nature and
history the “principles of the art of observing” the city that is forming and,
by adopting a different strategy of looking, obtain from the chaos a coherent
city image.
To explain this concept Benjamin borrowed the technical description of
impressionist painting which, since it obtained its images from the chaos
of blotches of colour, might be considered in some way an effect of
experiences become familiar to the eye of the inhabitant of a large city. “A
picture like Monet’s Cathedral at Chartres which is like an ant heap of
stones, would be an illustration of this hypothesis.” (Benjamin 1968).
To see the city we need to anchor its images to their history. A
fundamental protective role of urban images that renders them external to
the congestion of visual flows of the contemporary city may be covered by
history. This is the recurrent concept in a refined worshipper of images like
Wim Wenders: “As a cineaste I came to the conclusion that my images have
only one chance of not being swept away by this immense visual flow of
competitiveness and commercialisation: they have to tell a story. […] Only
102 Reinventing the City

the story, the ensemble of characters, gives credibility to each single image,
‘it founds a moral principle’, to use an artist’s jargon.” (Wenders 1992).
But can an equivalent of what the story is for a film exist in the urban
landscape? For Wenders the landscape represents a sort of additional figure:
A street, a row of houses, a mountain, a bridge are for me something more than a simple
background. For they possess history, a personality, an identity that must be taken
seriously; and they affect the character of the men living in that environment, they evoke an
atmosphere, a feeling of time, a particular emotion. They may be ugly, beautiful, young or
old; but they are still present elements […] So they deserve to be taken seriously.
Over the course of the last few years I have worked in Australia and have had the
fortune to know the aborigines. And it surprised me that for them every single shape in the
landscape incarnates a figure of their mythical past. Every hill, every rock brings with it a
story intimately linked with their mythical epoch. (Wenders 1992).

A crucial problem is that of anchoring urban images, and more in

general, the project of the city, to the histories of places, so that the images
of the city, by narrating its history, save themselves from the visual flows
of contemporary life, also avoiding dragging these places into the flood of
images. It may be assumed that the places that narrate a story, or several
stories, not be swept away by the flood of images but, on the contrary, save
us from the flow of global commercialisation, to which the city’s cultural
consumption belongs.
This historic geography must show itself as true to settled societies for it
is evident, since only in the ambit of their daily life can they have direct
perception of “geographic space”, but a geography that today wants to
uncover something new should not only acutely feel the insufficiency of
what can be deduced from what we already know, but – all the more –
should depart from the premise that the existing order (territorial
“normality”) is unsatisfactory (Dematteis 1985b).
This requires a cognitive act, of which integral parts must be both a
necessary interpretation of the urban epic of places, the narration of a story
that “the place embraces”, and the phenomenological need of a “basic
description” of the context, able to critically highlight some justified and
significant possibilities of modification (Palermo 1992).
“Cities do not tell stories, but they can communicate something to us
about History; they can conserve and show their history, make it visible or
hide it.” (Wenders 1992). We therefore need to make sure that the city
conserves and displays its history, continues to nurture the imagination of
its inhabitants, by urban acts that consist perhaps of gently improving on
the inhabitants’ closeness to the “void”, to the “small”, to history, to time,
and to decay, in general to all those spatial concepts that are today the most
interesting materials for the project for the city.
Recovering Sensitive Knowledge of the City 103

Recovering Sensitive Knowledge of the City

Knowing how to see the city does not depend solely on the chance that
urban places will reveal themselves with their stories, but derives above all
from a tiring process of social learning, from a new “culture of urban
knowledge”, in which the eyes of contemporary man, overwhelmed by the
flows of visual messages, manage to activate a critical detachment, to
retrieve a condition of externity so as to manage to interpret the signs of a
“possible city” (Maciocco and Tagliagambe 1998).
Benjamin develops this concept by exploring the relationship between
seeing and hearing in the city, observing, for example, how the eye of the
inhabitant of the large city is literally overwhelmed by security functions.
In support of this statement he quotes a reflection from Simmel, who
maintains that he who sees without hearing is much more worried than he
who listens without seeing. This is characteristic of the large city.
Reciprocal relations between men in large cities are distinguished by a
strong prevalence of the activity of sight over that of hearing. Public
vehicles are the principal cause of this fact. Before the arrival of the
omnibus, railways and trams in the 19th Century, people had never found
themselves in the condition of having to stay, for minutes and even whole
hours, looking at each other without speaking a word. (Benjamin 1955).
The prevalence of seeing over hearing leads to an emphasis that may be
defined – as we will see better later – “representational” of reality and
which hinders basic critical interpretation of it to imagine and construct
possible worlds based on reality, this being a function clearly intrinsic in
the project for the city.
The glance lacking in projectuality may in a certain sense be associated
with the “glance meant to feel safe”. On this matter Benjamin recalls
Baudelaire’s observations, who, in Salon of 1859, studying landscape
paintings, concludes with this seemingly strange confession: “I would
dearly like to be taken again towards the diorama whose brutal, enormous
magic is able to impose a useful illusion on me. I prefer to contemplate
certain theatre scenes, where I find, expressed with the wisdom of art and
concentrated in tragic representation, my dearest dreams. These things,
precisely because they are false, are infinitely nearer to the truth; whereas
the majority of our landscape artists lie because indeed they neglect to lie.”
(Baudelaire 1992).
The “impossibility of not lying” in depicting reality, asserted by
Baudelaire, is rigorously analysed in Florenskij’s criticism of naturalism
(Florenskij 1990), who, using Cantor’s well-known demonstration of the
possibility of representing a square on its side, shows how representation is
104 Reinventing the City

unable to transmit the form of what is represented, of an object with an

internally defined structure, in the sense that the content of the space is
transmitted, but not its organisation (Florenskij 1990).
Representation is always a symbol, every representation, whatever it is,
is thus, which is why all images in the figurative arts, and more generally,
visual communication, are distinguished from each other not because some
are symbolic and others, so to speak, naturalistic, but because, all being
equally non-naturalistic, they are symbols of the different faces of an
object, of different perceptions of the world, different levels of synthesis:
to represent means, namely, to be “the other of another”, which is
simultaneously brought to mind and eliminated by the representation
(Tagliagambe 1994).6
These reflections are found precisely in the representational: position of
the project, which owes its weakness to the crisis experienced in cognitive
sciences of the representational theory of the mind, which refers to the so-
called linguistic-symbolic paradigm.
The representational conception of a world already given has often been
adopted in an explicit manner in the project for the city.7 Deconstructionist
positions themselves appear today linked with a representational
conception, even though very different positions are placed under the
deconstructionism “umbrella”. But to represent the instability of the
metropolitan city is certainly one of the principal objectives of this
position, in the sense that architecture tends to reflect, indeed represent, the
uncertainty of the contemporary city, so that a set of interrogatives is left
that constitute an authentic disciplinary discriminator: whether the
challenge of the contemporary urban condition should be answered by
amplifying and celebrating the spatial manifestations of the city of today,
its epiphenomenology, or whether we should try to penetrate the deepest
reasons of a process of which spatial forms are the outcome (with their
diffusion, instability, heterogeneity, their apparent chaos, their disorienting
features). And above all whether in these deep reasons a concept of
collective good is imaginable, whether there are collective values to
disclose, even for a society that is fragmented and flexible from many
points of view, and whether men need to become aware of these values for
an urban ethic of spatial settlement of our times. Whether, finally, the
architect, the urbanist, the planner, at all operative levels, can, with their
techno-scientific capacity and their informative apparatus, promote
awareness-making of these values to effectively improve human existence
– rather than confirm, representing them, the existing ones.
We have seen how the strategy of the glance may affect the capacity for
designing the city and how contemporary man who “sees without hearing”,
in some way retreats to a representational conception of reality, a replica of
Recovering Sensitive Knowledge of the City 105

an ontologically given world that holds him aloof from a constructive

position in the planning of a new world.
The need to use all the senses to have a complete sensory experience of
the city and not emphasise the visual function, but adopt a correct strategy
of looking, is analysed in a masterly way in the cinema by Wenders. The
theme is one of the leading motifs of Lisbon Story,8 in which the film
director, Friedrich, one of the protagonists, desperately calls his sound
technician Winter for help, so that by recording lost sounds of the city he
will manage to help him re-see Lisbon, by now withdrawing more and
more from his eyes. It is the reaction of the city that no longer wants to
reveal itself to an inappropriate glance, which claims its externity with
respect to the world of “video-tourists”, a curious epithet that reverberates
in the film almost to evoke the soulless glance that is behind the camera
lens of the tireless army of cultural consumption in the contemporary city.
Winter, the sound technician, seeks the city’s memory through the rare
sounds still present in the historic heart of Alfama and records with care
the variety lost in contemporary amnesia. The sounds are the metaphor of
sensory cognition, of aisthesis the philological root of aesthetics, the
sensory cognition that enables us to understand that “tale of what by
definition is not tellable” (Tabucchi 1986), what Smailes calls the “sense
of place”, the sense of the places of a city, that set of colours, sounds,
smells that differentiate one city from another, a nucleus of sensations that
“serve as access to something that is beyond the glance and the psyche,
beyond the eyes and the intellect and what Bernardo Soares calls the soul”,
the soul of Lisbon, the soul of each contemporary city made invisible by
the flows of mobility and virtual communication.
Wenders carefully avoids the commonplace elements of cultural
consumerism, the worn-out paths of the “video-tourists”, precisely, where
the city is a scenic fake in the contemporary urban swell, places where the
divorce between urbs and civitas has been accomplished. In effect, the
Tower of Belem does not appear, the mythical destination of tourist
pilgrimages, nor does the Cultural Centre of Belem, the monument to the
strategy of the image in the European top cities competition. Just as in the
historic city there are no pictures of the Terreiro do Paço, almost
condensed in the sounds of the maritime traffic at the legendary wharf. The
Bairro Alto, the district of antique shops, offices and night entertainment is
absent, and Baixa pombalina itself, the actual metaphor of the
reconstruction and resurrection of Lisbon, is almost imperceptible, today
besieged by jeans outlets. For Wenders Lisbon is urban conviviality still
rooted in its soul, which is Alfama, the ancient Arab quarter, a place thick
in “triple communication involving the exchange of goods, information
and sentiments” (Choay 1994a).
106 Reinventing the City

Urban conviviality is the willingness of the bus-driver who stops to

exchange information with the driver of the jeep taking Winter to Lisbon,
introducing the sound technician to the borders between Baixa and Alfama
in Lisbon’s fresh, random, impersonal, cosmopolitan conviviality, with its
origins in the microscale of Alfama urbanity, the theatre of social relations
linked with spatial proximity, shown in the smile of the washer-woman
and the ancestral sounds of water running in the wash-house. Similarly, the
shoe-shiner who takes care of Winter’s plaster-cast is a poetic symbol of
the conviviality of the historic city attentive to differences, to dealing with
the little things that give sense to urban life, keeping present in the minds
of men the continuity between the order of daily experience and the order
of the urban tale.
For Wenders the city is life, the city is the community, not just a
physical space that has no qualities if the men who care about it, look after
it, inhabit it, are absent, if there is no interlacing of social relations
between men. This is why the common places of cultural consumerism, the
physical spaces not lived in by the community, are not filmed.
Sounds represent life and listening, which is necessary to take in the
meanings a place dense in memory and history like Alfama is capable of
revealing to our attention, but also the listening that is antithetical to the
distracted, hurried contemplation of the tour-men in the symbolic places
that the ideological and cultural orientation of the media points out to the
“mediatic” tribe.

I really love this city. Lisboa! And there was a time when I really saw it, in front of my
eyes …, but focusing the camera is like aiming a rifle and each time I touched it, it seemed
like life was evaporating from my memories … and I kept filming, filming, but each time I
turned the handle the city withdrew more and more, more and more … it was getting
unbearable … at this point (addressing Winter) I looked for your eyes and for a while lived
under the illusion that sound could save the day and that your microphones could save my
pictures from their darkness … but no! there’s no hope …, there’s no hope, but this is the
way and I want to follow it. Listen! I want an image that has not been seen … beautiful,
pure, innocent. Till no-one infects it, it’s in perfect unison with the world … and if no-one
has looked at it, the image and the object it stands for are the one and the other. Yes! Once
the image has been seen, the object in it dies … (From the film Lisbon Story).

The film director, Friedrich, expresses to his friend Winter, the sound
technician, the despair of men to whom the city no longer reveals itself and
states that the city is dead, reduced to a mere object of cultural
consumption. Here there is the anguish of the film director on seeing his
work, the images, as a chosen instrument, privileged vehicle, of cultural
consumption of the city and, in this sense, of its death. “Look here, Winter,
my library of images not seen. Each of these tapes was filmed with no-one
looking through the lens … no-one checking them … everything that was
Recovering Sensitive Knowledge of the City 107

filmed I had my back to. These images show the city as it is, not as I’d like
it to be … images ready to be discovered by future generations with
different eyes from ours.” (From the film Lisbon Story).
“Different eyes from ours”, says Friedrich to highlight the importance of
an appropriate look, “different”, to scrutinise the city and try to see it.
In the city men’s way of looking has become the glance of cultural
consumption, the glance that cancels out the existence of men, their life of
reciprocal relations, of civitas, since it is directed solely at the spaces
indicated and ordered by the media, where, as Pessoa writes, “I don’t think
anyone really acknowledges the true existence of another person … others
are nothing but landscape for us and, almost always, the invisible
landscape of a known street.” (Pessoa 1982). Friedrich reaches the point of
denying contemporary men the role itself of looking, the need of it to
understand the city, invoking the “different eyes from ours” of future
generations. But the city may also offer itself today to a different strategy
of looking, it may reveal itself to men who make the effort to understand
the indissociability of spaces from the lives of men. But this is difficult, it
does not always happen, the city may withdraw as happened to Friedrich.
Only “on certain days, at certain times, when who knows what breeze
takes me, that opens who knows what door which opens – writes Pessoa
(Pessoa 1982) – and suddenly I feel that the grocer on the corner is a
spiritual entity, that the assistant who at this moment appears at the door
above a sack of potatoes is a soul capable of suffering.”
“Friedrich says that when these houses disappear, then all the stories
they hide will come out into the light of day. He has met a lot of people
there”. The film director’s glance at every man, at every story, is a glance
looking for the the human roots of civitas, “… I notice – writes Pessoa –
that the assistant at the tobacconist’s was, in some way, with his lopsided
jacket and all the rest, the whole of humanity.” (Pessoa 1982).
In the glance of cultural consumption there is the banal replica of
reality, the image and reality are reflected in a mirror that prevents
interpretation, the mirror of the media society, in which things have in
themselves the image imposed on them, the images are rubbish-images, as
Friedrich calls them, because the city withdraws, does not let its soul be
filmed, and “life detaches from things whose end is identical, for a
privilege that also embraces rubbish.” (Pessoa 1982).
The “rubbish-images” in the library of images not seen by Friedrich are
images detached from the reality of life, in that reality cannot be
duplicated,9 it can only be interpreted; only the images that try to interpret
reality are intrinsically tied to it because they show not only the external
content, but above all include the form, the “structural organisation” and
its evolutionary principles: this is the cognitive conception of the project
108 Reinventing the City

for the city and the contribution of images to it. In the interpretation there
is the continuous project for the city, the exploration of possible worlds in
which the city always acknowledges its structural organisation, in a certain
sense its “soul”. But reality can only be interpreted by adopting an
intentional point of view oriented towards interpreting the evolutionary,
autopoietic potential innate in the soul of the city. The absence of this
point of view, the absence of this particular glance leads to annulment of
the city:the images detach themselves from it because the city itself – in
that it embraces the uninterrupted projectuality of life – will unavoidably
die, if it cannot be interpreted and planned.
Another scene: dragged by the flows of mobility and accelerated time,
Friedrich crouches down in the small unused car, incapable of reacting and
affecting the reality surrounding him. The point of view is the fixed one of
the windscreen, indifferent to phenomena, reality is simply represented,
the camera celebrates the urban chaos, uninterruptedly filming an
anonymous suburb that emblematically expresses it. The car-man and the
flat-man, apartment-men of the contemporary urban swell, reflect the
reality in which they are immersed, dragged by the flows of mobility and
accelerated time, incapable of interpreting it by activating their point of
view, concentrating their look through the lens of the camera, to see: “I
have seen Lisbon”, asserts the film director referring to the time when he
filmed the city without a break, which had urged him to call his sound
technician to listen to its sounds, so that he might try to see it again.
In the car-man image, men alone are reflected of the urban without
community, incapable of expressing the “collective will”, which is the
yeast of urban construction. In this sense in the film director’s reaction,
provoked by the sound technician’s sensitivity, there is the shift of the
modern intellectual to the sphere of ethics and the social legitimisation of
its role, that requires it, and more in general the city technicians, to
contribute with their knowledge to promote awareness of the collective
values that preside over the evolution of the city and guide the project for
it. In the frantic return to looking through the camera lens, there is
reconciliation with the city and the project, the refusal and abandoning of a
passive position, the courageous adoption of a point of view and social
In these dynamics of effective action there is the feverish state innate in
the project, that is not a dream because it is not, like the dream, liberating.
This is the state of continuous vigil of the project, that for its cognitive
nature does not allow sleep, sleep that never comes, like in Pessoa’s Livro
do desassossego (Pessoa 1982) which is an enormous insomnia, the
“poetry of insomnia”, in that it is work in progress without end, a project-
book, like a process of continuous exploration of reality and its possible
Recovering Sensitive Knowledge of the City 109

evolution. The mosquito that prevents Winter sleeping is the stimulus,

unconscious and elusive, that drives him to read Pessoa’s poem without
stopping, to the interpretation without rest of reality, life as the
impossibility of rest. “Poetically inhabits man”: interpreting Holderlin’s
poetry, Heidegger links up to poiesis, doing, grasping reality, the feverish
state of vigil of existentialism, the vital energy connected with inhabiting a
place, which is something different from banal residing and circulating.
In Wenders’ research, looking and listening express the strategy itself of
the interpretative process that aims at understanding exactly the guiding
elements of city construction that are effectively relevant for its
“reproducibility”. For this, in the final part of the film, the eye of
Friedrich’s camera and Winter’s microphone go back together to look and
listen incessantly, almost in a “feverish vigil”, to try to “see” Lisbon,
rediscovering hope in the commitment to the continuous projectuality
ingrained in the human condition, which makes sure that each projectual
experience, even the tiniest, is converted into a deed that makes the sense
emerge of this indescribable web of relations between space and life that is
the city.
Wenders’ attention to sensory cognition, aisthesis, as the central vehicle
of knowledge of the city also unfolds on the side of tactile knowledge.
Analysing some aspects of the relationship the aborigines have with
their land in the article The Urban Landscape, Wenders observes that they

believed in something essential: they believed they belonged to that region and felt
responsible for those places, each for a precise zone. They were effectively a part of the
territory. The opposite thought, i.e. that someone could possess a piece of land, was
unimaginable for them. In their eyes the land was the owner of men, never vice-versa. The
land had authority. […] But our civilisation has completely extinguished or removed the
idea of belonging to the earth, and urban images are the proof. Cities have made the earth
invisible, almost as if to hide their sense of guilt. (Wenders 1992).

Among the constituent features of belonging, one is that men are “a part
of the territory, that “the land is the owner of men”, whereas in our eyes it
is unimaginable that someone possess the territories they belong to, such
as, for example, the small islands of the Maddalena archipelago in north-
east Sardinia, which have for some time been considered by the inhabitants
as patrimony for collective fruition, territory that is a “free good”, private
destination of which, thus limiting the social dimension of fruition, is
unthinkable (Maciocco 1998).
The territory as a “free good” belongs to that group of spatial concepts
that are at the base of the sense of human territoriality; they have to inform
the urban path in that they are structural to what Pareyson defines as the
“forming form” (Pareyson 1988) of the city.
110 Reinventing the City

These spatial concepts are realised in local contexts, in that it is at this

scale that a concept of collective good is thinkable, as the outcome of a
process the urbanist favours, trying “to bring to the light a secret order to
grant it a direction and enhance it, or to unify the scattered elements, old
and new, giving a sense to them as a whole.” (Lucan 1992). It is, for
example, the meaning given by the Tago in Lisbon as the witness of the
urban epic: “E a cidade, chamamlhe Lisboa, mas é só o rio que é verdade,
só o rio, é a casa de água, casa de cidade em que vim nascer.”10 Lisbon
inhabits the Tago, the river is the city’s home. “It is called Tejo – says the
musician of the Madredeus group – he speaks of the river, says that the
Tejo is the only witness … do you say witness? … of our lives. Not the
city.” (Wenders 1994). The “house of water” witness of urban life is par
excellence the “place rich in nature and history” of Lisbon, the guiding
element that presides over urban cohabitation, defining in its slow flowing
the formation of a geography of man and the territory of the city as a
human condition (Dematteis 1985b).
It is on the local scale that the territory offers itself for exploration of the
symbolic dimensions of the relations between natural forms and anthropic
transformations. It is at this scale that an important reflection can be
developed on the new spatial forms of the urban and the consequent
processes of symbolic signification. A concept should nevertheless be
adopted of critical belonging; we should retrieve what Pier Carlo Palermo
calls “interpretative and critical belonging”, which is able to open to
debate the actual situation; [that] on the other hand, does not try to impose
arbitrary transformations, because it knows it must conceive each mutation
within the frame of the basic possibilities of the place. The idea of
belonging is not therefore separate from a constant projectual tension
towards the mutation, which expresses intentionality, as a vision of
possible forms directing the action in accordance with projects, but appears
justified if it is able to acknowledge the fundamental historicity of places
and local societies; according to an idea of the future plan that is not a
utopian, nostalgic invention, yet always critical of some conditions and an
enhancement of the value of some of the possibilities of the context
(Palermo 1992).
We have seen there can be no belonging without tactile knowledge of
the city, without “touching the ground”, as the chance to encounter the city
in its authenticity, in “something essential”. But the urban makes this very
difficult; it has in a certain sense hidden the essential, cutting off temporal
relations between past and future, while cities have a role in that they
create a temporal relationship for their inhabitants, and place them in some
way in a “no-man’s-land between past and future” (Wenders 1992). In this
Recovering Sensitive Knowledge of the City 111

situation, to describe the city in the urban is a very rare art because – as
Wenders keenly observes – cities evade description.

They can be perceived so easily by the senses, by smelling the odours, listening to the
noises, with direct experience, through sight, obviously most of all through the eyes. […] In
a film with a historic nature it is depressing to see the city unencumbered, with antennas
dismantled, everything cleared away […] the idea of history on which we rely has
completely filtered through. And I get the same impression when they try in a city to
unearth the past with the same taste: I feel like I am watching a historic film. […] With
these methods, instead of creating a tie with the past, the past is turned into a stereotype. It
happened in Berlin, too, both in the east and the west, in the context of the city jubilee: they
cleaned and adorned so many places that suddenly they no longer had any history but were
just a stereotype of the past. Restoration is an exercise of balance, walking on a tight-rope,
with the slightest exaggeration it is destroyed; it only needs excessive cleaning, making a
frontage too beautiful and you end up with a Disneyland-style city. (Wenders 1992).

Urban cosmetics, urbanistic make-up, indeed hide the city, the

“essential” behind the “islands of perfect efficiency”, like the large
shopping malls, the recreation centres, that constitute the sign of our
incapacity to “touch” the city to project a coherent path for it. But this is
perhaps in our nature, which is changing. According to Pierre Restany,
“what we are discovering, both in Europe and the U.S.A., is a new sense
of nature, of our contemporary, industrial, mechanical, commercial nature.
Arcadian landscapes have by now been driven back to the most mythical
zones of our vision. What is the reality of our daily context is the city or
the office. Extroversion is the rule of this world placed under the double
sign of standardisation and efficiency. We can no longer allow ourselves to
go back in time nor objectively take a distance. Direct appropriation of the
real is the Law of our Present.” (Restany 1994).
But in the present the real remains elusive, beyond our energies, the
more incomprehensible the more we are immersed in the flows of
communication and mobility. The city seems to evade understanding more
and more, also because conventional points of view persist, those of a
decisive conception of the project for the city, which leaves no space for
critical interpretation of the relations with the context and with common
sense, a conception that, once delegitimised by the events, leaves a desert
of impotence seeming to submerge any disciplinary perspective for the
architectonic paradigm of urbanistics. As Ignasi de Solà-Morales says, the
form of the contemporary metropolis is, moreover, soft and malleable. It
does not have a pre-determined structure, but seems to model itself
depending on actions and reactions that different operations present it with.
In other words, it is not fossilised once and for all in time, nor defined by
someone, “the Authority, to use the name Le Corbusier would have used.”
112 Reinventing the City

Organic metaphors to describe these situations multiply and in recent

years we have seen an authentic return to organic terminology and
iconography for visualising these phenomena. “How can what is
happening in Singapore, Tokyo, Canberra, Teheran, Mexico or Atlanta be
explained?” The global nature of these processes no longer enables us to
escape, using the alibi of regional cultures or past-inspired nostalgia.
We are again faced with phenomena, the potent, savage reality of which
is beyond our knowledge. We find ourselves faced with facts that make an
issue of the capacity of architects to practice architecture with this form of
perpetually active city expanding and unfolding blindly. “The metropolis,
the city of present times, rises like a new “dark object of desire for
architecture and architects.” (de Solà-Morales 1994).

Walking is the “Speech Act” of the City

In the “feverish insomnia” that stimulates us to continuously explore this

“dark object”, we need perhaps to rediscover the ways of “touching” the
city, trampling on the soil of its origins, the soil of places rich in nature and
history, walk in the most proper meaning of this term, which refers to a
full sensory experience. Walking therefore has a moral function, in that it
evokes materiality and with materiality, reality. To walk means to be
external to fiction, to the simulacrum city, to “real virtuality” (de Azua
2003). It means to be external to the mimetic urban forms that reproduce
the same model of movement and consumption ad infinitum. It means
being external to the city anaesthetised by mass consumption, a post-city
conceived and experienced without history or identity.
Walking is one of the ways of “getting by in the large city, cohabiting
with the metropolis” (Wenders 1992), but not the only one because it is
extremely important to allow those who live in the city the chance to
accept all its aspects. For this reason places for walking should be those
that have this vocation almost innate in them and are something different
compared with the pedestrian shopping islands, rigidly regulated, of large
cities, a sort of open-air shopping centre, forms of cut-off microcosm, the
same everywhere, a pedestrian simulation of the car-man, an indication of
our incapacity to fully “live” the city.
“Places for walking” tie up with Baudelaire’s flânerie if translated as the
capacity of not being dragged by the crowd, by urban noise, but at the
same time needing this collective noise to make observing significant, to
receive the changing city in a significant way. These places represent the
city which, in the face of the still inscrutable urban, exerts its flânerie in
Walking is the “Speech Act” of the City 113

the same way as the flâneur faced with the crowd of the 19th Century
metropolis tries to keep his privacy, his individuality, but also a collective
space enabling him to observe the crowd, like the city observes the urban
to scan it for perspectives of a path to invent. These places tell of the city
in that they are the main characters and witnesses of its life and
repositaries of its autopoietic capacity; it is as if they contained its secret
formula, which can perhaps be discovered by walking, exerting a form of
sensitive knowledge that allows us to “touch” the city.
On the ways of “touching” the city, of “full sensory experience” that
favours collective reception of it, the deep reflections still seem up-to-date
that Benjamin, in his famous essay Das Kunstwerk im Zeitalter seiner
technischen Reproduzierbarkeit,11 dedicated to the fruition of the work of
art, comparing architecture and the cinema against the background of the
relationship between distraction and concentration (Benjamin 1968). In
Benjamin’s words, distraction and concentration are opposed in such a
way as to permit this formulation: he who concentrates on a work of art is
absorbed into it; he penetrates the work. On the contrary, the distracted
mass let the work of art collapse in their own lap. This happens in the most
evident manner for buildings.
Architecture has always provided the prototype of a work of art, the
reception of which occurs in distraction and by the collectivity. The laws
of its reception are the most instructive.
Buildings have accompanied mankind since prehistoric times. Many
forms of art have been born then died. But man’s need of a dwelling has
not ceased. Architecture has never known a break. Its history is longer than
that of any other art; to realise its influence is important for any attempt to
understand the relationship between the masses and the work of art. Our
fruition of buildings is twofold: through use and perception. Or in more
precise terms: in a tactical and in an optical manner. It is not possible to
define the concept of a similar reception if it is imagined as being like
those gathered, for example, by travellers faced with famous constructions.
There is nothing on the tactical side that could be the counterpart of what,
on the optical side, is constituted by contemplation. Tactical fruition does
not occur so much on the plane of attention as on that of habit. With regard
to architecture, on the contrary, the latter greatly determines even optical
reception. This, too, in itself, happens much less with careful observation
than with occasional glances. This kind of reception, that has been
generated in relation to architecture has, nevertheless, in certain
circumstances, a canonical value. Since the tasks delegated in epochs of
past history to the human perceptive apparatus, cannot be accomplished in
merely optical ways, i.e. contemplative. We manage it gradually, thanks to
the intervention of tactical reception, of habit.
114 Reinventing the City

The distracted person can also get into the habit. Furthermore: the
fact of being able to accomplish certain tasks even in demonstration
proves, first of all, that for the individual in question it has become a
habit to accomplish them. By distraction, which is offered by art, it is
possible to check to what extent apperception is able to accomplish new
tasks. Moreover, since the individual will always be tempted to avoid
these tasks, art will face the most difficult and important one when it
manages to mobilise the masses. Currently it does this through the
cinema. Reception in distraction, which is making itself felt with
increasing insistence in all sectors of art and which constitutes the
symptom of profound changes in apperception, has found in the cinema
the most authentic instrument on which to practise. Thanks to its shock
effects the cinema favours this form of reception. The cinema belittles
cultural value not only by leading the public to a judgmental attitude,
but also due to the fact that at the cinema the judgmental attitude does
not involve attention. “The public is an examiner, but a distracted
examiner.” (Benjamin 1968).
Walking in propitious places to favour collective “tactical reception” of
the city, to “examine it distractedly” stimulates narration of the urban epic
with the language of the places of the city. The analogy between walking
and narrating is to be rediscovered in one of the most famous paragraphs
of Philosophical Investigations (Wittgenstein 1958 quoted in Soutif 1994),
in which Wittgenstein compares language to an old city: “a labyrinth of
lanes and little squares, old and new houses, and houses enlarged in
different periods; and all this surrounded by a number of new quarters with
straight roads lined with houses all the same”. As Daniel Soutif notes, “the
diversity of the play of words is thus similar to that of these quarters or
other urban structures, and the description of this play – description that
constitutes the task assigned by Wittgenstein to philosophical grammar –
would be related to a type of map, also able to include traces of paths”. In
fact, in another paragraph of the same book, the comparison makes a
change by substituting the paths with the space in which they unfold.
According to this text, language is not similar to a “labyrinth of lanes and
little squares …” but to a “labyrinth of paths”: “you come from one side
and know where you are; you come to the same place from another side
and no longer know the way.” (Wittgenstein 1958).
Inverting the comparison, i.e. taking language as the model of
comprehensibility, if not of cities, at least of the spatial practices they give
rise to, Michel de Certeau puts forward the hypothesis that there is a
“rhetoric of walking” in the urban environment (de Certeau 1990). In the
same way as an art of “turning” sentences around exists, “an art of turning
routes around” might be conceived with its tropes and elements of style.
Walking is the “Speech Act” of the City 115

By arranging in paths – others will say “walks”, yet others dérives –

successions of topoi, the walker’s tropes, his directions, will enable the
various styles generated by “pedestrian speech” to be classified. According
to de Certeau, in fact, the act of walking would be “to the urban system, as
the “speech act” is to language or statements made” (de Certeau 1990).
There are, in effect, ways of walking, passing through, which link up with
speech as an inaugural test of language, the primary testing of its
communicative possibilities, walking as the experimental test of the urban
form, of its possibilities of revealing itself to inhabitants, to communicate,
begin to narrate, just as language inaugurates the tale with speech. A
consequence that follows from this hypothesis concerns the relationship
that this act of walking maintains in areas like these with representation on
paper and other plans: whether it is definitely possible to mark on them the
trajectories of the walker, “these curves en plein et en délié refer only like
words to the absence of what has passed” (de Certeau 1990). The traces
mapped of the route are nothing more, in short, than a relic “placed on the
non-time of an area of projection”, and visibility of this relic only has the
effect of making invisible the operation that made it possible (de Certeau
1990). But even a single “way of being in the world” is a possible world, a
possibility for the project for space that may indeed be wasted by
crystallisation of itineraries, of routes traced on a map.
Maps that crystallise paths for walking in places rich in nature and
history therefore realising “figures of absence”, deny those same
possibilities offered to walking to discover reality and the seeds of possible
evolution. It is a question of an aberrant use of maps and plans that
disguises the absence of a spatial referent, which is the place. This
forgetting the place surfaces more and more clearly if we consider that
maps of cities and other plans of flâneries, dérives and other urban routes
have become an unusual artistic form, which is almost an
acknowledgement of the progressive disappearance of the spatial referents
of walking. This is a fact not registered solely in a history, the origin of
which would coincide with the Baudelairian discovery of the flâneur12, and
the outcome of which would be the situationist invention of the derive
(Martin 1980; Hollevoet 1992) and its extensions in conceptual art.
Soutif observes that from the first hints of an aberrant use of the
geographic system for artistic or para-artistic purposes – be it the plan of
Brussels englobing Paris by Wertz, or the phantasmatic plan of Berne
drawn up by Adolf Wölfli – the trait was in fact already present, which
would formally characterise what might be called the “urban works” of the
situationists, in particular Guy-Ernest Debord and Constant, then certain
conceptual artists like Douglas Huebler and Stanley Brouwn.13 All these
works – in many cases we are dealing more with outlines or plans of works
116 Reinventing the City

rather than actual works – actually have in common making the

geographical form of the map, or urban plan, play, like a linguistic sign
that is perfectly identifiable as such, but clearly deprived of its capacity to
refer to its normal spatial referent. As Soutif says, no territory can be
described by these diagrams or fragments of real maps, planimetric
structures; indications similar to airways are combined as if to the
satisfaction of a cartographer hit by blindness in respect of the relationship
his work should have with a precise space (Soutif 1994).
Of course, every map is, as Nelson Goodman has noted, “schematic,
selective, conventional, condensed and uniform”, and these features are
more “virtues” than “defects” since without them the map would tend,
according to the well-known hypothesis developed by Jorge Luis Borges,
to merge with the territory to which it refers. But we should also add that
what is projected in plans that are aberrant to the point of losing their
reference point is nothing more, probably, than the loss of the reference
point as such, this loss affecting any debate on language, the same loss
perhaps that affects the inhabitant when he tries to imagine the city.14

“Dynamic Traditionality” as a Requisite of Urban


If – as we have seen – walking corresponds to the speech act, to expressing,

then to discover what de Certeau calls the “rhetoric of walking” means to
give language the chance to be expressed, spoken, said “in a significant
way”, to give a story the possibility of being narrated in a significant way
from the ways possible. This concerns the mechanism of innovation and is
not simple to obtain because, as Steiner writes in a masterly manner:

The man who has something really new to say, whose linguistic innovation is not merely
one of saying but of meaning – to poach on H. P. Grice’s distinction – is exceptional.
Culture and syntax, the cultural matrix which syntax maps, hold us in place. This, of
course, is the substantive ground for the impossibility of an effective private language. Any
code with a purely individual system of references is existentially threadbare. The words
we speak bring with them far more knowledge, a far denser charge of feeling than we
consciously possess; they multiply echo. Meaning is a function of social–historical
antecedent and shared response. Or in Sir Thomas Browne’s magnificent phrase, the speech
of a community is for its members ‘a hieroglyphical and shadowed lesson of the whole
world.’ (Steiner G 1975).

These ideas belong to the sphere of criticism that Steiner addresses to

the generative-transformational grammar of Noam Chomsky – founder and
head of the “generativism” school15 – of which he challenges the “axiom of
“Dynamic Traditionality” as a Requisite of Urban Innovation 117

observation without restraint”, that can lead to making innovation

correspond to each of the possible syntactic combinations of linguistic
To explain the mechanism of “really significant” linguistic innovation,
he uses the game of chess as an analogy:

At this point, – Steiner maintains – again, the transformational generative model needs
amendment. Chomsky’s emphasis on the innovative character of human speech, on the
ability of native speakers to formulate and interpret correctly a limitless number of
previously unspoken, unheard sentences, served as a dramatic rebuttal to naïve
behaviourism. It demonstrated the inadequacy of the stimulus–response paradigm in its
Pavlovian vein. Chomsky’s observation, moreover, has had notable consequences for
education and speech–therapy. But looked at from a semantic point of view, the axiom of
unbounded innovation is shallow. An analogy with chess may clarify the issue. It is
estimated that the number of possible board–positions is of the order of 1043 and that there
are, within the constraint of accepted rules, some 10125 different ways of reaching these.
Until now, it is thought, men have played fewer than 1015 games. But despite this boundless
potential for novelty, the occurrence of genuinely significant innovation, of inventions
which in fact modify or enlarge our sense of the game, will always be quite rare. It will
always be in minuscule pro portion to the totality of moves played or playable. (Steiner G

This “rather rare fact”, that corresponds to the “occurrence of really

significant innovations” is typical of innovation in the process of urban
A significant example can be given referring to Gropius’s urbanistic
vision, which produced a profound change with the Dammerstock quarter
of Karlsruhe in 1928 in the concept itself of quarter, which – as Leonardo
Benevolo observes – was no longer a composition enclosed within itself,
but “an intervention in the amorphous picture of the city suburbs, a
calculated, tidy modification in a casual, untidy environment” (Benevolo
1971), an innovative solution in that it manages to combine and
significantly link these different realities.
But it is interesting to note how this compositive process that leads to
innovation may be compared with some of Paul Klee’s contemporary
research, such as, for example, the drawing of 1928 entitled Mechanics of
an Urban Area, which shows “an analogy of mental processes and a
probable genetic relationship” (Benevolo 1971) with Gropius’ quarter. The
common element of the composition is the right angle – Dammerstock is
based on the constancy of the right angle – which in Klee takes on the
propulsive role of possible combinations: “Klee shows the qualitative
variety that can come from repeated application of this principle, as long as
we do not proceed mechanically but bearing in mind at each step the
endless range of possible decisions” (Benevolo 1971); with Dammerstock,
118 Reinventing the City

Walter Gropius gathers within this range a significant combination, where

the “right angle” and its significant combinations departing from reality
metaphorically represent the “secret formula” of urban autopoiesis, that we
can perhaps observe in the places of the city rich in nature and history.
It is, in effect, the characteristic of combinatorial meaning that leads to
the “opening up” of systems of linguistic combination and allows the user
“productivity” or novelty of expression …” (Luhmann 1990). Something
similar happens, for example, in artistic creation, through the metaphor
which in a certain sense takes on a combinatorial meaning when it joins
together dissimilar experiences, finding the image or symbol that unites
them at a deeper level of signification, exceeding the literal, extrinsic
modes of normal connections. Bruner illustrates this concept by analysing
the “combinatorial” function of the metaphor in passing from the painting
of Cimabue to that of Giotto, which entails a gradual process of
humanisation of the figure of Christ, from calm without pain to the fusion
of the conception of God and the human condition, with Christ in agony, at
the limits of resistance, where a set of perspectives, divine and human, are
unified and depicted. What we notice in ourselves and in the author is the
effort to connect different experiences, which therefore concerns not only
the creation but also the understanding of the work, which links, that is,
construction and knowledge (Bruner 1975). In the sense that we cannot
understand the world exclusively by representing it, but we need to build
it, design it, operatively influencing the environment, understood as a
background, and exploring the “possible” departing from reality, in our
case an urban reality that feels the effects of the traces of the tale of a
settlement that has led to the current situation.
We can therefore assume – pursuing the comparison between walking
and expressing which we have extended with Wittgenstein to the city and
language – that exploration of the possible, of the possible alternatives
departing from reality, is an innate feature of innovation and therefore of
urban autopoiesis, just as the exploration of possible worlds to be narrated
is innate in language autopoiesis, in its innovative potential.
Language has a constructive force, which is a central example for the
city project. In After Babel Steiner explains this concept very clearly
suggesting that:

After Babel argues that it is the constructive power of language to conceptualize the
world which have been crucial to man’s survival in the face of ineluctable biological
constraints, this is to say in the face of death. It is miraculous…capacity of grammars to
generate counter–factuals, ‘if’–propositions and, above all, future tenses, which have
empowered our species to hope, to reach far beyond the extinction of the individual.
(Steiner G 1975).
“Dynamic Traditionality” as a Requisite of Urban Innovation 119

In its prodigious capacity for narrating the possible future, language

emulates the project, in that “walking” in places that reveal themselves to
those who want to significantly narrate them corresponds to expressing the
numerous possibilities of language to explore “future ways of being in the

We endure, – Steiner goes on – we endure creatively due to our imperative ability to say
‘No’ to reality, to build fictions of alterity, of dreamt or willed or awaited ‘otherness’ for
our consciousness to inhabit. It is in this precise sense that the utopian and the messianic
are figures of syntax.
Each human language maps the world differently. There is lifegiving compensation in
the extreme grammatical complication of those languages (for example, among Australian
Aboriginals or in the Kalahari) whose speakers dwell in material and social contexts of
depravation and barrenness. Each tongue – and there are non ‘small’ or lesser languages–
construes a set of possible worlds and geographies of remembrance. In the past tenses, in
their bewildering variousness, which constitute history…When a language dies, a possible
world dies with it. (Steiner G 1975).

But we need to be careful because – Steiner observes – in this there is

no survival of the strongest because, even when it is spoken only by a
handful of people, a language contains in itself unlimited potential for
discovery – “sometimes Shakespeare seems to ‘hear’ inside a word or an
expression the history of its future resonance” (Steiner G 1975) – for
recompositions of reality, of structured dreams that we call myths, poetry,
metaphysical hypotheses and legal discourse.
These are considerations that may count for some places of the city,
places where it is still possible to “touch” the city, places rich in nature and
history, that contain this “unlimited potential for discovery” of urban
history and the future of the city, but that at the same time are exposed to
the dangers of uniform “dragging” by the flows of the contemporary
urban, just like the languages of small communities are subject to the
danger of acceleration of the disappearance of languages all over the earth,
to the destructive hegemony of languages said to be “major”, that owe
their dynamic efficacy to planetary diffusion of mass marketing,
technocracy and the media (Steiner G 1975).
The prodigality of the historical atlas of these places favours innovation,
it is precious material for significant urban innovation, for singling out
possible worlds of space organisation, nurtured by the autopoietic capacity
of the city of which these places are, in a certain sense, “participant
observatories”. The possibility of an innovation materialising seems, that
is, all the stronger the richer the history of the places producing it, which –
continuing with the Wittgenstein comparison again – is what happens in
language. As we have seen, to define the process of recapitulation of
“historic and social antecedents” – in a certain sense analogous to the
120 Reinventing the City

memory of the city and the territory in the formation of the settlement –
which is at the basis of the innovation of meaning, Steiner coined the
expression “dynamic traditionality”, as a process of combination of
elements of the “historic and social antecedents”. This combination
process is made possible by the historic atlas which we have seen can be
explored by walking around the places of the city rich in nature and
history. But there are still other just as important aspects that decisively
affect this capacity for expressing, for narrating the city, connected with
walking, trampling on the ground, “touching” the place.

Narrating the City Means Designing its Possible Future

The capacity of narrating the city involves, as well as a different

relationship with space, a different relationship with temporality, that is
external to the code of time that characterises the present urban condition,
detached from the past and the future, just as it appears in Kundera’s
description, “man bent over his motor-cycle all concentrated on the present
instant of his flight; he clings to a fragment of time split from the past as
from the future; he has taken himself out of the continuity of time; he is
outside of time” (Kundera 1995). Speed is the form of ecstasy that the
technological revolution has given man. In contrast with the motor-cyclist,
the man who runs on foot is always present in his body, forced as he is to
think continuously of blisters, of breathlessness; when he runs he notices
his weight and his age and is more than ever aware of himself and the time
of his life. But when man delegates the power of producing speed to a
machine, then everything changes: “his body is out of the game, and the
speed to which he abandons himself is bodiless, immaterial – pure speed,
speed in itself and for itself, speed ecstasy.” (Kundera 1995).
This different relationship with time, induced by the city becoming a
metropolis, is explored by Benjamin who recalls some of Paul Valery’s
reflections. “Civilised man of the great metropolises – writes Paul Valery,
sharply analysing the ‘technical civilisation’ syndrome – relapses into a
wild state, i.e. into a state of isolation. The sense of necessarily being in
relationships with others, first continuously revived by need, is dulled bit
by bit in the functioning without friction of the social mechanism. All
enhancement of this mechanism renders certain acts, certain ways of
feeling, useless.”
Benjamin carries out conceptual development on Valery’s reflections
linking the radical change in the code of time, which underpins the new
ways of life, with the introduction of the “abrupt gesture” in many fields of
Narrating the City Means Designing its Possible Future 121

human activities of the period. As Benjamin says, (Benjamin 1955)

towards the end of the century a series of technical innovations began that
had in common the fact of replacing a complex series of operations with an
abrupt gesture. This evolution took place in many fields; it was evident, for
example, in the telephone, where the continuous movement needed to turn
the handle of the first apparatuses was replaced by picking-up of the
receiver. Among the numerous gestures of activating, launching, pressing,
etc., the photographer’s “click” was particularly weighty in its
consequences. You just had to press with your finger to fix an event for an
unlimited period of time. The apparatus instantly communicated, so to
speak, a posthumous shock. Beside tactile experiences of this kind optical
experiences were added, like those provoked by the advertisements section
in a newspaper, but also the traffic in large cities. Moving among traffic
entails a series of shocks and collisions for the individual. “Baudelaire
speaks of the man who plunges into the crowd as if it were a tank of
electrical energy. And defines him immediately afterwards, describing the
experience of the shock ‘a kaleidoscope equipped with conscience’”.
In the car devouring the road at great speed heading for Lisbon, the
sound technician Winter looks through the windscreen – emblematic
observation point of contemporary man – at the realm of the European
urban more and more undifferentiated and giving in to the centrality of
networks of mobility and communications.16 In these initial images of
Lisbon Story is pictured the relationship with temporality that characterises
the present urban condition. Along the route leading Winter, the sound
technician, to Lisbon, a series of accidents put his car out of action and it
betrays him, leaving him stranded just outside the city. Abandoned by
technology, he becomes conscious of his limits in adapting to unusual
situations – an example is the clumsy way he loses his spare wheel, which
rolls down the slope and falls into the water – and he discovers, not
without effort, his corporality, which reminds us of the unframeable reality
of our natural condition, the fact that however immaterial or abstract the
manifold relations city-dwellers mutually engage in across the planet, they
are, we are, in spite of ourselves, thrown into space and forced to live there
and settle there somewhere (Choay 1994a). Through Lisbon, shimmering
“in the blue of an Atlantic breeze” (Tabucchi 1994), as he heavily drags
his leg in plaster through the alleys of Alfama, Winter leads us to discover
that the city demands direct experience of three-dimensionality, a whole-
body investment that no simulation can replace, for the body thrown into
space establishes “intersomaticity” (Formaggio 1976), which, in its turn,
establishes urbanity.
In this slow contact between bodies memory is discovered, because the
slow code of time is memory itself and memory is everything. In
122 Reinventing the City

Kundera’s words, the degree of speed is directly proportional to the

intensity of oblivion. From this equation various corollaries can be
deduced, such as the following: our epoch abandons itself to the demon of
speed and this is why it forgets itself so easily. But Kundera prefers to
invert this statement: our epoch is obsessed by the desire to forget, “and it
is to realise this desire that it abandons itself to the demon of speed; if it
accelerates the pace it is because it wants to make us understand that by
now it no longer aspires to being remembered; that it is tired of itself; that
it wants to put out the quivering flame of memory.” (Kundera 1995).
It is the slow code of time that permits narration. In The Sky above
Berlin,17 while the camera focuses on the library, slowly as in a story,
hymns and prayers are heard. The library represents the story and the story
connects us with the sky because it connects us with the infancy of
mankind and only through infancy can mankind reach the sky. The incipit
is a sky that opens up revealing an eye looking at Berlin from above,
Berlin with its great blocks, while the sun illuminates the colours of the
eyes of men in a different way from how the blue of Lisbon illuminates
them in Lisbon Story: the stories of men are the stories of the city. “Name
for me the men and the women and the children – they are the words of
Homère – who will look for me, their narrator, cantor and coryphaeus,
because they need me more than any other thing in the world…” (from the
film The Sky above Berlin). If the city becomes one of the many places of
the urban, of accelerated time, if it is no longer a place of walking, it will
not be able to be narrated by the inhabitants, the cantor will lose his voice
and, with his voice, language, his capacity to tell of possible worlds, to
design the city.
This is Homère’s anguish: “Deeds of peace, one’s worth the other …
No-one has yet managed to sing an epos of peace. What is there in peace
that in the long run does not excite and lend itself to narration? … Should I
give up now? If I give up now, then mankind will lose its cantor and when
mankind has lost its cantor it will have lost its infancy too.”18
To lose the cantor means to lose the origins, the roots of identity, but to
lose origins means to lose childhood, which is the same as losing the
capacity to be amazed, to be curious, to look and listen with attention, in a
certain sense it is the same as losing life because in astonishment there is
It is a slow code of time, that required by narration, which reminds us
that in the city there are different dimensions of time and that we should
design the contemporary city not just through a different conception of
space, but also with a different relationship with temporality.
In the same way as the contemporary city expresses itself through
different spatial forms of the urban condition (historic city, suburbs, urban
Artists Take the City by the Hand 123

dispersion, inhabited territory, etc.), it also expresses itself through different

temporal forms. Slow codes and accelerated codes, times of services, times
of mobility, times of work, times of recreation, differentiated times of
reflection on the differential conditions of existence and belonging to the
city, different times of subjects that have a different voice or do not even
have a voice.
These times related with spaces form a city with spatio-temporal
differences, a network of alternative and complementary opportunities, of
supply of urban functions which differentiate with respect to space
organisation and to the related codes of time. But also a set of places to
care for, not just with spatial attention but also with coherent codes of the
perception of time in these places. The city sets its chronometer to the
times of lifestyles and the lifestyles in turn have to adapt to respecting in
certain spaces the codes of time, even the slowest, that represent a value,
just as the quality of space is a value. New and more appropriate ways of
thinking of the time-space of the city may then materialise if a “territorial”
conception of the city is adopted, in which the “notable places”, “single,
particular complexes of relations” according to Cacciari’s expression
(Cacciari 1990), follow both the slow time of the non-negotiable values of
the contemporary spatial condition, and the accelerated time of its
demands for communications and mobility.
They are spatial places and concepts rich in nature and history, where –
according to Alvaro Siza’s beautiful expression – “the whole world and the
whole memory of the world project the city endlessly” (Siza 1994), they
are passages of the story of settlement of the European city, the theatre of a
new, metropolitan conviviality, perhaps random, not tied to the local
proximities of the neighbourhood, but still urban, if by urbanity is meant
the correspondence between a physical form and a form of conviviality.
As Françoise Choay writes, these are places that differentiate the future
of the European city from a “collage city” (Rowe and Koetter 1978), in
that its future could never be a juxtaposition of the modern on the ancient,
but because of the way it is formed and discomposed, will be a “realm of
the urban” in which the notable places of slow time, of its natural and
human history, will emerge as the reference base of an urban path for a
city to invent (Choay 1994a).

Artists Take the City by the Hand

Up to now we have examined the difficulties, but also the potential,

connected with the need to see a different, external city, as not dependent
124 Reinventing the City

on the “city without city” (Sieverts 2002) passed on to us by sprawl,

genericity and segregation tendencies. But to see the city we need to plan
it, in the sense that knowledge, representation and planning constitute a
unicum, a “radical construction”. This is the position stated by so-called
“radical constructivism” (Von Glasersfeld 1992), an epistemological trend
which proposes the consideration of all content of knowledge, in terms not
of discovery or duplication of an “ontologically existing reality in itself”,
but in terms of construction operations; construction of new meanings,
detaching elements conveying meaning from the referents to which they
are usually tied, and reintroducing them in a fabric of combinations,
governed by a set of conventional rules. This seems to be the mechanism
which regulates the passage from experience to innovation, and that
perhaps enables the city to positively absorb, as combinations of previous
materials and experiences, processes of transformation.
What the city must manage to interpret correctly and express concretely
is the compensation for the lack of projectuality that is making itself felt
more and more in our epoch and our culture, steeped in a cynical realism
that often digresses into justification a posteriori and at any cost of the
“strength of reality” and the reasons for the latter.
This lack appears all the more serious and deleterious if we consider that
the project, in its most authentic accepted meaning, is the intellectual and
material activity by which man, intervening in an aware manner in the
world, manages to change his condition of existence and create the
premises for a new reality, acting within the field of possibilities
compatible with the ties imposed by the “existing”.
For this it would seem a priority, for the purpose of claiming the need
and rights of the latter, to re-establish the balance between “sense of
reality” and “sense of possibility” of which Musil speaks at the beginning
of his The Man Without Qualities:

If the sense of reality exists, and no-one can question that its existence is justified, then
there must also be something that we will call sense of possibility. He who possesses it
does not say, for example: here this or that happened, will happen, must happen; but he
imagines: here this or that thing could or should happen; and if you tell him that a thing is
as it is, he thinks: well, it could probably also be different. So that the sense of possibility
could also be defined as the capacity to imagine everything that could be and not give more
importance to what is, than to what is not. (Musil 1954).

The planning process is part of a “dance” in which our “structure of

possibilities” (Winograd and Flores 1987) is formed, a “dance” in that this
process has a swinging, pendular nature: “the world determines what we
can do and we determine our world” (Winograd and Flores 1987), based
on a perspective according to which it is what we already are and do that
Artists Take the City by the Hand 125

will set the conditions for what we will be or do; and, at the same time, the
implementation and realisation of the possibilities that make up our
horizon of projectuality will deeply affect our way of being in the world,
and so on, in a circle without end.
On the relationship between reality and possibility, Ernst Bloch departs
from an initial assumption according to which given reality never fully
gratifies the subject, and from this point of view is not “true”: the truth to
which the subject tends, imagining and yearning for what he is missing, is
not given, but is a utopia, which transcends the present in the direction of
the future (Bloch 1986). Bloch thus refuses all forms of contemplative
thought, conceived as merely passive mirroring of what has already been,
fixed in an eternal present. Bloch speaks out against the myth of the
impartiality of presumed objective knowledge: in actual fact, thought is
always partial and contemplation is essentially equal to the acceptance of
existing reality. Whereas utopian thought may discover traces of the future
in the past and always goes beyond what is given to aim towards the
future, which rises to a position of supremacy. Bloch builds an authentic
anthropology: man is a being characterised by needs and instincts; of
these, the fundamental one is self-preservation, which is manifest in the
sense of hunger. In man it becomes refined and rises above immediacy,
enriching itself and turning into sentiments, especially those not able to be
quickly satisfied, which are postponed to the future: in this panorama,
hope, as the anxious wait for the new bringer of salvation, occupies a
position of supremacy among sentiments. The “new” never has completely
defined traits, it is always wrapped in obscurity: for this reason an
unconscious dimension is intrinsic in man, which is felt as not yet
conscious, illuminable only in a hoped-for future and which is translated
into tension and the search for it (Sechnsucht in German). Here, in Bloch’s
opinion, the limit of psychoanalysis surfaces, which reduces the sphere of
the unconscious to the past, to what has been removed and forgotten, is no
longer conscious. In actual fact, there are also daydreams, correlated with
what has not yet happened, anticipating the future. In the third part of his
substantial work, The Principle of Hope, Bloch constructs a sort of
encyclopaedia of desires and hopes, of which he searches for traces in fairy
tales, in popular detective and adventure novels, in advertisements, in
circus shows and so on. To these are linked up, on the one hand, Bloch’s
taste for the details and trivialities of everyday life and mass civilisation, in
which some part of truth always shines through, and, on the other, his style
rich in metaphors, images and parables, able to express these tensions
towards the future. Bloch is of the opinion that this constant tendency of
man to transcend each time what is given, has a real base in matter itself
(Fusaro 2005).
126 Reinventing the City

As well as in everyday experience, hope is manifest, according to Bloch,

in works of art. Works of art are for Bloch a refined, condensed
experience. In Bodei’s opinion, Bloch does not set art against life, he does
not leave it all up to museums and books to find the point of existence, but
on the contrary, the smallest, most trivial, most everyday things have an
important nature. Bloch indeed makes the effort to show us again the
importance of what seems obvious, but works of art have this advantage:
they are the essence of experience, great experience, therefore the work of
art puts us in touch with this element of mystery and undecidability. Bloch,
for example, really loved De Chirico’s metaphysical art and remembers
how De Chirico signed his pictures in around 1908 adding the Latin motto:
Et quid amabo nisi quod enigma est?, “And what shall I love if not that
which is enigmatic?” In Bloch there is no, so to speak, Illuminist taste for
making everything clear and transparent.20
It is music that, more than any other art, enables expression of this
“inexpressible” and of the respective utopian tension, because it is for
Bloch the art most suited to subjective restlessness and sentiments of hope.
The purpose of the principle of hope is to try to give a sense to our lives
at a distance from ourselves, therefore the utopian ideal par excellence is
to rediscover ourselves, to rediscover the sense of ourselves in a
collectivity, not a solitary sense. “We live together with others and so it is
also through others that we understand a part of ourselves. The us is more
hospitable than the I. The I, however, belongs more to ourselves, so when
we encounter the I we also encounter the us, and when we encounter the us
we encounter the I, namely it is only by living in this community of all
men that the work of art puts us in contact with what most belongs to
itself.” (Bloch 1986).
Art can contribute to the project for the city if artists “take the city by
the hand”.
When the trajectory of the urban utopias breaks off and urban strategy
becomes business strategy and urban communication enters the marketing
sphere, when the city “enters the market” and, being hetero-directed by the
market, cannot be planned, artists open up new urban visions. When artists
appear without warning they make the environment waver in the register
of ordinary things, the generic city is cancelled, only the event is present.
Pulled repeatedly in all directions, the city has nevertheless entered a
phase of escape forwards and has all at once become magma in permanent
implosion and an expanding conglomerate as chaotic as it is controlled.
Devoted to the cult of gigantism, the city squashes in its centre its social
body and wraps it up in its suburbs. It develops its pollution and finds itself
at the mercy of greater technological risks. Huddled into itself, in the
temporal confusion of a cultural collage that is merging its future, past and
Artists Take the City by the Hand 127

present, it has become the place of no-return of its internal history.

Ambrogio Lorenzetti’s allegory of “good government” no longer has the
right to citizenship.
As Baudson notes, the city has become at the same time a projection of
an apocalyptic ralenti and indicator of a regeneration process. This
situation has given place to a real dialogue between contemporary art and
the city and the visions it has generated (Baudson 1994). A dialogue that
refuses any possible confusion between the old-fashioned, voluntarist
concepts of urban art, coming from public or private clients, and the new,
differentiated visions of artists. Namely, it is not a question of make-up
that badly hides a bad conscience, manifest or latent, in the face of the
city’s becoming.
Having become instruments or machines to inhabit, cities no longer
inspire images like those of Impressionist daily reality. Vision has been
focused through the glance of the photographic lens: hyper-realistic
painting, in particular that of Jurg Kreienbuhl or Heiner Altmeppen, gave
an account of the architectonic brutality of the dormitory city, a vision of a
city without life nor joie de vivre, as in the paintings of Richard Estes; a
city like that denounced by Arman’s accumulations, Raymond Mason’s
references to solitude in the crowd, such as in Birmingham. In Memoriam
of 1958, or also Joan Rabascall’s series of villas, Douce France, of 1971,
kinds of architectonic surrogates where vacuity and vanity compete feebly,
a city, therefore, transformed into a container for object inhabitants
(Baudson 1994).
Michel Baudson describes for us with the geography of pathways of
artists the vision of a city emptied of its substance, seen from above and
coldly cut up into quarters for the strategist’s glance, like in Gerhard
Richter’s paintings, the German artist who already at the beginning of the
60s faced the problem of temporal depth and the ambiguity of the
photographic and television image with particular analytical and
conceptual values. It is the vision of a city, in which Tony Cragg only
preserves for his sculptures the stereotyped materials (building materials or
plastic refuse).
The encounter between the rational and the void has been accomplished,
function prevails over the human. The apocalypse is behind, but it is also
in front of us, with Wolf Vostell’s concrete caps over the city, Michael
Downs’ conglomerates, Maryvonne Arnaud’s pilgrimages to Chernobyl in
the trenches of panic and the hurried escape. The void has been affirmed.
“To checkmate anguish, certain artists prefer to pass from victim to
slaughterer.” (Baudson 1994). Jack Vanarsky thus straightens the course of
the Seine to a straight line on his Parisian plan and Ingrid Webendorfer
dries up the river bed to dig a canyon in it.
128 Reinventing the City

But the social body may still lead the game and the artists propose new
urban visions. The social body builds Babel there with Robert Combas,
Jean Dubuffet reinstores the poetic sense of the city, seen as a house with
its walls in Rues et immeubles de la ville, a work of 1969. Gilbert &
George with Flat man (1991) proclaim the vitality of the immigrant
There are inhabitants that look at us, or embrace in their glance the
urban panoramas reinvented by Marin Kasimir. Here the human triumphs
out of the urban, the checkmate realised by the architects and urbanists is
again subordinated to the panoramic vision of individuals. Man may also,
like in Roland Sabatier’s work La maison ideale (1987), rediscover his
domestic intimacy (Baudson 1994).
The artistic perspective proposes, with Dani Karavan’s perspective, new
human dimensions for the city, and gives back to imagery – developed by,
among others beyond past reference, Anne and Patrick Poirier, Miquel
Navarro and Alain Bublex with the ramifications of the city on the
territory and the environment, or François Schuiten – the power to open up
new urban visions (Baudson 1994).
These global visions coexist with a fragmentary glance, which gathers
the new points of visual attack of the city, like the imprint of a tyre taken
in the road on a piece of paper, pieces of poster detached and taken from
walls and city surfaces, there a piece of poster, here some graffiti, there
again the end of a fence. It is in some ways the prelude to the artists’
transition from critical but detached global visions, to the epistemology of
effective action, to the different methods of artistic action. A conceptual
artist like Stanley Brouwn memorises on paper his walks (This Way
Brouwn 1960). The city is just as much the place of personal journeys,
which call for new photographic or video explorations, like in the work of
Fitzgerald and Sanborn, “Ear to the ground”, in which the percussionist
David Van Thieghem makes the streets of the city vibrate as he passes
(Baudson 1994).
This work on creative imagery introduced in the 50s by the Situationists,
Constant and Guy-Ernest Debord (Debord 1955, 1956), dismisses the more
theoretical work of the urbanists and architects.
The most fragile, the artists, open up new perspectives for the city. It is
the moment of direct grasping of reality, the moment in which the
urbanists’ utopias and the urban ideas of artists meet in the sphere of ethics
and social legitimisation. A sphere that calls them all back to a
confrontation of values and therefore a cooperative commitment to the
project for the city. This way of considering the city also entails an attempt
to reflect on issues of an aesthetic nature, in the sense that new aesthetics
may originate from this position, the foundations of which rest on a grid of
Artists Take the City by the Hand 129

interpretation made available by artists. It is the city that becomes a

“moving garden” (Clément 1994), a metaphor for the construction of the
polis that acknowledges unpredictability and the encounter with the other,
like in the “moving garden”: for example, moles, which are killed, driven
by every means out of the traditional garden, in a moving garden provide
instead precious forms of Land Art (Clément 1997). Or pioneer plants,
“capable of living in an ungrateful environment” but that “are, in effect,
fragile: out of this environment, they die”. Or again “vagabond” plants,
which die in one place to be reborn the same, a little later, a few metres
away: “they are always there where they’re not expected” (Clément 1994).
“Tradition excludes from the territory of gardening all living animal and
vegetable species that escape the gardener’s control. There is no room for
vagabond beings.” (Clément 2004a).
A seminal role in this direction is to be assigned to the Earth Art
experience, which faces with extraordinary critical strength the need for
relations between art and context. The charm of Earth Art recalls to some
extent the passion for desert landscapes and cities, which is strictly
correlated with the genuinely romantic charm exerted by the fragment, the
ruin, together with incompletion. But it is an attraction that can make the
imagination thrive and at the same time it is a place of memory (Ursprung
2004). Such attraction had a strong tie also with what Ignasi de Solà-
Morales has defined terrain vague, namely the passion for uncultivated
fields, where “the memory of the past seems to predominate over the
present”,21 but it also seems to make itself available to imagine a future
that is not predictable, not won over by the unavoidability of the “federal
bulldozer”, this being an acknowledgement of the positive ambiguity of
these places.
From another disciplinary side, but still from a position that aims at
exploring the positive ambiguities of space, Robert Smithson came up with
an interesting theoretical development in 1968 with his work A non site:
Pine Barrens, New Jersey. The sculpture is formed of six rows of five blue
aluminium containers that get increasingly higher and wider, filled with
sand from the land surrounding the airport. At the centre a hexagonal tank
is place, also filled with sand. The hexagonal map and the description of
the site constitute an integral part of the work. This invention was to offer
artists the possibility of adopting in their own field an instrument that
belonged at the same time to architecture: the “non-place”. The non-place
enabled a dialectic connection to be established between the context in the
expositive space and another place. The invention of the non-place
opened new doors to art. Departing from New York, artists swarmed in
subsequent years towards new expressive forms opening up new territories
for themselves and keeping them alive in the expositive spaces of the
130 Reinventing the City

galleries. The matter of place and that of relations between work of art and
surrounding territory became the centre of interest of the new research.
Starting with Smithson’s “non-place” the artists indicated their intention to
concretely occupy the spatiality of new territories, “to take the city by the
hand”, indeed. New concepts like that of “site selection”, i.e. the choice of
a suitable place, and that of “site specificity”, i.e. the idea that a work of art
should exist exclusively for a particular context, were introduced into art
terminology (Ursprung 2004).
The artists’ ability to facilitate the passage from enigmas, myths and
legends to life lived saves the city. Just as the community of Ulassai,
through the work of Maria Lai, has metaphorically been saved from the
collapse of the mountain, rediscovering its own ethnic roots and historic
memory (Menna 2006). It often happens that artists, with their sensitivity
and creativity, manage to understand well in advance themes later destined
to become the subject of a wide-ranging cultural and political debate. It
was like this in Sardinia, too, where over twenty years ago the
performance of an artist like Maria Lai posed the theme, nowadays
fundamental, of the relationship between physical space, place and
community. The scene of this memorable intervention was her hometown,
Ulassai in Sardinia, shaken by internal tensions and rivalry, which made it
a cluster of buildings but not a united social group. Maria tied each house
to the next with coloured ribbons in a lively, rich game of construction of
links and interactions, thanks to which the image was obtained, visualised
in a indelible fashion, of a space of relations between the different
dwellings (Tagliagambe 2006a). According to Tagliagambe, all those who
were involved in this game were forced to understand that “Ulassai”, its
soul, its intimate essence, its identity were represented much better and
much more by the ribbons than by the houses and the streets, because a
village is, first and foremost, a heterogeneous group of people who
communicate across the space. Following this process of communication
the village is no longer just a physical space, made up of details and
measurements, but it becomes a place, into which time is inserted
immediately and forcefully enters. Time as common past and collective
memory, and time as future, as expectation, as a shared project. Only by
this welding of space and time in a homogeneous, resistant weft can a
community emerge, which is, indeed, a series of links and relations having
to do with belonging to a place and belonging reciprocally to each other,
and such, therefore, as to always implicate, in an explicit or implicit way,
the problem of the identity of this place (Tagliagambe 2006a).
On 22 January 2003 Michael R. Bloomberg, the Mayor of New York
City, announced that the city had authorised the artists Christo and Jeanne-
Claude to realise their temporary artistic project: The Gates, Central Park,
Artists Take the City by the Hand 131

New York, 1979–2005. 7532 vinyl, orange-coloured gates, five metres

high, were placed along 37 kilometres of paths in Central Park. From the
high horizontal part of the structures panels hung of saffron-coloured
material which fluttered freely, at a height of approximately 2 metres
above the ground. The structures were 3–4.5 metres apart, thus enabling
each panel to sway towards the next one and to be seen even from afar
through the branches of the trees that were bare due to winter. The “Gates”
temporary project stayed on its feet for 16 days and subsequently the
structures were removed and the material recycled (Giussani 2005).
With The Gates Christo and Jeanne-Claude placed themselves in a
certain sense within the same trend of designers of processes of social
cohesion, of civitas, promoting in this case ephemeral, impersonal,
cosmopolitan social relations, in a park that recovered, though in different
forms and modalities, the role of counter-space compared with the space of
flows of the metropolis. Walking through The Gates it was possible to
enjoy the work through the play of warm coloured shadows. Seen from the
skyscrapers surrounding Central Park, The Gates looked like a golden river
that appeared and disappeared among the trees, highlighting the route of
the pedestrian paths. New York is a city of sidewalks and pedestrians. Of
crowds that move on foot, quickly and nervously, guided by the white and
red lights of the pedestrian crossings that say “walk” and “don’t walk” and
by instinct that dictates small trajectory adjustments to avoid colliding with
those walking in the opposite direction. It is a classical, unmistakeable
image also for those who have never been to New York: having seen it
over and again in an endless number of films. New York is the most
“walked” city in the world.
It was surprising to see many New Yorkers walk so slowly absorbed in
contemplation of the work, speaking almost in a whisper and with
genuinely happy expressions on their faces (Giussani 2005).
The contrast with the latent impatience and hostility of the pedestrians on
the sidewalks could not have been more marked. The “Gates” are the largest
artistic installation ever realised in New York – and probably therefore in the
world. The wind makes the nylon cloths dance, the sunlight plays with them,
and their Euclidean precision and formalism contrast with the sinuous curves
of the hills and the paths of the large park in the centre of Manhattan, with
the bare branches of the winter trees and the skyscrapers in the background.
The work is a magnificent creation of a public space that even the two artists
recognise to be without use, without a message, with no other purpose than
that of creating amazement and joy. Christo’s art aims at changing the way
we see the world and even if Central Park is marvellous as it is, walking
under the orange curtains we can have the impression of being in a
procession, under a “sky” of warm, reassuring reflections, taken from
132 Reinventing the City

wonder and made to smile. The “Gates” cannot really be explained: you can
only experience them in the physical space, but above all you can experience
the climate of social cohesion they create (Giussani 2005).
The ribbons used by Maria Lai, like Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s
curtains, are symbols, the material equivalent of immaterial meanings, like
reciprocal trust, the desire to converse and confront others, open-
mindedness, spirit of friendship and of collaboration. As Tagliagambe
says, symbols present themselves like an amphibian living simultaneously
in the internal world of man, in the form of ideas, values, sentiments and
emotions, and in the external one, where they take the form of a material
vehicle of any kind (Maria Lai’s ribbons, Christo and Jeanne-Claude’s
curtains, the banners or flags but also, for example, words, that are still
always a concrete, perceptible expression of the sense of our thinking) and,
indeed for this reason, are the most effective instrument of mediation
between these two different environments. They are effective, then,
precisely if, and inasmuch as, they manage to maintain this amphibian
nature of theirs, which means that they have to trigger movements in two
directions: from the internal world of man, towards the external world, as
reflection and activity of subjects, individual or collective, that slip into its
interior causing tangible consequences and effects; and as an action that is
born outside this internal world and received by the latter, rooting deeply
within it new concepts and new emotions, so strong as to manage to move
the boundary of the mind and the body with respect to their usual position,
that is to trigger specific effects on/in reality ultimately, to modify it
through the project (Tagliagambe 2006a).
The capacity of artists to deal with symbols has to do with the project
for the city because the city is the place of inhabiting, in the sense
Heidegger gives to the term and which, as Silvano Tagliagambe shows us,
“makes us understand that to inhabit a place it is not enough to be,
objectively, “at home”, inside a built dwelling or at least a place, natural or
artificial as it may be, which functions as a refuge, but we need instead to
feel at home, i.e. to fill that place with a series of symbolic meanings that
goes well beyond the need for a shelter, which are the expression of an
emotional need, before, and even more than, a biological need. The home
of our origins is not a building, it is not something “constructed”, but the
result of a conscious modification, on the part of man, of a small part of
the environment in which he lives, of reorganisation of the space aimed at
making it a welcoming place and above all familiar, where he recognises
himself and feels at ease precisely because of the symbolic reassurance it
is able to transmit due to the interventions, maybe small but significant,
that the person owning it has carried out (the building of a hearth; the
repeated imprints of hands on the rock, coloured white, ochre, red and
Horizons of Contemporary Public Space: Intermediate Spaces 133

black; the walls painted with scenes from daily life). The world of symbols
is therefore a fundamental, constituent aspect of dwelling, of “feeling at
home”, exactly because to inhabit in the authentic sense we need to have
roots, to be able to mediate between the external environment and the
internal universe, between the visible world and the invisible one. The
symbol is the most efficient instrument we have for carrying out this
mediation for, as Pavel Florenskij, who has studied its nature in depth and
made it the cardinal point of his philosophical and scientific reflections
(Tagliagambe 2006b), emphasises, it is a binomic unity, unity in diversity,
in which concrete reality and invisible mystery, finite and infinite, signifier
and signified, but also knowing subject and investigated object find
themselves synergically fused, though not muddled (Tagliagambe 2008).
On the other hand the action of artists also has the meaning of filling the
void that should be traced back to the incapacity shown by architecture to
create what Henry Lefebvre had defined “monumental spaces”. In his book
La production de l’espace, Lefebvre highlights the fact that architecture
was no longer able to give life to these spaces (Lefebvre 1991). His
incitement to recreate “monumental spaces” was greeted at the time only
in the sphere of art. The enormous demand for museums and spaces of
remembrance from the 80s, shows that Lefebvre’s analysis is still valid.
And still today, when monumentality is at stake, architects vibrate in the
direction of art (Ursprung 2004).
The setting up of relations carried out by Maria Lai in Ulassai and by
Christo and Jeanne-Claude in New York, but also the socialisation
connected with football in Salvador de Bahia, for example, or the
formation of a city culture on the one side by three carnivals (those of
Notting Hill in London, Salvador de Bahia and Tumaco in Colombia), and
on the other by the symbolic interpretations of the city that supply legends
or rap, are indications of the city taken by the hand by artists and
reinvented (Agier 1999a). Against those that diagnose the end of the city,
they show that the accent needs to be put on relations, interactions and
shared values.

Horizons of Contemporary Public Space: Intermediate


Artists demonstrate that by taking the city by the hand it is possible to

design it in our epoch, too, in which the sphere of urban decisions seems
decidedly to have been shifted to another urban universe, an inaccessible
elsewhere, an elsewhere in which increasing speeds make sure that an
134 Reinventing the City

ever-wider range of urban experiences is a reality of flows rather than of

things, in spite of the great quantity of materiality that surrounds us. But
one of the principal objectives of research on globalisation and
digitalisation is exactly that of retrieving the fixedness and materiality
underlying a large part of the global and the digital, and dimmed by the
dominant conviction that everything is becoming a flow (Beckmann 1998).
Moreover, it has been shown that the globalisation of activities and flows
depends to a large extent on a vast network of places, constituted above all
by global cities. These sites have many types of fixed resources within
them. Things and materiality are fundamental for digitalisation and
globalisation, and places are important for global flows (Sassen 2006b).
At the same time as impressive projects are proliferating these cities
enclose, however, many under-used spaces, often characterised more by
memory than by a current meaning. In some ways and on a different scale,
these under-used spaces also include the territories external to dense
metropolises, the small and medium cities of low-density territories. For
these spaces are part of the interior nature of the city yet have an intrinsic
externity, in that they remain external to its spatial schemes and its
organising logic based on the principle of utility. To throw ourselves onto
these spaces to develop property there would be a mistake, whereas to
maintain part of this opening might have more sense in terms of
capitalisation on future options at a moment in which utility logics are
changing with such rapidity.
There is a type of urban situation that dwells between the reality of the
impressive structures and the reality of abandoned places and which can be
central to the experience of the urban in that it enables interpretation of the
transitions and transformations of specific spatio-temporal configurations.
The work necessary to capture this fleeting quality that cities produce
and make legible is not easy to implement. Utility logics will be of no use.
As we have seen, artists may be a part of the answer, in the sense that
important artistic practices, going well beyond the “theme-parking” of the
city, its thematisation (Sorkin 1992; Warren 1994; Jacobson 1998; Augé
2000; Glaeser et al. 2001), enable something of this elusive urban quality to
be captured (Miles 1997).
The creation and location of public space is one of the lenses with which
it is possible to penetrate these types of issues. At this moment we are
experiencing a sort of public space crisis, deriving from its commercialisation,
privatisation and theme-parking, from the form of “city without city” (Sievert
2002). In a paradoxical fashion, the “city without city” or the “non-city” that
today conceals everything again becomes, once more – as De Azua points out:
Horizons of Contemporary Public Space: Intermediate Spaces 135

the true mirror of society and its most faithful representation, like the Gothic or Neoclassical
city represented their societies. This would extend the matter to the urgent study of the non-
citizen, or the simulacrum of the citizen, who believes he/she is free, lives in the heart of a
democracy and has a real decisional capacity over it, but not in the way of the Parisians of the
French revolution, the founders of American democracy or the Russians of 1917, but of their
images just as they appear in Hollywood films: bidimensional simulacrums, images of desire.
Without ideas, without effort and without a struggle. (De Azua 2003).

Also in the non-city of the non-citizens the space accessible to the

public is an enormous resource and such space is necessary in greater
quantities. But do not let us confuse the space accessible to the public with
public space. The latter needs to be external to the public space simulated
by the simulacrum city, in that it needs to be created by the practices and
subjectivity of individuals; with their practices space users end up creating
various types of “public dimension” (Williamson et al. 2002).
Researching this externity poses, however, some important questions.
What, nowadays, is the true public sphere in contemporary societies? What
is the contemporary public space that corresponds to it? How can we
design it? And, to stay on the subject of this work, in what way can the
project for the city construct contemporary public space? Alberto Pérez-
Gómez affirms that traditionally, the main objective of the city project was
the revelation of social and political order, therefore the vocation inherent
in the project for space is the configuration of public space, in its precise
meaning of a proposal for order (Pérez-Gómez 1994, 1996a). It may
nevertheless be argued that the privatising tendencies of the majority of
modern societies continue to increase, and “symbolic space” does not
interest the individuals of the industrialised, developed world. In an
emblematic way – we have already emphasised this – Richard Sennett
speaks of the “modern fear of exposing oneself”, linking it with the
ghettoisation of differences, a recurrent way in which the city has taken
shape in the metropolises, removing social contact (Sennett 1991).
The French revolution, unequivocally giving an example, perhaps for
the first time, of an authentic historical change, announced the values that
we associate with democracy and modern individualism. This occurrence,
which – as Foucault observes – defines the end of the “era of
representation”, in some ways ratifies the end of public space as the space
of representation of power, but also as the space of identification with
power. This has determined a profound epistemological change, deeply
transforming society’s expectations with respect to spaces shared by
society itself. The private sphere becomes more and more important, while
public ritual sees its legitimacy questioned (Pérez-Gómez 1994, 1996a).
The significance of public space will never again be an undisputable fact,
in the sense that it is to be considered as a cultural reality under
136 Reinventing the City

transformation, intimately related with the historicity itself of culture. This

is why contemporary public space can neither be conceived as the “space
of representation” of power (for example of the ‘mediatic’ power of the
simulacrum city), nor in a simplistic manner as a typology of public
squares or “designed” areas of the city, however attractive they may be
formally (Pérez-Gómez 1994).
But which then is the public space of today? Are there alternatives to the
telematic space that seems more and more popular as a substitute forum
for public interaction? Perhaps it is possible to demonstrate – following
Pérez-Gómez’ arguments – how our tradition might offer other alternatives
(Pérez-Gómez 1994). Public space derives in the first place from the
human condition of plurality, the preliminary requisite of that space of
appearance that is the public sphere, the space of visibility in which some
appear to others and they acknowledge each other, which basically
constitutes the condition of possibility of “being-together”.22 If the agorà
was the unequivocal space for public speaking, there is nevertheless a
tradition of alternative public space related to the Greek theatre, where
catharsis took place, a purification that allowed each citizen to discover a
sense of purpose or belonging. This recognition that made each spectator
“a whole” took place, not so much through the predictable actions of the
actors, but through the mediation of the chorus, a group of men who sang
and danced, acting on the circular dance platform, the platform of the
orchestra, a liminal space, a “threshold” space, for interaction between the
chorus, which represented the public, and the actors moved by the will of
the gods. The orchestra platform was not the space of the spectator or the
actor, it was the centre of attention for everybody, it was an “intermediate
space” (Pérez-Gómez 1994, 1996a). A space for the mediation of
messages, an intermediate, uncertain context and therefore propitious for
transformation, where it was possible to carry out the transformation of the
gods’ messages, where it was possible, indeed, “to move without feeling
manipulated” (Abalos 2004).
The theme of intermediate space is dealt with by Silvano Tagliagambe
in his essay on the Russian philosopher Pavel Florenskij with reference to
the theory of the symbol worked out by the latter (Tagliagambe 2006b).
Florenskij’s intermediate spaces are the spaces of the invisible that the
project makes visible, i.e. an intermediate world between subjective and
objective. Florenskij studied the nature of the symbol in depth and made it
the cardinal point of his philosophical and scientific reflections.23 It is a
binomic unity, unity in diversity, which is inseparable from the presence of
the skacok, the intermediate zone, namely where conceptualisation of the
mystery of the invisible should be realised. Reference to this “zone”
represents one of the most problematic questions, as it is difficult to define
Horizons of Contemporary Public Space: Intermediate Spaces 137

with the rational instruments at our disposal. Nevertheless, we are dealing

with an essential entity for interaction between the two dimensions,
apparently irreconcilable, of the existence of man, the visible and the
invisible, everyday experience and the insuppressible tendency towards an
aldilà, to something “further” compared with this (Tagliagambe 2008), a
concept that corresponds to the cognitive process we associate with the
In the anthropology of Fink, a great pupil of Husserl, man knows
himself to be in his work an agent of the reality that surrounds him and a
part of a society which he confronts and collides with; in the loving
relationship he is only a fragment in need of completion; in play, finally,
and here Nietzschean suggestions transpire more vividly, he may inhabit
the intermediate spaces of the “as-if” and the passages between the real
and the imaginary, or that unreality in which sense and significance are
heralded (Fink 1979 quoted in Baptist 2001).
Like in the Greek theatre orchestra, in the intermediate spaces it is
possible to mediate and transform the messages coming from the immense
visual flow of competitiveness and commercialisation of the contemporary
city (Wenders 1992). In these spaces we have the chance to refuse the
claims of vertical knowledge and dogmatic truths. This is the “transverse
reason” spoken of by Wolfgang Welsch,24 who discovers, however, the
substantial reference back to the understanding of knowledge as a
horizontal adventure and as a capacity for crossing intermediate spaces,
this being a concept constituting the heart of the post-modern modality of
knowing and being.
The concept of intermediate space thus designates the symbolic-
practical complex around which a society can recognise itself.
Intermediate spaces, then, understood not just or not so much as boundary
zones in the territorial sense, but rather as zones of cultural and
disciplinary interchange, as attempts to “get over” constituted mental and
cultural orders. Attempts that are possible only in territories external to the
metropolises. In the context of our contemporary metropolises, the border
areas, obsolete, forgotten by development, present themselves with this
character. These marginal areas, the representation of the black holes in the
conscience of a city, residual spaces, discarded, no-man’s-land, interstitial
spaces where neither private property nor public law exists, seem to offer
possibilities for new participatory situations to emerge. Ignasi de Solà-
Morales has expressed the origin of this perception in the art of
photography and has illustrated the relevance of the theme of the outsider
and alienation (de Solà-Morales 1995).. They are the spaces where the
“city of places” re-emerges in the “city of flows”. But the city of places is
in some ways latent, veiled, and only shows itself as a set of traces. Where
138 Reinventing the City

the concept of trace cannot be reduced to the historic palimpsest of classical

analysis, but – as Derrida notes – “it relates what we call future no less than
to what we call the past” (Derrida 1998). In these spaces the landscape
project has to do precisely with the revelation of the traces of the city of
places, of its externity with respect to the world of urban flows. In these
spaces, far from the flows, the urban landscape project creates conditions
that are propitious for social practices, even new ones that make a new
concept of public space constructed by people’s habits imaginable, what we
call “contemporary public space”, going beyond the monumentalised public
spaces of the institutions or the spaces of commercial representation.
While the historic models of public space supported narrations linked
with religion, justice or military power, this space does not represent any
special type of power, in the sense that it is an empty space in the midst of
a crowded context, a place without a plan. More and more introspective
spaces are the only environments that manage to communicate a sense of
truth to our society. Their nature is such that they allow us both social
contact and the idea of the “individual isolated in the midst of a crowded
environment” (Abalos 2006). We might say that the representative role of
public space combines a collective ideal with an individual ideal.

Counterspace and Disenchantment with the Modern City

As it is external, both to the concepts of tradition and to the concept of

public space of the simulated city, intermediate space introduces the
concept of “counterspace” and for the city opens up the perspective of
being reinvented precisely in its counterspaces. In the contemporary city,
counterspace is in some ways the place of many little things miraculously
saved from an inexorable process of simplification in the direction of what
is large, which is a disease of the contemporary city.
The category of counterspace – observes de Solà- Morales – refers to
past time. Just as the introduction of public parks in capital cities in the
19th Century aimed at bringing nature into the city as counterspace, at the
moment when the cities of the first industrial revolution were built, as an
antidote to the new industrial city, so our post-industrial culture calls for
spaces of freedom, of indefinition, of unproductiveness, but this time not
linked with the mythical notion of nature but with the experience of
memory, of romantic enchantment with the absent past as a critical arm in
the face of the banal productivist present. This absence must be saved at all
costs; the difference between the “federal bulldozer” of transformation at
all costs and sensitive closeness to these places of memory and ambiguity
Counterspace and Disenchantment with the Modern City 139

must be emphasised. If the notion of “mutation” is the fittest for

understanding urban transformation phenomena, the notion of terrain
vague constitutes practically its partner in counterpoint, its counterspace,
the other side of the metropolitan coin. Only equal attention to both the
values of innovation and the values of the memory of the absence will be
capable of keeping faith alive in a complex, plural urban life (de Solà-
Morales 1995).
The theme of counterspace is nowadays connected with disenchantment
with the modern city, which characterises a critical tradition always in
search of alternative spaces outside or within the city, real and acceptable
compared with the daily reality of aggressive, anonymous, ugly
metropolises. A disenchantment inherent in the urban pessimism, which
characterises the tradition of city disciplines and considers the city of the
present a foretaste of a better life.25
But the concept of counterspace is also related to the appearance of the
notions of “environment” as a concept that transcends the isolated value of
single buildings: urban environment, urban surroundings, notions coming
from the landscape tradition in which formal values cannot be separated
from evocative, significant and historic ones. An interest is growing out of
these conditions, a passion for urban situations like the terrains vagues:
vague in the sense of vacant, empty, free of unproductive activities, often
wasteland; vague in the sense of unclear, undefined, vague, without
specific limits, without an urgent future.
Our cities are rich in these territories. Policies try to integrate them into
the efficient, syncopated, busy, effective city, but sensitive people react to
this type of disenchanted policy. For the terrains vagues are the places
where the present and past meet, the best places of identity, the only
uncontaminated ground to exercise individual or small-group freedom (de
Solà-Morales 1995). They are for the city what Gilles Clément calls Third
landscape.26 “In the farthest and sometimes poorest countries the first
thing that shows itself to you is the last building: it is a conquest. In a
country like France, when a town council has areas that have been
abandoned, the mayor is alarmed: he is ashamed. These two behaviours go
in the same direction. A withdrawal in the visible power of man is
considered a serious defeat.” (Clément 1994).
To observe the residual waste, its functioning. To observe behaviours
that are carried out in these places, the beings who find citizenship there.
In the glance that rests on the Third landscape, namely on the other side of
the organised world, there are cues for relevant, original and subtly
subversive criticism against some planning techniques (De Pieri 2005).
Counterspaces are therefore the places for the contemporary city project.
They are the places where the uncertain city lives (Agier 1999a), where
140 Reinventing the City

one can act, where one can be self-directed, not hetero-directed by mass
organisation. They are the places of wonder, the same type of wonder that
is established between a man and a woman and that Wenders (The Sky
above Berlin) considers inherent in reproduction, and that for the city is an
introduction to the project and to regeneration.
The theme of wonder as a feature inherent in the project is recalled by
Carlo Migliaccio in his essay devoted to the relationship between music
and utopia in Bloch (Migliaccio 1996). In a letter to Lukács, Bloch refers
to listening to Mahler’s Lied von der Erde and Wagner’s Tristan with
words that indicate the idea of listening to music as a subjective
experience, a journey towards the centre of ourselves: “It sings endlessly
in me”. This receptive centre of subjectivity and musical experience is
characterised for Bloch as something latent or lacking, and this ties up with
the philosophical reflections on the moment lived and on wonder. For the
moment is an impalpable beat that precludes any vital experience: it cannot
be seized except at the moment in which it is not, when it has already
passed and when it has yet to come. Inserted, therefore, in a dimension of
obscurity and distance from itself and from the world, subjectivity has
simultaneously the capacity to seize in the “cracks” of its own
inauthenticity – or its own collocation in an objective, spatialised time –
the code of a potential aperture to the new, to the “not-yet” contained in
every moment, which before becoming explicit appears as a glow, as
something unheard, object thus of marvel and wonder. It is music which,
more than any other art, enables the expression of this “inexpressible” and
the respective utopian tension, because it is for Bloch the art most suited to
subjective restlessness and sentiments of hope (Bloch 1986; Boella 1986).
The German philosopher concentrates his attention on western music and a
historic span going from the origins of counterpoint to atonality. The
fulchrum of this path is undoubtedly the figure of Beethoven, the musician
who for Bloch embodies more than others dissatisfaction with the present
and anxiety for the new. A century later, Gustav Mahler represented the
same utopian needs (Migliaccio 1996).
The trajectory of urban utopias was interrupted when urban strategy
became business strategy. The break in this trajectory marked the
impossibility for the city to be planned any more; for this an externity
needed to be sought with regard to the market, and counterspace to be
designed in respect of the spaces of the “consumercity” (Glaeser et al.
2001). In this sense counterspaces are the places of the “fragile”, but also
creative places par excellence, places where artists can take the city by the
hand and open up new urban visions, as we have seen with Maria Lai and
Christo, places where awareness is grasped of the environmental
infancy of the city. In the city’s counterspaces, which are external to
Counterspace and Disenchantment with the Modern City 141

the “market city” it is possible to open up new perspectives for the city,
perspectives that take the city as a collective, self-organised fact, where
the city finds the reasons and strength to assert the solidity of its “structural
organisation” (Maturana and Varela 1987), and with this the deep meanings
of the landscape inherited.
The purpose of the project for space is to reveal in the places of the city
these meanings that “we drag along with us and which drag us along with
them” (Piccardo 2001). Where these meanings are revealed, there
contemporary public space is manifest, which allows each citizen to
discover a sense of purpose or belonging, but also makes each citizen “a
whole”, an individual in a crowded space, a recognition similar to what
came about, as we seen, in the Greek theatre, and which took place not so
much through the predictable actions of the actors, but by the mediation of
the chorus (Pérez-Gómez 1996a), the intermediate space, which – as we
have remarked in the previous pages – is an innate feature of contemporary
public space. For this, every gesture, even the smallest, has the task of
revealing the meanings of this common world.
Small gestures, present for example in the works of the landscaper
Georges Descombes (Léveillé and Descombes 1991; Wrede and Adams
1991; Corner 1999; Nicolin and Repishti 2003), such as in the park of
Lancy, on the outskirts of Geneva, where on muddled, degraded territory a
few marginal elements have recreated a microgeography of elements
equivalent to pre-existing ones and have given origin to a specific place.
The conceptual themes of the relationship between architecture and
landscape and the “walk” to explore, recurrent in the work of Descombes,
are also reflected in the Voie Suisse, a physical and conceptual park-walk
which winds for 35 kilometres around the lake of Uri, marked by elements
and presences that reinforce the exploration and understanding of natural
places, otherwise hidden. Artists also have the capacity to facilitate the
passage from enigmas, myths and legends to life lived which may save the
city. But there are also large gestures like that carried out by a large city
like Barcelona which updated its urban perspectives in the 90s, integrating
the double spatial grid of Cerdà’s ensanche with the dominants of its
environmental system, the Collserola, the coastal strip, the Besòs and the
Llobregat, the two rivers respectively defining the northern and southern
edges of the city. In a certain sense this is a matter of another grid, not
geometrical, which, together with the double spatial grid, constitutes the
generative structure enabling the city to develop without discomposing.
The urban life of Barcelona, which is shifting to the coastal strip, where
the city seeks its natural environment by reconstituting the beaches in
place of the railway goods park, is proof that the city of places can reveal
itself also in the city of flows. The urban landscape project for the coastal
142 Reinventing the City

strip of Barcelona has effectively made the meanings of the environmental

system of the city emerge and has prepared the citizens to adapt, in an
environmental sense, their behaviour. And it has shown them a possible way
of contributing to public awareness and the construction of contemporary
public space revealing the “city of places” in the “city of flows”.
This type of behaviour is explained for biological systems by Maturana
and Varela’s “theory of autopoietic systems”(Maturana 1988; Varela 1987,
1989; Varela et al. 1991), which surpasses the classical evolutionist
paradigm of cognitive processes, revealing promising perspectives for the
city project. According to this theory the evolutionary process of a system
is the result of evolution between system and environment – therefore
between different systems – which depends both on the continuity of the
internal organisation of systems and the system-environment balance.27
This entails a radical change of paradigms of cognitive processes, and in
particular of those used to analyse the projectual process. According to
Tagliagambe, from this point of view, the world ceases to appear as an
object, an event, a process in itself. Actually it resembles more a
background, a scenario and a field of action for all our experience that,
however, cannot be found separate from our structure, our behaviour, our
cognition (Tagliagambe 1994).
It is the transition of the project towards effective action, towards a
relationship with reality that forces us to bring into play and compare our
moral values. For this reason Maria Lai’s project emblematically shows
how the project has now escaped from its self-referential condition of
merely technical instrument to move towards the sphere of ethics and
social legitimisation.
We are also in this case in the sphere of what we have defined “radical
constructivism” (Von Glasersfeld 1992), which proposes that all content of
knowledge be considered as a operation of construction. This means that
we cannot pre-establish a route, an algorithm, in our mind and then
develop it in practice, like in the algorithmic conception of the project, but
we build the project while we are developing it. Only in this way is the
construction of new meanings possible, detaching elements conveying
meanings from the referents to which they are usually tied, and
reintroducing them in a weave of combinations, governed by a set of
conventional rules.
It is, in effect, the characteristic of combinatorial meaning that it leads to
the “opening up” of systems of linguistic combination and allows the user
“productivity” or “novelty of expression…” (Luhmann 1990). We have
examined in previous pages the illustration of this concept by Bruner who
analyses the “combinatorial” function of the metaphor in passing from the
painting of Cimabue to that of Giotto, which entails a gradual process of
Counterspace and Disenchantment with the Modern City 143

humanisation of the figure of Christ. We have also argued how the

combinatory effort to connect experiences concerns not only the creation
but also the understanding of the work, which links, namely, construction
and knowledge (Bruner 1975), in the sense that we cannot understand the
world exclusively by representing it, but we need to design it
(Tagliagambe 1994).
The project for the city has in some ways the same modalities, in that it
is configured as a form of action which explores the possible alternatives
departing from reality, combining the traces of the tale that has led to the
current situation. The city seems to include the categories and modalities
that preside over urban formation like a thesaurus, enclosing in a certain
sense the genetic secret of its urban autopoiesis. According to the “theory
of autopoietic systems”, the fundamental components of the evolution of a
system reside in its “operational closure” and in its “self-referential
aperture”. The latter component, in particular, has a more marked
“external” dimension; in a certain sense externity is an intrinsic feature of
autopoiesis. In the case of the project for the city – we might say –
externity is an intrinsic feature of the regeneration project. This is why we
are seeking urban situations that will possess this feature or into which this
feature may be introduced.
Calvino’s Le città invisibili may help us to grasp the problem we are
dealing with in its basic meaning. “Speaking of Despina, a city that can be
reached in two ways, by ship or by camel, and which looks different
depending on whether you arrive by land or by sea, our author emphasises
that “each city receives its form from the desert it opposes; and thus the
camel-rider and the sailor see Despina, a border city between two deserts”
(Calvino 1972). We may call “self-referential aperture” this process of
identity that derives indeed from this opposition in respect of the
environment and from the perception of the difference between one’s own
internal organisation and that of the context of reference. What the theory
of autopoietic systems and the concept of self-organisation aim at
highlighting is that any agent seeking to know his own world, being
always and completely immersed in the latter, can never put himself
outside it, to understand and verify how its contents agree with the
representations he creates of them. His action aims rather at “cutting out”
or “placing in front” – of a multiple, heterogeneous background, which
lends itself to different possibilities of “reading” – the relevant contexts
and problems to which to refer at any moment in his existence: and these
contexts and problems are never “given”, they are not “grasped” or
“received” like something that is pre-packed, but are the result of a set of
“knowledges” and “skills” that shape the world, categorise it, make details
emerge from it, on each occasion applicable and relevant (Maciocco and
144 Reinventing the City

Tagliagambe 1998). Just as “each city receives its form from the desert it
opposes”, each city receives from its counterspaces the possibilities of its
project. To give a further explanation of the concept of counterspace and
its project potential from outside the contemporary city, it might be useful
to refer to the “Metropolis of Holland”, the projectual idea of Luigi Snozzi,
the urbanist architect from Ticino who has dealt with an extremely
complicated theme raising much controversy, which, nevertheless, beyond
its intrinsic utopian nature, has a precise instructive value indeed with
respect to the concept of counterspace, a value that is tied in some ways to
the “strength of character” with which Snozzi defended his project in the
face of the scepticism of those who commissioned it (Maciocco 2003).
The “strength of character”, in the complex sense that Hillman attributes
to this expression, also represents the capacity for expressing thought in
the form of images, so that by listening we can hear, register and see the
images in our mind. We will therefore begin to see again what we saw
before abstractions took over our mind, and language will go back to
corresponding to the world (Hillman 2000): this is the form of thought
belonging to the project, where the act of thinking consists of depicting
images within oneself and working intimately on them. This form of
thought is the matrix of the project as interaction in that it urges
interlocutors to enrich the images expressed by their own images, a
process which, according to the anthropologist Keith Basso, is commonly
compared with the process of adding stones to complete a wall or placing
bricks on the foundations of a house (Basso 1996).
This means that to start interaction images are needed that are equipped
with “strength of character”, “characterised images that are in a certain
sense a part of the project as a form of thought and action. A form that
produces interaction which, in turn, produces knowledge: understood in
this sense, the project is not resolutive, but cognitive, in that it is
interactive knowledge that favours collective construction of the city.
Projectual knowledge is therefore a primary form of knowledge for urban
action. It is the form of knowledge that is intrinsic in Luigi Snozzi’s
disciplinary position, whose criticism of projects “rich in analyses but poor
in project”,28 as well as outlining a formulation radically distant from the
supremacy of analytical knowledge, affects the problem of mobilisation of
knowledge for urban action and, more in general, of which knowledge for
action (Crosta 1998). The different forms of knowledge – expert
knowledge, that derived from experience, that produced by action – can
turn out to be combined in various ways and all have a value for action,
but interactive knowledge is above all the knowledge for action, in that it
is produced within the action itself for which it is used, due to the very fact
that it is produced while acting. It is therefore innately strategic, in that it
Counterspace and Disenchantment with the Modern City 145

can be adapted to the interactive context belonging to the project for the
city (Crosta 1998).
As an interactive context the project needs a communicable form of
thought, it needs to arouse the imagination. This is a form of action which
takes place in the shape of images that links up with common sense.
Unlike abstract definitions, which solidify language, conversations
characterised by clear images, like the “Metro Polis” proposed by Snozzi,
resemble not clear, enclosed objects, but rather “projects to be completed”
(Basso 1996), an invitation to exercise the imagination, an encouragement
to continue interaction open to common sense meanings, outside the
institutionalised procedures which pre-establish sense, losing the chance of
revealing the identity of things (Crosta 1998).
The architect from Ticino has a particular capacity for getting in touch
with common sense, almost a radio link activated through the project
without pursuing winding analytical paths in search of preliminary
participation in the project, which, precisely because it is preliminary, is
not incorporated and activated in projectual action. Since without
projectual interaction, common sense meanings and the relations and
interactions belonging to a perspective for collective action as a part of
identity are lost, a perspective that is particularly important in Dutch
spatial experience, which moves from the scenario of a group of cities
towards the new horizon of the Delta Metropolis.
In this way we may interpret the project as a form-process that is at the
bottom of Luigi Snozzi’s action, and which has a particularly significant
example in the experience still underway of the small residential centre at
Monte Carasso in Ticino Canton.
For the reasons explained up to now, the same concept – though in
an inaugural form – may be rediscovered in the Dutch Delta Metropolis
project, which is causing bewilderment because of the elementary
circular geometry of Dutch metropolitan space, which would not seem
adequate to represent the complexity of processes and the
unpredictability of the contemporary urban world. But the adoption of
the correspondence between the complexity of the processes of city
formation and spatial geometries, between urban dynamics and the
“fluid” images that have characterised many recent urban projects or, as
they are called, “spatial regulatory plans” (Burdett 2002), is a reflective
sliding, an “acknowledgement” of the complexity perceived, which is not
necessarily legitimised. It is not legitimate to associate with the geometric
definition of urban design the capacity of resisting the unpredictability of
urban and territorial dynamics: clear patterns like Cerdà’s Barcelona or
Wagner’s Vienna and geometrically undefined patterns, like the surgical
cuts performed by Hausmann in Paris, have similarly affected urban
146 Reinventing the City

matters of capital cities which faced the spatial impacts of the first
industrial revolution without becoming discomposed (Choay 1994a).
The background figure of the Delta Metropolis is the “global city-
region”, an important category of the new conceptual architecture of the
urban universe (Sassen 1991, 1994b), designed by Saskia Sassen. A scenario
emerges, the future phases of which will have the global cities and global
city-regions as a core element of the organising structure of a global
economy. These constructs show significant differences in respect of scale
and competitiveness, in the sense that the global city-regions are a concept
fit for demands on nature and specificity of urbanisation models. For they
are strongly characterised basic infrastructures, they move towards the
widespread needs of the middle class and offer both specialised and non-
specialised employment. The global cities host strategic components of the
global economy, like finance and specialised services, they have
principally to do with matters of power, there is a disproportionate
concentration both of jobs with a very high income and those with a very
low one. There are important matters of inequality between highly stocked
city spaces and spaces that are severely underprivileged. The global city-
region tends more to fairness, but must be perceived by the inhabitants as a
Snozzi’s proposal is an image that speaks of a city-region tending
towards spatial equity, perceptible as such by the inhabitants with the cities
arranged in a circle with equal starting conditions and with the
metropolitan infrastructure of mobility that indicates urban quality as a
phenomenon of the field and not just an attribute of the central places. It is
an urban region that has character, language once again corresponds to the
world and may start off a process of interaction for collective construction
of a territorial city endowed with identity: almost a conversation by
images, open and not closed, but unlike the abstract conversations of
analytical knowledge, a conversation that expresses the need of the project
and in this sense starts it off. The urban projects of the architect from
Ticino have a processual character that is based on a structural image. For
it is the structure of Monte Carasso that presides over urban evolution and
grants sense to the elements and interventions, but also in the Dutch
proposal the total structure of the Delta Metropolis is first singled out, and
subsequently the sense of the elements that legitimise it. This approach
which is inverted compared with the linear route centred on analytical
knowledge is an acquired outcome of recent studies on the construction of
knowledge for action, in the sense that when faced with any space the first
problem to be posed is to single out the structural organisation and
subsequently the sense of the elements that compose it. In particular the
theme is explored in cognitive science by the studies of Gaetano Kanizsa
Counterspace and Disenchantment with the Modern City 147

(Kanizsa 1980), who, with the Gestaltists lays claim to the autonomous
character of visual perception and the modalities of visual organisation
with respect to thought processes.
To perceive is always to design: the project is the constituent element of
visual perception: perception without designing does not exist. In the first
place, in the etymological sense: to design is always to project oneself
outside, to project one’s own image outside, and then to design also means
to select departing from a point of view (Bertoz 1998).
This means that at the base of the physiology of action and perception
there is a project, meant exactly in the sense in which we had begun to
define it, namely as a capacity to select aims and objectives and
reconstruct the situation departing from these: it is here that we find the
determinant value of what we have called “structural organisation”. What
we see is determined by how “we organise” the shape: perception is
fundamentally signal organisation, not pure reception. We see the structure
and interpret the elements on the basis of the structure we have activated.
What guides our capacity to organise in one way rather than another is the
project (Bertoz 1998). Thus it is the project that determines organisation
and it is organisation that acts as the principle of selection and weeding-out
of complexity. Perception is not, therefore, a representation of the world, a
reproduction of its features, but an action simulated and projected on the
Snozzi’s impatience with the preliminary forms of analytical knowledge
and his preference for the modalities of structural perception characterise –
though in a very different way – the events of Monte Carasso and Metro
Polis. If, for example, we borrow from linguistics the concepts of
denotation and connotation (Manieri Elia 2006) which define respectively
the essential apparatuses and external ones of an object, we can see how
Snozzi’s position has always been much more attentive to the denotative
apparatuses than to connotative ones, to the deep structures of the city
rather than representative apparatuses. The images with which Gabriele
Basilico describes the experience of Monte Carasso, where Snozzi’s
interventions do not seem to be noticeable in the inhabited parts as they
are ingrained in the structure of the small centre, emblematically
represent the denotative tension that animates the projectual proposals of
the architect from Ticino; a projectual tension that through denotation
seeks materiality, reveals hidden stories of the city, stories of men, not
only of representations, stories of construction, contributing with
fragments of authenticity to a recuperation process of the sense of our
present connected with the image and representation.
But this structural tension is also present in the Dutch proposal, in which
Snozzi brings together and implements the three phases of metropolitan
148 Reinventing the City

development of the European city. The first phase is characterised by

generative structures tied to spatial geometry. The circle of Metro Polis
can in a certain sense be associated with the inaugural spatial images of the
capital cities of the first industrial revolution, like Cerdà’s double grid in
Barcelona and the radiocentric pattern of Vienna. The second phase is
characterised by the irruption of the environmental dimension into the city
project. Generative structures extend to the system of “environmental
dominants” (Maciocco 1995a), spatial geometries are integrated by spatial
places and concepts belonging to the environmental system. The Barcelona
urban experiences of the 80s and 90s, with the tidying role of the coastal
strip, in which the search for the natural environment of the city
materialised in the new beaches of the Olympic port, are significant of this
In a passage from the description of Delta Metropolis, Snozzi faces the
theme of the relationship between city and country, fully giving back the
plain to the country. Compared with the pre-industrial European city’s
belonging to the country (Choay 1994a) – described by Mumford – and
vice-versa of the country to the industrial city, the post-industrial city
requires biunivocity: the country belongs to the city for processes of urban
and regional space organisation, but the city belongs to the country
because this represents its unrenounceable environmental platform. Snozzi
adopts this mutual belonging forcing the clear distinction between the two
entities but also the unseparable relationship of complementarity on which
the construction of the urban region is based: the space of the post-
industrial metropolis is the “green heart” of the large Dutch plain, which
plays the role of urban generator as counterspace of the annular
metropolitan figure. The third phase, defined – perhaps boldly – as the
“urban turn” (Burdett 2002), adopts a conceptual background which links
the formation of the contemporary metropolis with its being set up as
network of “dense strategic nodes”. It is one of the new forms of centrality
that radically modify historic centralities largely incorporated in the
principal cities, in the sense that the new technologies and forms of
organisation have altered the terms of spatial correlation of centrality
(Sassen 2002).
To this new form of centrality based on dense nodes it is possible to
make forms of urbanity correspond which, according to Richard Sennett
(Sennett 1991), are affected in a decisive way by mixtures of situations
with a high formal and functional variety. Urbanity as the outcome of the
functional and iconic density of the nodes of a metropolitan network has a
sociological explanation which refers to the opposing pair of concepts of
accessibility and separation which characterise life in contemporary cities.
Concepts that Sennett takes up again, discussing the most significant
Counterspace and Disenchantment with the Modern City 149

metaphors of modern man in the metropolitan condition: Georg Simmel’s

“stranger” and Hannah Arendt’s “exile” (Bagnasco 1999).
As we have emphasised in the previous pages, in accentuating the range
of the separation strategy, Sennett speaks of the “modern fear of exposure”
as a reaction of defence and detachment from the dangerous, chaotic,
conflictive, contemporary metropolis. This fear is reflected in the way the
city has taken shape and is revealed in full show nowadays in the
metropolises built marginalising the differences by creating neutralising
spaces that remove social contact (Bagnasco 1999). The remedy is to be
found, according to Sennett, also in a different way of designing cities,
which will exclude the restriction of differences, indeed will favour a
blending, even radical, of them, an “urban turn” requiring innovation in
form and language, formal and functional variety, to reflect the complexity
of contemporary life.
In the Dutch project the urban intersections of metropolitan infrastructure
form dense nodes with a high iconic and functional variety, which include
the strong social complexity connected with interregional migrations.
Nodes with an identity role, founded on recognisability, but averse to
unrealistically ambitious symbolic rhetorics. Snozzi’s conception of the
project represents his anarchic soul, his impatience with procedures, his
innate preference for practices. In spite of the definition of spatial outlines,
his projectual approach is open to non-institutionalised practices. The
distinction between analysis and project tends to disappear, whereas
knowledge of reality has in the project the form of thought and action that
feeds conscious interpretation of the complexity of the phenomena and
actors involved, in a continuous alternation of the subject’s position with
respect to reality.
The ethical outlines of action come to mind of the first Regional
Planners, who took the region as a reference unit for the project of an
urbanity that was no longer an exclusive attribute of a central place. They
nurtured their concrete utopias on forms endowed with “strength of
character”, like Mumford’s “Fourth Migration” for the plan of great New
York, forms that consider a territory active, as a group of different subjects
and viewpoints; but also forms like Metro Polis which tend to sway the
inhabitants towards discussing the project of their future, to reveal their
spatial images, expectations, desires, aspirations on the prospects of their
spatial experience, which cannot be exclusively confined in vitro to
institutionalised procedures. In the concrete utopia of the construction of
this regional city there is a Geddesian background which is discovered in
the strategy of the glance: the glance from above from a small aeroplane
and the wandering glance from a car over Dutch territory. It is in a certain
sense the metaphor of a circular relationship between the planner and the
150 Reinventing the City

citizen (Ferraro 1998). Whereas the writing of the planner is the tale and
description, the reading on the part of the citizen invites the citizen himself
to walk observing in the tracks of the planner. Like in Monte Carasso,
Snozzi’s projects open up with the planner’s interpretative look and
conclude with the active look of the citizen.

The “Void” and the City Project

Through Calvino’s reflections on Despina, the “city that receives its form
from the desert it opposes”, we can single out a first family of urban
situations with the character of externity, in which the “self-referential
aperture” marks the possibilities of regeneration of the city. Despina’s
“desert” has in this case the meaning that the “void” occupies in the city
project. In Wenders’ films the “voids” of the contemporary city have a
crucial role, they enable the inhabitants to see little to be able to create an
image of the city for themselves. The film director explains this concept,
referring to it in connection with the film The Sky above Berlin:
Berlin has many empty surfaces. Houses can be seen with completely empty walls
because the house next door was not rebuilt after the bombing. The disheartening side walls
of these blocks are called fire-breaks and do not exist anywhere else. They are like wounds,
and I like the city for its wounds, which tell me its story much better than any book or
document. During the filming of The Sky above Berlin , I realised that I was always looking
for these empty surfaces, this no-man’s-land, because I had the impression that this city
could be represented much better by the empty zones than by the occupied ones.
When there is too much to see, when an image is too full or when there are too many
images, you do not see anything any more. From too much you very quickly pass to
nothing, as you certainly know. And you also know another effect: when an image is bare,
poor, it can prove so expressive as to entirely satisfy the observer, and thus we pass from
emptiness to fullness. A cineaste is continuously grappling with these problems in
preparing every shot and must take care not to leave in the picture what he intends to
capture and show to the public, because everything that needs to be shown, and that the
image must contain, is explained in what is left out. (Wenders 1992).

It is in some ways what happens to cities, which are “so full of every
kind of thing that they have cancelled out the essential, namely they are
empty. The desert, on the other hand, is so empty that it is overflowing
with the essential.” (Wenders 1992).
Externity is a crucial feature of the void, which can be thought of as a
conceptual space that enables the city to be explained and designed. From
this angle the theme of the void does not necessarily refer to a dimension
separate from the urban space, but marks a willingness towards the project,
towards exploration of the interwoven relations described by the topology
The “Void” and the City Project 151

that presides over the history of the settlement. A call for reflection on the
sense of man’s home, as a search for the primary elements of its
construction, a search for the urban essential, to be found also in contexts
of visual exaltation that tend to “normalise” all points of view.
This capacity to reflect on the essential in these contexts is found
emblematically in the Sardinian artist Costantino Nivola. A sculptor
known in the United States, where he had systematically collaborated with
Le Corbusier and had actively frequented the world of American
architecture, Nivola continued to look, on American soil, for “landscapes
at the lowest level of chromatic parsimony” (Nivola 1993, p. 85), taking
with him a specific point of view rooted in his origins: the desire to listen
to silence, to orient the glance to grasp from the great landscape spaces of
the island the essence and sense of his path of research.
Thinking of Nivola, we recall his capacity to maintain a point of view
rooted in his origins when he describes the first day of sketches in New
York “starting from the ground – the first level”, which makes him feel
inadequate for the purpose due to the visual exaltation produced by Eighth
Avenue: “Too much to see, too much to choose from” (Nivola 1993), or
when he portrays winter in the Vermont countryside, where “the snow, the
trees without leaves, … reduce landscape polychromy to the lowest level
of chromatic parsimony”, where it is possible to draw trees “with great
attention and humility” (Nivola 1993). In these words there is an attitude
belonging to an interpretation of the landscape of Sardinia, that is almost
familiar. See a little to try to understand a lot, to gather the primary,
founding elements of human settlement (Maciocco 1995b).
As Wenders says in Berlin, it is precisely the empty spaces that enable
men to create themselves an image of the city. Not just because they allow
us to embrace entire areas in our glance (sometimes as far as the horizon, a
thing in itself that is a pleasure in a city), but because through these gaps
time can be seen which, in general terms, is the element that spells out
history (Wenders 1992).
The void enables things to be seen that have remained “out” of the space
we are in, but that may be just as important for the story being told, like
the Tago, more than the city, is the witness of Lisbon life, like the sand of
Berlin – in the “emptiest square of the city”, like the cemetery of Tokyo-
ga:29 emptiness, rest, peace. For this we need to know how to describe
empty space, as it means describing peace, from today on we need to know
how to sing an “epos of peace” (The Sky above Berlin). As Wenders
insists, sometimes you have to leave cities, observe them from afar to
understand their merits. The desert offers the best detachment for observing
urban life. Like the American and Australian deserts, where every so often
you bump into some remains of civilisation: a house, a street in ruins, an
152 Reinventing the City

abandoned railway line, even an abandoned petrol station or motel. In a

certain sense these are opposite experiences from those we have in the city
when we go into an open space. A no-man’s-land inside a metropolis has,
as a prerogative, the presence of the urban landscape all around, and it
shows us it in a different perspective, in another light. While the
appearance of the remains of civilisation in the desert makes the landscape
all the more empty (Wenders 1992).
In the void there is time, history, memory, the essential. The
contemporary dilation of the concept of city in the territory is the search
for the void to find history, the essence, to discover a plot, a story to link
up with other stories, discover relations between stories to discover the
relations between men, aiming each action at opening the eyes, the senses
and the mind.
The void is important material for the project for the city also at the
level of controllability of urban shape, a concept effectively emphasised by
Koolhaas during the competition for planning the Melun-Séart ville
nouvelle. Koolhaas said the Melun-Séart site is too beautiful for it to be
possible to imagine a new city there with innocence and impunity. The
breadth of the landscape, the beauty of the forests and woods, the serenity
of the farms, have a presence that is intimidating, initially hostile to any
idea of development. A second form of innocence would consist of
believing, at this end of the century, that urban development and the built-
up area can be designed and then controlled in a reasonable manner.
The built-up, the fullness is now uncontrollable. The same cannot be
said of the void; it is perhaps the last subject where certainties are still
plausible (Koolhaas 1994). And, as he goes on to describe the competition
project, Koolhaas shows how these concepts can be applied:

The essential thing in this project is a system of empty spaces - of bands - inscribed on
the land like a Chinese ideogram. We propose that the maximum energy indispensable for
the Melun-Sénart development be designated for maintaining and protecting these empty
spaces. Some of them are partly areas of protection of the existing landscape, localised so
as to unite maximum beauty and fragments of history. Other empty spaces accompany the
tracks of fast roads making them arterial urban elements. Yet others have programmatic
justification: they are needed to distribute the major components of the programme on the
site. Our thesis is that if this system of bands is fixed, the qualities of beauty, serenity, of
access and urban facilities pursued for the city of Melun-Sénart will be guaranteed,
whoever the architects in the future be. (Koolhaas 1994).

And the built-up area? What will happen to the blocks in this model
city? In this proposal the bands define an archipelago of residual blocks,
“inter-bands”, different in size, form, position and relations with the bands.
Each of these blocks may be developed in almost total independence. They
The “Void” and the City Project 153

will be able to create an anthology of competition projects. The

“archipelago” model enables their extreme individuality in the end to
strengthen coherence of the system.
Each island will be designed with great care, because this proposal does
not mean that islands are neglected but that they are given great liberty of
conception depending on their scale, giving them the chance to concentrate
on their installations and their relationships with the bands and the city
(Koolhaas 1994).
The urban plan for Olbia (Clemente and Maciocco 1990) was already in
1989 on the same conceptual plane, which adopts the void as a guiding
category for the city project; this city port of north-east Sardinia has an
stop-over port and airport of national importance, a highly dynamic urban
propeller with great translocal and transregional effects induced by its
function as a port-of-call and the dynamics of the tourist settlements of the
north-eastern coastal strip, the Costa Smeralda. But it is also a
contradictory city with many problems, in search of a coherent form. To
the “empty” spaces, free from buildings, correspond in this case great
environmental signs of the territory of the city, which have guided
settlement principles and still confirm their relevance as permanent
reference marks of coherent organisation of urban space, like for example:
the internal gulf, the ancient fluvial valley and the site of an environmental
area that extends to the River Padrogiano basin; the “witness reliefs”,
characteristic of the levels of geological surfaces that describe the natural
history of the entire environmental region of Gallura; the arc of the
external gulf stretched at each end to Capo Figari in the north and Tavolara
in the south, which marks Olbia’s specificity and its environmental
centrality; the arched range of hills of the plain, whose uniting surfaces,
the pediments and the glacis, show a division of meanings of the first
settlements historically stratified in the area. The plan deals with space
organisation by trying to create continuity between the environmental
signs that become the elements of orientation and identification of the
continuous city. A system of parks underlines the free spaces between the
settlement arteries linking the internal gulf with the hilly arch in the urban
field of the plain, while on the external territory the system of natural and
historic signs recalls space organisation to a progressive tidying-up of the
casual and fragmentary forms of coastal urbanisation. At the same time the
residual spaces of the continuous city, the “voids” available in zones
largely obsolete, arranged along the urban stretch of the coast, along the
canals and their estuary tract, internally or near the urban perimeter, are
taken as authentic lines of strength of the urban form (Maciocco 1995a).
In a certain sense Koolhaas’ reflections confirm the concept, which
Endell expresses in his book entitled Die Schönheit der grossen Stadt,
154 Reinventing the City

when he maintains that for a project for the city two possibilities exist:
either to modify the style of our cities, which would be a long-term project,
or to compensate for each inadequacy with other pleasures, discover the
beauties we have not yet discovered,30 for example in the empty urban
spaces, in the free spaces of the city territory, promoting new fruition of
what we already possess.
This discovery of the “beautiful things we have not yet discovered” was
one of Jean Nouvel’s guiding ideas for “Berlin Morgen”, the 1991
consultation on the Berlin of tomorrow (Nouvel 1994).
With the purpose of translating the downfall of a situation long
considered fatal, to express the will that such horror never again be
reproduced, and to ward off the existence of “no-man’s-land sous
mirador”, Nouvel proposed the creation of The Meeting Line along this
wound, a line crossed by all the roads that had long been closed and by
others still, “a snake of green, authentic green equipped with little
optimistic, coloured lights, with the image of the overlapping in relief of a
sweater and a tidying thread […]”.
On Friedrichstraβe it is clearly not a matter of painstakingly filling in
the free spaces obtained. “It is more useful to use and abuse all
abnormalities and surprises that characterise the place” (Nouvel 1994).
The abnormalities include: the free land on one side and the other, the
beginnings of squares more residual than intentional, the blind, rather sad
walls … The surprises include: the perspectives at the bottom of the
transversal roads and the appearance between two buildings of a
communications tower or a dome … Nouvel’s programme has, as one of
its key-points, to make public all free land on one side and the other of the
road and tidy it up in various ways so that the surface, the flat area is
strongly expressed.
The attention to free spaces, the placing of the voids of the city at the
centre of the project for the city, expresses renewed interest for
differences, for the differential quality of the territory that the free spaces
emblematically represent with respect to the urban mass.
This is a concept that recurs in some of Wenders’ interesting reflections.
He maintains cities can open eyes, as happens in films, or close them.
They can devour or nurture imagination. Tokyo, in contrast with what
many maintain, is in my opinion an open city; it offers something, does not
only steal. It has a strong tendency to bewilder and assail its citizens. But
strangely, around each corner you can discover a green space; from the
thundering jungle we move to calm, gentle, pacific zones. In Wenders
opinion, Tokyo is a system of islands. Obviously these islands need to be
conserved, and are gradually disappearing. All that is small disappears. In
our times only what is large survives. The small, simple things disappear,
… and the City was Born of Chaos: Designing the City at its Edges 155

like small, simple images, or small, simple films. In the film industry, the
disappearance of everything that is small and simple is a sad process and
has us today as witnesses. For cities this loss is perhaps more evident and
probably even more serious (Wenders 1992).

… and the City was Born of Chaos: Designing the City

at its Edges

…and the City was Born of Chaos. In this essay by Pedro Azara (Azara
2000), the city is seen as a spiritual creation, a place of conservation of life
in the midst of barbarity, and thus, a place of “education” of mankind
(Tjallingii 2000). At the edge of Azara’s city there is chaos, but it is indeed
from here that it is possible to see the city. The edge is in this sense
another form of counterspace.
The importance that edge situations are taking on in the contemporary
city is motivated by the fact that future urbanity cannot be constructed by
simplifying processes of confinement or removal of edge areas from our
urban conscience, and of the separation of situations that do not come
under the canons of this “urban rationality”. As Borges writes, “it only
needs one man to be irrational for others to be so, and for the universe to
be so” (Borges 1974), in the sense that no-one can think of abandoning
others to themselves, without abandoning himself.
Due to its inherent ambiguity, “edge” is a word that lends itself to a
number of interpretations, different points of view, different arguments.
But at the edge it is possible to recognise above all externity, the
detachment of all that can be considered refuse by the “normality” of the
urban machine, which does not attribute dignity to marginality. This
happens because the city is “all that is of interest” in its pervasiveness. In
the contemporary city there is no longer an inside and an outside.
Even urban science fiction literature has been recording this perception
of space for some time. If sociological science fiction of the 40s–50s was
characterised by the inside–outside spatial dichotomy, from the 80s
onwards this distinction no longer appeared to work. In metropolitan post-
civilisation the experience of “outside” represented by the non-urban, by
nature, seems simply to disappear to leave room for urban structures which
expand and swallow up all that is available of the world. The only physical
experience that can be had is the experience of the city, i.e. the limits that
compose it internally, the barriers. In the current imagination freedom,
deviation from rules will thus no longer be a physical space, but a
156 Reinventing the City

synthetic space: virtual reality: “There’s no place there, they said to

children, when cyberspace was explained.” (Gibson 1988).
But, as we have already illustrated, inside the city withdraws, because
the glance directed solely at the spaces indicated and tidied up by the
media kills the city. This makes us understand that urbanity is not given
once and for all and that what we are experiencing today is an archaeology
of urbanity, which was dismissed due to the segregation phenomena that
characterise our cities. It is the misfortune of the 20th Century which
substituted social fragmentation with social segregation, where
“settlement” does not coincide with “habitation”, where “organizing”
space does not correspond to “inhabiting”, where spaces do not have social
significance (Chandhoke 1998; Michelson 1998). In effect, loneliness
emerges, of indifference (Chandhoke 1998; Michelson 1998), and of
family disorganisation, produced by the move away from cohesion and the
social contract in local communities. This is what happens, for example, to
the fluctuating population of the mega-cities which results in the absence
of identity and the development of a sense of anonymity. This has led to
the complete disappearance of the “sense of shame” and the “regard in the
eye” (Chandhoke 1998), with which the transient, physically mobile
population cements the city’s impersonal nature. The fluctuating
population does not take responsibility for the city and the city has even
less responsibility toward them, as it now has a lower technological level
than that of the citizens. These go into the cities and use their facilities and
the city looks at them as good or bad payers or shrewd or gullible
These worries evoke the risks ingrained in resolutive, technological
approaches such as problem-solving, in dealing with the difficulties of
contemporary cities (Michelson 1998), where problems are reflected and
interweave in such a way as to require to a large extent the contents and
capacities of penetration of the social sciences (Chandhoke 1998). For
there are implications of urban development in creating wastelands
(Chandhoke 1998), in that technology is needed and technology creates
gaps and voids, which cannot be disguised by landscape architecture
A raw metaphor for this attitude was Thomas Hirschhorn’s “United
Nation” installation at the Fifth Biennial of Contemporary Art in Lyons,
entitled Partage d’exotisme. Hirschhorn built a hill of refuse entitled
“United Nations – Miniature 2000”, created like a golf course (place
frequented by statesmen in times of the most difficult decisions). In this
unusual route greens were represented by war theatres spread around the
globe: Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Palestine, Ruanda, Congo, Chechnya, Bosnia,
etc. Each of these points was marked by abundant documentation, books
… and the City was Born of Chaos: Designing the City at its Edges 157

and specialist texts hung up, dangling at the disposal of visitors. The entire
hill was covered by a number of tanks and white UN helicopters, a
constant feature of all conflicts; an invasive presence that it is suspected
may in the end have had the effect of exacerbating more than resolving the
Compared with the negative ambiguity evoked by this installation,
positive ambiguity may be revealed by an unconventional glance at the
city edge spaces which seem to possess the daímon of the city like a sort of
internal need.
The resulting physical spaces, not planned, therefore edge spaces, are
places where creativity, subjectivity, the construction of new moments of
communication assert themselves. But also of the search for personal
memory and identity. They are the interstitial spaces where it is possible to
“see things for the first time”, to fix in the memory images that, like
Borges’ Aleph, have already disappeared at the moment in which they are
produced. They are the spaces where the act of touching the ground is still
thinkable, in contrast with a mobile, fluid cartography of the acceleration
of human movements, markets and data, in a city that upsets the sense of
space, where dead or isolated urban cells are immediately replaced, where
the only identities to survive are money, superstition and a vague memory
of spirituality.
They are the last barrier to an urban image that is too strong, self-
celebratory, which tries to exorcise by cultural consumption the guilt
complexes of a society that has shaped history into an activity of
entertainment, an image that gets weaker to then disappear, defenceless, in
the face of the sweep of visual flows in the contemporary “realm of the
They therefore call us back to a radical change in the way of thinking of
the contemporary urban landscape. As cantor of this natural, human epic
that is the city, the landscape becomes something more than a simple
backdrop of aesthetic evaluation of natural and human actions. It is itself
“a sort of additional figure”, that draws its legitimacy from the story it
narrates and through this story “founds a moral principle” (Wenders 1992).
If this observation point is adopted, the rejected lands, the wastelands,
the edge lands, make us recognise and appreciate loss. In his comment on
Canto IV of the Inferno, in the Prologue to the Dante Essays, Borges notes
that Dante learns from Virgil’s words that he will never go to heaven; he
immediately calls him master and lord, both to demonstrate that the
confession does not diminish Virgil’s worth, and because having discovered
he is lost, he loves him even more (Borges 1974).
The edge spaces belong in a certain sense to the limbo of our imagination,
or rather we have created a place in our imagination for them, which
158 Reinventing the City

resembles a limbo. The notions of a limbo of the fathers and a limbo for
the souls of children who died without being baptized belong to common
theology. To host the virtuous pagans in that place was an invention of
Dante’s. Dante could not, against the faith, save his heroes, he thought of
them in a negative Inferno, deprived of the sight and possession of God in
heaven and took pity on their destiny (Borges 1974).
It is difficult, unusually arduous, to judge the glory or perdition of entire
territories, desolate or lost, without being able to feel that we, ultimately,
are justice. Pietas for these territories, as Dante had for pagans, represents
respect for detachment, a concept that cannot be dimmed because it is a
problem of the western mind and its model of development.
Radically adopting this perspective, Lee Morrissey (Morrissey 2000)
denies the concept of rejected, desolate, marginal space, attributing to it
the sense of a mental construct, the consequence of modernity, of its unfair
distortions tending to constitute antinomies between precious places and
places that are losing, their value cancelled by the processes of
globalisation that generate confusion, the “speed of liberation” from the
body, from one’s own physicality (Pittaluga 2000).
Snatched from the life and death of the city, edge areas are destined to
limbo in the urban realm, too, but due to this they may constitute signs
from which to depart to construct a perspective of urbanity. The
cooperative task might require efforts that men find particularly difficult:
collective self-discipline in a common effort (Caldwell 1990).
In this picture interventions of urban transformation are not effective,
which try to interpolate edge areas in the new economic topology,
metabolising them and crystallising them in a virtuous cycle in which
production is only apparently nurtured by retrieval and recycling. This
interpolation, more mental than real, takes human thought away from the
prospects of an urban life that may instead be oriented to favour a new
ecology of the mind (Guattari 1982).
Being at the edge of the contemporary city, selected by a sick urban
machine, these contemporary situations seem like “stem cells”, precursors
of new associations between urbs and civitas, which cannot take shape, but
may be born of a project animated by public awareness (Décamps 2000).
The edge does not have a scale, or rather cannot be confined within our
concepts of scalarity. Scale divides our knowledge of the world into
different disciplines and professions more decisively than any other
organising principle, but often more for pragmatic reasons than profoundly
theoretical ones (Batty 1999b).
The edge attitude – from the small, the lesser, the undefinable scale –
produces a journey towards possible worlds, where reality already given
combines with its potential, aims at its second order, expresses its power – in a
… and the City was Born of Chaos: Designing the City at its Edges 159

mathematical sense, as Michael Batty (Batty 1999a) emphasises – where the

usual models have expired, like the game of polarities – city/country,
internal/external, etc. – which continues to freeze spatial relations, where new
horizons of meaning are constructed.
The well-known experience of the construction of a post-industrial
landscape for IBA Emscher Park may be interpreted in this perspective
(Gualini 2000), the most important result of which was to have triggered –
by sense-making processes and institutional innovation – new images for a
possible territory, where the possibilities seemed to have been exhausted,
both in the subjects bringing common knowledge and in the institutional
ones. In the same way as the retrieval of edge spaces as decayed suburbs,
designed by illegal building practice, should be considered – also through
legal interpretation (Zoppi 2000) – in the same direction of new sense
being granted to desolate situations.
The categories of city/country, urban/extraurban, nature/history, internal/
external and inclusion/exclusion can be found in the project to create an
“edge ecology” (Tjallingii 2000), an ecology of urban life referring back to
its deepest nature, to an epos of peace. A conception of project, far from
the problem-solving paradigms where the different problems of the quality
of space intertwine, so as to involve the contents and analytical capacities
of the social sciences in a reciprocal relationship, with the objective of
linking space, cities to everyday life, today characterised by new ways.
To design at the edge is, in this sense, to take on an external attitude to
designing the city, so as to construct its “becoming”, the projection in the
mind of the inhabitants, not yet occupied by the “realm of the urban”
(Choay 1994a).
At the edge – which is therefore adopted as a metaphor for the city’s
“becoming” – there are situations of exclusion with respect to the city
project, nevertheless extremely fertile, like themes of public participation
in the construction of urban spaces beginning with children, a category
usually excluded from these processes, which might highlight the maps of
fear and safety and construct a knowledge of edge spaces that is not banal
and is, however, shared in its entirety by the collectivity and projected
towards the future of those who will inhabit the territory (Speak 2000).
“Care” – a word coming from a marginal culture as is the female one – of
the territory by local communities should be considered in the same way
(Poli 2000).
At the edge the space of institutional innovation is developed, introduced
by public participation in the choice of plan, in the developing Countries,
showing marginal communities that assert themselves in the global
mechanisms of financial channels, promoting a culturally “endogenous”
transformation (Allegretti 2000). Like in some cities of the desert, where
160 Reinventing the City

the construction is developed of occasions and headquarters for the

collective decision on the transformation of the outskirts (Abouhani 2000).
In this direction edge spaces, as spaces of participation, can use the
prospects for amplification of social interaction produced by the “increased
reality” of public participation platforms in Internet, New Media,
Democracies and Planning: Reflections, Examples and Proposals,
developed for the Internet network (Cecchini et al. 2000).
Edge spaces may favour the development of public awareness, to re-
establish the role of public space in the contemporary society, a modality
of public space in which we can “move without feeling manipulated”, a
whole that we recognise and identify as “our world”, the space par
excellence of the polis (Abalos 2004).
Sennett has pointed out that spaces come to life again when they are
used with aims that are not those for which they were conceived (Sennett
1991), even though it is important nonetheless to not interpret this
statement wrongly as a renunciation of the ethics of coherence between
uses and aims (Ray 2005). The resulting physical spaces, edge spaces, not
planned, appear as places of assertion of creativity, subjectivity, the
construction of new moments for communication. Although at this start of
millennium programmes are becoming abstract in the sense that they are
no longer tied to a place or a city but gravitate appropriately around the
site that offers the greater number of interconnections,32 perspectives for
urban evolution will in any case be intrinsically bound with the capacity to
explore edge territories, too, and to peer through the spatial images of the
inhabitants, at their possible worlds, their inclination to construct a new
urban condition, at the same time local and supra-local, equally important
for the inhabitant of that city as for the inhabitant of another city in the

The Territory of the City

Nowadays the territory has an intrinsic externity with respect to the city.
“The city is of the country” Mumford stated to underline the ancestral
bond of the pre-industrial European city’s belonging to the country
(Mumford 1938b). But in the contemporary city this ancestral bond has
been broken: “the country is of the city”, the territory is of the city for
periurbanisation processes, for setting up infrastructures, for the new
technological contents required by the world of flows.
But the city may also still be projected on the territory because the
environmental dimension reminds us that “the city is also of the country”
The Territory of the City 161

(Mumford 1938b), in the sense that “the city is of the territory” due to the
environmental interdependence that characterises its relations which are at
the base of environmental quality of urban life.
The territory accompanies the contemporary city, the city of flows, as if
it were one of its counterspaces, to accompany this time the construction of
the city of the second industrial revolution, as an antidote to the post-
industrial metropolis. If we adopt this perspective, the territory carries out
the function of counterspace of the city according to different modalities.
One of these is linked with the hypothesis that the territory represents
the potential of the low density city compared with the high-density city, a
reference not theoretical but factual, because a large part of the world
experiences the low density city be it voluntarily, be it for necessity. This
potential is expressed by territories external to dense metropolises, the
small and medium cities of low-density territories. In this case, too, to
throw oneself onto such territories to maximise development of the high-
density metropolis would be a mistake, for to maintain part of this opening
might have more sense in terms of capitalisation on future options at a
moment in which utility logics are changing with such rapidity.
It is in this perspective that the role should be considered, for example,
of external territories with respect to the central-European urban nebula.
External territories represent in some ways the “city of places” in the face
of the “city of flows”, a different city that is wedged within the space of
the metropolis, an externity that is an otherness compared to the
metropolitan universe of contemporary post-cities. There is, moreover,
clear underestimation of the entity of the European “wastelands” and of the
energy necessary to recuperate the contaminated lands of the urban
nebula.33 This pervasive “urban realm” (Choay 1994a) which has affected
the central band of the European area from south to north is characterised
in many parts by very low environmental quality of urban life (Maciocco
1999). Since an urban perspective founded on “recuperating” these
situations appears impossible, even in the long term, in European urban
areas efforts for recuperation are not aimed in all directions but deployed
in a bitterly selective way in the most visible areas with modalities useful
for the requirements of urban marketing.34 But outside these urban islands
adorned with make-up, the city shows, however, its true face deformed by
the pollution of places and ideas (La Cecla 1991).35 So for the spaces
external to the European urban nebula, for the vast territories of nature and
history, promising prospects may then open up for constructing a different
urbanity, external to the European metropolis, in some ways its
environmental counterpoint, which will mean that one cannot exist without
the other.
162 Reinventing the City

We therefore need to promote awareness of the spatial concepts and

places of the territory rich in nature and history, as values that we take with
us in the process of construction of identity, traces that have relations,
precisely, with “what we call future no less than with what we call the
past” (Derrida 1998). A basis of shared sense, which remains for us as a
patrimony that beyond the ongoing “we drag along with us” and which
“comes to drag us along” (Piccardo 2001), a system of sense in relation to
which the elements of conflict and change are to be recognised in a notion
like the culture of a territory, classically a “place of invariances”
(Carmagnola 2001), more tied to the statics than the dynamics of reality.
It is the beginning of the construction of a new urban world that entrusts
its possible perspectives to the involvement of “territories without a
voice”. We are dealing with a process of deep change in aesthetic
sensitivity (Shepheard 1997) which will enable us to see the world with
different eyes36 and recognise in the differential quality of territories37 the
positive ambiguity of marginality, the other territorial subjectivity, which
recalls continuous experience of otherness in that it is a constituent of the
project for the city (Shepheard 1997). This projectual perspective creates a
relationship between different forms and processes that vary in a range
between two extremes. On the one hand, the spaces of the metropolitan
post-cities, corresponding to forms and processes in intensive urban
situations, the management of which possesses the characteristics
belonging to a form of action tied to the functioning of a consolidated
urban machine, in which redevelopment actions that are still typical of
urban marketing requirements and do not open up important perspectives –
in the short and medium term – for urban refounding in the environmental
sense, attempt to orient themselves in certain key directions – towards low
energy consumption mobility, the fight against all forms of pollution, and
towards disposal as a project of each form of deterioration to face the
theme of refuse and waste in the life of men and city – which only in the
long term are able to open up possibilities for the environmental quality of
spatial life. Where infrastructure creation is wearily aimed at making – in
the medium period – the technological content of cities once again superior
to that of individuals, families and businesses. Where single cities have
difficulty in dealing with renewed attention with the marking out of the
dimensions of community life, with the facilities for people, with civitas,
the indivisible link of which with urbs is a constituent of the actual
meaning of city.
On the other hand, there are the external territories, authentic
counterspaces of the European city which correspond to forms and processes
in situations rich in nature and history, the management of which has
characteristics – of process organisation, reversibility, self-reproducibility,
The Territory of the City 163

openness to possibility – that are part of a form of action placing the

environment, being strategic potential of the territory, as the central nucleus
of a territorial policy opening up promising perspectives for territories
external to the European urban nebula; the creation of infrastructures will be
prevalently light, economies are now marginal, but will need to
progressively become structural, the generative process is made up of the
local capacity to internally redevelop and unfold the energy external to the
metropolis in the various components of the economic, cultural and social
system, trying out new citizenships, new economies, new cultures.
External territories represent the rediscovery of an anchorage to the land
and the attachment of the inhabitants to corporality and materiality. One of
the crucial objectives of research on globalisation and digitalisation is
indeed that of retrieving the fixedness and materiality underlying a large
part of the global and the digital, overshadowed by the dominant
conviction that all is becoming a flow (Sassen 2006b). Things and
materiality are then fundamental for digitalisation and globalisation, just as
external territories are important as material counterpoint of global flows
and, in this sense, as counterspaces of the metropolitan post-cities.
We must nevertheless acknowledge that if the contemporary city can be
considered strongly characterised by immateriality, almost as though it
were the “covering for a series of flows” (Kaijima and Tsukamoto 2006),
the territory, in its materiality, seems subjected to processes of “ruination”.
But if we examine this phenomenon in depth, we find this gives the
territory itself a “denotative” essentiality, which is not just structural, but
also pictorial, typological and symbolic (Manieri Elia 2006), and which
establishes a difference compared with the sometimes redundant
“connotations” of the city, its “representational” dimensions.
In this “denotative essentiality” lies another modality of the territory as
counterspace of the city. Mario Manieri Elia reminds us that in its most
typical and obvious version – if not most usual, at least in the
Mediterranean area – the ruin lives in the collective imagination as a
familiar presence. In many cases it is part of a context within which its
own meaning reverberates, making clear a connection that is historic but
also structural and systemic (Manieri Elia 2006). Also in cases where it
constitutes an isolated presence, its image proves to be evocative of a
serene, historic relationship, strong and at the same time allusive to a
detachment that has intervened in the temporal sequence. A detachment
that is all but unfillable, in that it does not imply also a distance, also
spatial, due to that particular familiarity that the ruin, precisely for what it
is, arouses and confirms. If we accept this analogy as a metaphor of work,
the territory too, just like the ruin, apart from constituting a generally
164 Reinventing the City

serene and a-conflictive presence, might, in a general sense, qualify as a

transitional object, a testimony and intermediary referring back to
something other than itself. A “heterotopy”, therefore, that expresses
above all a “lack” that cannot be compensated, as such, precisely in that it
is substantiated by a deep signifying capacity which certifies the absence
of use, the living relationship with men, participation in the world and life.
It is the territory itself, due to its nature, that will narrate all this; and it
becomes, in short, its primary sense as well as its value, at least as “historic
event”. But, as we know, there is no historic event that is not accompanied
not only by an aesthetic event but also by every other sort of event; the
first of which being the semantic one: attention to sense (Manieri Elia
2006). A meaning which, as has been proposed, lies in the peculiar quality
of the image evoking a “lack”, soothed by the long temporal distance and
charged with identity value for the essentiality of the message that has
taken on particular denotative strength during the long process of
confirmation of its contextual presence and the symbolic role attributed to
it gradually by human society.
In this anatomic evidence that the territory offers us we find a cognitive
value that undoubtedly exists, but this is an aspect, the cognitive result of
which proves restrictive at the outset, compared with the semantic
complexity and richness of meaning that the territory offers. Cognitive
attention that is only archaeological cannot but require and aim, for
protective purposes, at the conservation of the territory. This, however,
leaves that quality in the background which may be defined as the “genetic
code” of the territory, its symbolic and collective endowment.
Like Gilles Clément’s Third landscape, the reality of the territory is at a
mental level. It coincides only temporarily with administrative divisions. It
fits into the ethical field of the planetary citizen on a permanent basis
(Clément 2005). Because of its content and the issues raised by diversity –
the territory as a deposit of the diversity of a city now become generic –
because of its innate externity and the need to conserve it and favour its
dynamics, the territory acquires a political dimension, in the sense that
maintaining its existence depends on a collective conscience, it is the
shared territory of a collective conscience that adopts it as the privileged
place of changes which are not predictable that is the other side of
predictable urban life, controlled and fixed a priori (De Pieri 2005). Due to
its nature, the territory is the place for the city without a voice which does
not find space elsewhere. As the Third landscape the territory does not
have a scale, it covers the series of situations able to ensure diversity is
Towards a Reinvented City 165

In this integrated cognitive picture, which confronts the territory “not

intended as a mass of relics but as history that includes us” (Augé 2003)
we can try to spell out some points of agreement.
The territory, in its most typical statute, tends to put up resistance
against the dynamics of the present. Resistance that is not, however,
devoid of sense but, if anything, “too full” of meanings, which is an
integral part of our present and comes into play in the processes of sense
retrieval. The re-insertion of the territory in the context of urban and social
life, therefore, should not cancel out its polysemous quality. The event that
can reawaken it has to be complex and integrated, coherent with its
developmental history (which is our past). This event is already present in
nuce and it is the “city of the city of external territories”, a low-density city
in the dense city surrounding us, a city perspective oriented in an
environmental sense that recuperates the historical depth and the sense of
its message of a “lack” and recuperates and relaunches it in current terms.

Towards a Reinvented City

This dialectic between the “connotative” character of the contemporary

city and the “denotative” character of the territory alludes to two
conceptual worlds. The first underpins a representational the city as an
“environmental image”, which has impressed on it the separability of
contemplation of an urban landscape from living within it, a notion of
landscape-object constructed and established by modernity, from which we
feel excluded, and with which a relationship of equality is never
established. The second tells of an eminently projectual conception, like
the willingness to take on new urban meanings. Understood in this way,
the territory is the place where ethos is recuperated, all that which has not
been at the centre, which was not in the polis. In this perspective, the
project for the territory may be imagined as a complex process towards
understanding contemporary public space, a new concept of public space
as a space for reflection, far from habitual circuits, to escape from the
hegemony of communication flows which produce standardisation of
spatial experiences.
But what is the relationship between the project for the territory and
contemporary public space? The environmental dimension comes to our
aid, which solicits contemporary collective sensitivity in several directions.
Here we adopt a comprehensive conception of the environment, which
associates with natural processes the material evidence of the indivisible
relationship between the people, activities and places of the territory.
166 Reinventing the City

The environmental dimension requests that collective sensitivity pay

greater attention to reality, recalling the need for material anchorage of our
actions. The real world exerts a determining influence on possible worlds,
at least in the sense that it establishes their belonging to different classes of
conditions, due to which some can be considered realisable, thanks to the
still possible truth of their premises, while others collide with the
impossibility of correcting the “already been” and thinking deeply of a
situation in which an antecedent that did not happen proves true, and
which, due to the unavoidable course of time, will never be able to take
place. This increased attention to the real unfolds particularly in the
physical environment, almost referring to the passage from the myth of the
“mother city” to the myth of “mother earth”, indicating a demand for a
stronger relationship with reality and a “non-banal description of the real”,
which now conditions behaviours under way, seeing the particular
attention urban societies give to the evaluation of any intervention of
transformation of their “real” life environment. This is another important
request that the environmental dimension produces for settled societies and
which is transformed into collective sensitivity.
The step between collective sensitivity and public sphere is short. The
public sphere emerges because spatial anchorage to reality requires our
values to be brought into play and be compared with those of others, a shift
to the sphere of ethics and, thus, the need for social legitimisation of our
behaviours. At the same time the social demand for evaluation of
transformations under way reveals a public sphere that is tied to the
collective conviction that there are non-negotiable values, and that the
biological and cultural quality of the environment favourable for our
spatial life are certainly among them.
These two appeals to our collective sensitivity have in the background a
so-called “summarising” conception of the environment. The complexity
nowadays inherent in the project for the city is largely in its relationship
with the environment, which conditions more and more the behaviour
under way of inhabitants and its spatial organisation. In this scenario
should be placed the tendency to give up a kind of holistic reductionism, in
which “the city is all that is of interest”, to move towards a position in a
certain sense characterised by the “thought of the synecdoche” (Benvenuto
1994), in which the environment may be considered a part from which to
begin to summarise and reorder the whole. This trend which is expressed
in the increase in the social demand for evaluation of any transformation of
reality beyond the confines of the urbs, and which entails deep and wide
attention to the “description of the real as a value that conditions
behaviours underway” (Gambino 1994), is the equivalent of attention that
is not sectorial but relational to a vast area of resources and interactions
Towards a Reinvented City 167

that recall amplification of the field of knowledges involved in the

project.38 This entails a dilation of the concept of inhabiting – in the sense
of “taking care” that Heidegger gives to it39 – an extended use of the city
(Secchi 1994), in a certain sense an environmental project for the future of
the city on the territory (Maciocco 2008). An environmental project as an
adoption of a collective conscience of the spatial concepts and places of
nature and history that preside over the life of the inhabitants of a territory.
All this forms an apparatus rooted in geography, history and society, able
to face long-term the mechanisms that urge towards a reduction in
inhabiting the contemporary “city without a city”, the power of reduction
of which has not, however, managed to dissolve all the diversities.
The purpose of the project is to obtain a visual representation of the
environmental project, where the environment may indeed be considered
“as a part from which to begin to summarise and reorder everything”. A
plan, where it will be necessary to take into account also what is not seen:
because “the landscape is what is seen after we have stopped observing it”
(Clément 1999) and because the problem constantly posed is that of a
“category of life”. Perhaps, it is sensed, what is needed is “to renew the tie
with the analogical process of interpretation of the universe.” 40
To find a symbol may be important also because the environmental
project presupposes profound changes in the collective conscience. How
can such a change be prepared? It is not enough to spread ecological
scientific knowledge, not enough to discuss theoretical issues. As Clément
writes – there is a need to “change the legend” (Clément 1994). “Each
place on earth … accepts a legend that associates man with his territory in
a lasting manner” (Clément 1999). To inhabit the planet is something that
implicates the categories of the sacred and the supernatural: “instead of
opposing faith in a myth with faith in a natural order, we should think of
how to make them compatible.” 41
A symbolic perspective of a new public sphere is the one that may be
opened up as the adoption of a collective conscience of the environmental
dominants present in the life of the men inhabiting a territory, “an idea that
unites spatial concepts and places rich in nature and history” (Maciocco
1995a), the beginning of a “new legend”. Here places are not necessarily
meant as physical entities, but indeed, as expressed by Massimo Cacciari,
as “single, particular complexes of relations” (Cacciari 1990), single,
specific “cultural worlds” of the settled societies. But with respect to the
selection processes inherent in the contemporary condition, some of these
places, with reference to the interpretation suggested above, are – in that
they are lasting – more significant of space organisation than others; they
represent, exactly, the environmental dominants of human settlement
(Maciocco 1991b).
168 Reinventing the City

But before expressing itself as attachment to a particular place, territoriality

is, first of all, the relationship between men and – as Roncayolo observes –
“derives from the diffusion of mental images, tales, more or less abstract
representations […], it is mythological […] The individual, rather than
perceive the territory, assimilates it and creates it through his practices and
beliefs of a social nature” (Roncayolo 1980). By these practices the
territory reveals itself as a new modality of contemporary public space
where, as individuals, we can stay without feeling manipulated and at the
same time be part of a whole. In this sense environmental dominants are to
be considered authentic counterspaces of the contemporary city.
The importance of the environmental component in the city project
cannot be considered a novelty.42 For since the 80s it has been possible to
notice an increase in the influence of the environmental dimension over the
evolution of the methods and instruments of urbanistics, as can be seen
from a provisional evaluation of the innovative contribution of some
experiences (Palermo 1993), but it should be recognised that this influence
has shown serious difficulties in changing into a unified set of fundamental
concepts and operative methods. The environment still remains, in fact,
new material for the contemporary city project and puts the traditional
instruments of urbanistics to a hard test. In effect, the discomfort and
difficulty emerge that urbanistics shows in trying to reset itself in the light
of this new point of view, either by shifting to the side of material domains
and the study of environmental disciplines, or by trying to recuperate the
environmental dimension within the formal stereotypes of the disciplinary
tradition, or, yet again, by retreating to a decisive conception of
environmental evaluation techniques belonging to the disciplinary matrices
of engineering and economics.
Among the different positions that have emerged up to now a family of
disciplinary attitudes persists which is characterised by “environmental
determinism”, an approach by which the physical features of the environment
determine the ways of life of the people and the environmental differences
alone produce differences in spatial behaviours. A clear result of this
position have been some disappointing attempts in bio-urbanistics, which
fall back on unlikely disciplinary retrieval of bio-climatic architectures and
pre-industrial suggestions.
Other positions of disciplinary unease can be recognised in “environmental
formalism”, which takes shape as a transfer of formal stereotypes of the
city to the overall environment. In this logic are included: ornamental
urbanistics, urbanistic make-up, and trompe-l'oeil urbanistics. Significant
examples of this are the interventions which imitate “nature-houses”,
projects of vegetation cosmetics in decayed areas – such as in abandoned
quarries, which seem to be a theme constantly à la page – but also
Towards a Reinvented City 169

interventions characterised by “ludic historicism”, from the replicas of the

historic city in the suburbs43 or urban design applications to urban
Then there is “environmental functionalism”, which has ingrained the
illusion of environmental control of every intervention and, with this, the
conviction that the project of the city can be constructed by pervasive,
intensive application of evaluation techniques of environmental impacts, as
if it were possible to contribute a coherent form of city by quantitative
balances – of the “this much we conserve, this much we transform” type –
which grimace at the “protective ecosystems” and “productive ecosystems”
categories studied by ecologists like Leopold and Odum. Examples of this
type are many and they suffer from the conception tied to “environmental
control” based on an engineering and economic matrix. We may speak of
“environmental functionalism”, for the exclusive emphasis on the
biological, hygienic, sanitary, “health” function of the environment, which
puts its cultural and symbolic role in second place, as the world of
indivisible relations between people and places that preside over the spatial
life of communities.
Other positions strictly tied to the preceding ones are: “the obsession of
physical transformation and metropolitan neopantheism”. The first
collocation corresponds to the way of thinking that to grant urban sense to
a place necessarily implies its physical transformation, that only by this
transformation will it be made fit for life today, that to make the most of a
place it is necessary to physically go through it, equip it, transform it. The
other attitude represents the attempt at a reconciliation with nature, an
impossible symbiosis that underpins a refusal, perhaps unaware, to
compete with the problem of giving shape to the city in the “realm of the
contemporary urban” (Choay 1994a).
In a certain sense this condition permeates all the others, in that
disciplinary discomfort emerges just when the spatial forms of the urban
change and different ways of thinking of space for settlement open up.
This change is characterised by the dilation – above all mental – of the
urban onto the territory, causing the contemporary contradiction to emerge
between the need for maintaining a relationship with places and the
demand for mobility that is indifferent to it. This dilation of the urbs
produces important shifts in urbanistics, pushing towards overcoming
disciplinary paradigms that have the compact city at their centre, a refusal
of the current assumption that it is indeed “all that is of interest”, in a
bitterly selective way. It is a matter of selective attention, typical of the
contemporary condition as a reaction to the deluge of visual flows that
sweep along city ways of life and make the perceptive worlds of the
inhabitants commonplace.
170 Reinventing the City

Selective attention in respect of city territory is a concept that has

undergone significant variations in the course of time (Maciocco 1995a).
If we look, for example, at a well-characterised territory such as the
Italian one, using the maps of the Military Geographical Institute, we can
appreciate the field of these variations through the cartographer’s
sensitivity. In the historical maps of the late 1800s, for the cartographer the
world was pervasive geography that looked equally attentively at the
overall territory, while in the post-war and 50s series the territory was
represented almost as a geometric entity, with few features: the world was
the city core with its links with other cities, representing “all that is of
interest”, a point of view around which the disciplinary tradition was built
and has been reinforced up until recent years. Whereas in the current series
attention44 has been given again to the differential features of the territory,
an opening towards the city territory: the world is a set of places where
value is strongly attributed, of “places that count”, places that are highly
This type of selectivity aimed at places that count seems to be an
unusual feature of the contemporary urban condition. Artists represent it in
a great variety of ways; it can be seen for example in some Situationists’
works of a psychogeographical matrix, as is the case of The Naked City by
Debord and Constant’s Symboliese voorstelling van New Babylon. In the
same way as the same urge towards selectivity, by condensation of the
urban image in a mental map, is present in a conceptual artist like Brouwn,
in an emblematic way in his work This Way Brouwn.
To a similar sphere of selectivity may be referred in a certain sense even
the phenomenon of buskers, the musical art of the streets, the presence of
which in contemporary urban landscapes seems to want to promote the
statement of an idea of space as a set of selective places for social relations
and cultural growth (Ligios 1994).
It is perhaps the need of urban ethics in the new forms of settlement that
urges the inhabitants to relate selectively with these places, which reveal to
the human condition the possibility of understanding the territory of urban
life, and show constancy in filling the gaps in our spatial experience.
Research on this theme promotes re-reading of the period of formation of a
geography of man – which breaks away from the determinism of soil and
climate “inferences” – to investigate the territory as a human condition
(Dematteis 1985b).
Places that reveal to the human condition the possibility of understanding
the territory of urban life are significant places. They are so, however, not
in that they are specific, unique and unrepeatable, but in that they bring
with them in a specific, unique, unrepeatable way the meanings of other
places, according to the viewpoint, the mores, the “general will”, the
Towards a Reinvented City 171

unwritten laws that support a given society, a new ethics that will
recognise the inseparability of the biological and cultural dimensions of
the city (Clemente and Maciocco 1990).
The inseparability of the biological and the cultural dimensions is at the
centre of the reflections of some scholars like Bruno Latour and Mike
Davis, who deal with it from different angles.
Fighting for the democracy of science, namely for science in which
the different social actors really participate, Latour (1999) raised some
controversy with militant ecologists who, he says, consider nature to be an
intangible reality and actually prevent any possibility of agreement on
themes of collective interest which concern the environment. This same
idea of nature has always had political worth; it is a question of singling
out the theoretical and practical nodes that are at the base of the ecological
crises we are witnessing.
The relationship between nature and politics is treated masterfully by
Davis, who coins the expression “political ecology of famine” to describe
the political value of a particular negative climatic crisis in the formation
of the so-called Third World (Davis 2001). Very large areas of Asia,
Africa and South America, the populations of which had relied up to then
on a village economy, were involved in three successive waves of
exceptional drought, the product of a modified rain cycle caused by the
lack of monsoons in the years from 1876 to 1879. Over fifty million
peasants died of hunger and disease. Regions once verdant changed into
deserts and mortality in some parts of the world, from Ethiopia to China
and Brazil, reached the peaks of a nuclear holocaust. Davis reconstructed
this tragedy, which was almost ignored by official history. It is unlikely,
however, that nature alone could have produced such a catastrophe without
the complicity of nascent colonial imperialism, the prices policy linked
with the capacity to make climate forecasts, the introduction of the Gold
Standard, the monetary system based on the gold exchange and the total
absence of a policy for sustaining the populations hit by famine. It was in
that brief span of years that the profile of the future “Third World”, with
the irremediable division of mankind into those who have everything and
those who have nothing, began to be outlined in an irreversible manner.
Scientism, which shields the explanation of phenomena that however
have a fundamental political and cultural background, is the object of
recurrent attacks by Latour. At the bottom of the French philosopher’s
thought can be glimpsed the constant attempt to work on the job of sewing
together, linking up, always difficult but always necessary, fields of
knowledge that we often, sometimes due to ignorance, tend to separate.
The case of the classical opposition nature/culture, subject/object or even
scientific knowledge/humanistic knowledge, becomes, for example, less
172 Reinventing the City

and less capable of explaining the proliferation of “hybrids”. A sense of

anguish ensues that contemporary, post-modern, modern or anti-modern
philosophers, whatever they be, cannot manage to placate. Actually the
“moderns” have never stopped creating “hybrid” objects, which draw from
one or the other sphere simultaneously, and refuse to take them into
consideration as such, namely as natural-cultural hybrids, “we have never
been modern” (Latour 1993).
It is this founding paradigm that needs to be laid open to debate again.
The approach to the problem cannot but be in a political philosophy key,
since nature, but more in general, the environment, as richness of nature
and history, is not something that offers itself spontaneously to our glance
but is something that is produced. For Latour politics, on the one hand, and
the environment, on the other, do not exist. Since the term was invented,
each policy has been defined in relation to the environment, and each
feature of the latter, each of its prerogatives and functions have depended
on the political will to limit, reform, found, simplify and illuminate public
life. The “democracy of science”, of which Latour speaks, is also this. On
the inseparability of science from its contextual and, more generally,
cultural relations, Latour had already worked out an efficient critical
analysis (Latour 1987) showing how the social context and the technical
content are both essential for effective understanding of scientific activity.
Since the social context is innate in science, the social context influences
the approach to the problem and introduces the political dimension. Latour’s
analysis carries out something near to a cataclysm in classical ecologism, as
it bares the discomfort of ecology in trying to maintain the complexity of
environmental events in the disciplinary sphere, but also the difficulties of
urbanistics in trying to reset itself according to the new points of view,
which, as we have seen, attempt to include the environmental dimension in
the formal stereotypes of the disciplinary tradition (Maciocco 1995a). We
have referred to the attempts and misunderstandings linked with
environmental determinism, the approaches characterised by environmental
formalism, ornamental urbanistics and the neo-historicist degeneration of
urban design, environmental functionalism, and in the conservative
background of this position, a sort of metropolitan neo-pantheism, an
attitude that represents the attempt at an impossible symbiosis with nature.
As we have seen all this underpins a refusal, sometimes unaware, to compete
with the city, understood as polis, as a place of politics, which involves what
Latour defines as a “democracy extended to things”, reaching the point of
speaking of parliaments of humans and non-humans, a democracy that has
some significant relations with Clément’s “planetary garden”.
“I had chosen to speak of ‘ecology’ without using the word, which has
been taken to the lowest level of disaffection through so many battles,
Towards a Reinvented City 173

hesitations, radicalism. ‘Garden’ … is a more suitable term.” (Clément

2004a).. Thus Clément was to bring back to mind, later on, one of the
reasons that led him during the course of the first half of the 90s to coin
that expression, “planetary garden”, around which almost all the works of
the last ten years revolve. It is a matter of reappropriating some of the great
themes of ecological thought and doing it without using worn-out words
like “environment” or “sustainable”. “Behind the word environment can be
seen to unfold a whole range of machines … destined to harvest
knowledge and make bales of hay of it” continues the French landscaper,
stigmatising the “machinist” and restrictive attitudes of techno-
environmentalism. “Imagine a cow with which someone wants to speak of
‘green space’ and you will get a good idea of my feelings on the issue.”
(Clément 1999). It is a matter of reappropriating a possible political
dimension for our work, a dimension long refused in favour of supremacy
of solitary doubt, patient observation, verification of the hypotheses in the
field: “the largest number of species in my herbarium was collected in the
spring of 1968.” (Clément 2004a).
If we examine the elements of inertia on the territory of the widespread
city, of urban dispersion, of the outskirts and vast regions, it is possible to
find these things, that live with us and to construct a “democracy extended
to things”. They are those we have defined the environmental dominants of
human settlement, “spatial concepts and places rich in nature and history”.
To understand these concepts, explore these places, that are not only
physical but cultural, requires a more aware appreciation of differences.45
This encourages us to interpret all places, understand their meanings,
decode them as representative of a network configuring a “supra-local”
system, enabling relations to be enjoyed with them within the situation of
instability and demands of communication that are inherent in new urban
landscapes, a weft of relations that grants sense to the integrity of the
urban and territorial palimpsest. Each projectual experience at each
operative scale, even the tiniest, may then be converted into an action
making the pertinent, relevant sense of this weft of relations emerge. Every
theme, each occasion can be transformed into a territorial experience, so
that each intervention at any scale is a cognitive act that attempts to
produce a possible world, exploring the links between the place of the
intervention and its supra-local dimensions.
This is the case – to return to the examples illustrated here – of the
“environmental corridor” of Mesozoic limestones, a “dominant” that
shows a space of possible urban solidarity between the centres of the
Sardinian Gennargentu massif, joined along the artery of the limestones,
the traces of which (the supramonti and “heels”) are the relevant, symbolic
174 Reinventing the City

elements, the “mother mountains” of settled societies, like the mountain of

Maria Lai in Ulassai.
The environment therefore offers itself as a text for rethinking the
settlement project: for it favours an interpretative conception of the urban
sense of spatial forms, being the overall place of co-presence, stratification
and material evidence of the history of human settlement; it presses for a
dialogical, multidisciplinary aperture of the project, calling up knowledges
to be part of the polis that “were not at the centre”, that were considered
implicit and thus neglected by the city project, but which prove essential
when the dilation of the urban realm requires communication with other
systems of knowledge to increase information in the shape of new results
and new hypotheses.
This environmental approach is realised in the space of local contexts,
of which, however, any idiographic contiguity with positions typical of
ethnocentrism or separate localism is denied. It is, in effect, at this scale
that a concept of collective good is imaginable, as the outcome of a
process that the urbanist favours by trying “to bring to the light a secret
order to grant it a direction and enhance it, or to unify the scattered
elements, old and new, giving a sense to them as a whole” (Lucan 1992).
Only equal attention to both the values of innovation and the values of the
memory of the absence will be capable of keeping alive faith in a complex,
plural urban life. By understanding these forms of specific embodiment of
history, we will have much greater probability of constructing an inter-
subjective space able to accomplish its social and political task as an
affirmation of culture (Pérez-Gómez 1996a).
This environmental conception of the settlement project, in which the
city that opens itself to the territory, not indiscriminately but in specific
ways, is a metaphor of what today is required of the project for a city to be
reinvented, of a city given back to its inhabitants, a rediscovered city: an
opening that must guide towards the study of the other forms of urban
condition, towards different codes of time and different relationships with
temporality, towards different knowledges, different common sense that
expresses – also through the cartographer’s sensitivity – the hierarchy of
values, and in this sense, towards ethics and the need for social
legitimisation of projectual activity. This aperture entails in the first place
discovering what meaning the words of our world can take on, the
ordinary, everyday words, at the moment in which they need to describe
new possible worlds. “This is why the Traveller travels: to put to the test
an entire linguistic patrimony … the stages of possible progression
towards the construction of a knowledge.”46
Taking the cue from some logical categories (Cellucci 1996), we might
speak of the transition of the project from a closed system, from a
Towards a Reinvented City 175

disciplinary soliloquy, belonging to a stable, autonomous field, the

repository of strong rationality, to a conception of the project as an open
system, from a monological conception to a dialogical conception. To
converse with others, therefore, to learn to “think differently” to regenerate
techniques, and converse with men through techniques, in order to relate
with common sense, which is nothing more than the personal and social
story of the men who inhabit a territory.

With his single novel, published in 1890 in the American magazine
Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, the English poet Oscar Wilde left us a long
metaphorical fable with a deep significance. The story of Dorian Gray and the
portrait given to him by his artist friend, Basil Hallward, who portrayed him at the
height of his youth and beauty, onto which, under the arcane spell of a vow, all
traces of the vices and crimes of the protagonist are transferred, is much more than
one of the stages, though highly significant, of the long history of the “double in
literature”, which reached its highest peak in German Romanticism. Together with
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson, which came out in 1886, it is
one of the two exceptional points which, at a brief distance one from the other,
give new content and depth to this history (Maciocco and Tagliagambe 1998).
George Steiner in fact observes: “These have no ‘scientific’ status. Our
instruments of perception are not theories or working hypotheses in any scientific,
which means falsifable, sense, but what I call ‘working metaphors.’” (Steiner G
1975, p. xvi).
The experience of shock that occurs in the contact between the flâneur and the
crowd is among those that proved decisive for Baudelaire’s mettle, an “intimate
relationship existing in Baudelaire between the image of the shock and the contact
with the large city masses. It also tells us what we should understand exactly by
these masses. It is not a question of any class, or of any articulated, structured
crowd. It is just a question of the amorphous crowd of passers-by, of the public in
the streets. This crowd, whose existence Baudelaire never forgets, was not used as
a model for any of his works. But it is inscribed in his creation like a secret
form… The image of the fencer is decipherable in its context: the hits he makes
are destined to open him up a way through the crowd… and with the invisible
crowd of words, fragments, beginnings of lines, that the poet fights with, in the
abandoned avenues, his fight for the poetic prey.” (Benjamin 1995, pp. 98–99).
“In the type created by Glasbrenner the private appeaers as a degenerate
descendant of the citoyen. Nante has no reason to be busy. He establishes himself
in the street (which it is taken for granted takes him nowhere) as comfortable as
the philistine within his four walls.”
Ernst Theodor Amadeus Hoffmann’s piece entitled My cousin corner window
teaches us about the way the private looks at the crowd. Preceding Poe’s tale by
fifteen years, it is perhaps one of the earliest attempts to represent the road
network of a large city. (E.T.A. Hoffmann My cousin corner window, in E.T.A.
176 Reinventing the City

Hoffmann The golden pot and other tales, Oxford University press, Oxford,
According to Francisco Varela (cf. Varela 1989, p. 77), what is postulated,
namely that the mind uses and knows the world storing and manipulating symbols
according to the hypothesis that symbols can be reduced to discontinuous physical
entities and that the system is able to carry out operations on these entities, this
unavoidable reference to mental representation, was the true “masterstroke” of the
cognitivist hypothesis (quoted in Tagliagambe 1994, p. 56).
With respect to this position relevant expressions of the Modern Movement are
also contiguously placed, in which the representational conception is present
which is typical of the cognitive hypothesis. To this hypothesis refers back as
classical form of analysis also that of rationalist matrix, which understands
representation as an ideal construction of the observer and method as verification
of logical coherence and control of their empirical significancy (cf. Palermo 1992,
p.12 ).
Lisbon Story, directed by Wim Wenders, Road Movies Filmproduktion/Berlin,
As Florenskij shows in his criticism on naturalism. (Florenskij 1990).
P.A. Magalhães, Si tratta di una colonna sonora “O Tejo”, Letra de Pedro Ayres
Magalhães, Música de José Peixoto, in Madredeus, Ainda, Original Motion Picture
Soundtrack From The Film Lisbon Story written and directed by Wim Wenders.
The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.
The field in which this aberrant cartography unfolds is not in fact only that of
the relationship with an urban space overwhelmed by social transformations
which, according to Benjamin, made the flâneur “the market observer” endowed
with a knowledge “near to the occult science of the economic trend”, in short the
spy that “capitalism sends into the world of the consumer”. This field is no longer
just that “realisation of the ancient dream of humanity, the labyrinth” to which the
flâneur devotes himself without knowing it, nor that space in which “the most
heterogeneous elements of the time coexist” in such a way that “when you go out
of an 18th Century house to go into one of the 16th Century, you fall down a
temporal slope, so well that entering into a city “you feel as though you are caught
up in the fabric of a dream where the remotest past also joins up with a present
event…” (Benjamin 1989).
Also the definitions given of psychogeography and the dérive by the founder
of situationism, Guy-Ernest Debord; one would be “the study of exact laws and
the precise effects of the geographic environment consciously arranged or not,
which acts directly on the sentimental behaviour of individuals”, while the other
would be defined “among the various situationist procedures […] a technique of
hurried passage through different, varied environments”; nor would these
definitions, therefore, grasp but a part of what is played in cards and planimetries
(Debord 1955, reproduced in Berreby 1985, p. 288).
Soutif in fact notes that the planimetry of Debord’s Naked City, of Constant’s
New Babylon, without mentioning Brouwn’s This Way Brouwn, Françoise
Schein’s Dazibao pour la ville d'Anvers and Daniel Cordier’s Chimigramme sur
Towards a Reinvented City 177

un plan de ville, drive schematism, selectivity, condensation or uniformity to such

a point that reference to a territory is in some way radically absent to the
advantage of adopting the urban cartographic sign as such. Christel Hollevoet
rightly emphasises that this type of “work” actually functions as an index of
“ephemeral situation or immaterial concept” (Hollevoet 1992, p. 45, quoted in
Soutif 1994).
It is the well-known definition of the linguistic current, with its starting-date
made to correspond to the publication of Noam Chomsky’s famous Syntactic
structures (1957).
“No more borders in Europe, all the doors are open and anyone can go
through them as they wish… It seems like Europe has really become very small.
Languages change, music, news is different, but the views speak the same
language. They all tell the same stories of an old continent full of its wars and its
truces. It is nice to look like this without thinking of anything, letting the events
and ghosts of history come to me from one epoch to another… Hey! This is my
land, my true land, my homeland!” From the initial sequences of Wim Wenders’
film Lisbon Story, 1995.
The Sky above Berlin, regia di Wim Wenders, Road Movies
Filmproduktion/Berlin Argos Films/Paris, 1987.
“...call me, oh Muse, – continues Homère – the poor mortal cantor who,
abandoned by the mortals, his audience, lost his voice … he who, angel of the tale,
became the ignored, mocked organ-player on the threshold of no-man’s-land...”
(From the film The Sky above Berlin).
The theme of amazement is faced by Wenders through the words of the angel
Daniel in his dialogue with Marion in the final sequences of the film The Sky
above Berlin: “Tonight I learnt to be amazed … There once was, there once was
and therefore there will be. The image we have created will be the image that will
accompany my death. In this image I will have lived … Only amazement on
ourselves, the amazement of man and woman, has made a man of me… Now I
know what no angel knows.” (From the film The Sky above Berlin).
Rai Educational, Multimedial Encyclopaedia of Philosophical Sciences,
Interview with Remo Bodei, “Bloch e il principio speranza”, 30/6/1994,
“In these apparently forgotten places, the memory of the past seems to prevail
over the present. Here only a few essential values survive, despite the total
disaffection from activity of the city. These strange places exist outside the city‘s
effective circuits and productive structures. From an economic point of view, the
industrial areas, railway stations, ports, unsafe residential neighborhoods, and
contaminated places are where the city is no longer.” (de Solà-Morales 1995, p.
The “triple frustration” connected with acting – unpredictability of outcome,
irreversibility of process and anonymity of authors – is the price man pays to be
able to experience reality, and it derives in the first instance from the human
condition of plurality, the preliminary requisite of that space of appearance that is
the public sphere, the space of visibility in which some appear to others and they
178 Reinventing the City

acknowledge each other, which basically constitutes the condition of possibility of

being-together (cf. Arendt 1958). Since each one holds his own delimited position
in the world, the characteristic of public space is that of uniting and separating at
the same time, namely of “articulating plurality through relations that are neither
vertical nor hierarchical nor of a merging type.” (cf. Forti 1996, p. 275).
To study further the conception of the symbol in Florenskij and his
“epistemology of the symbol” see Tagliagambe 2006b.
Welsch, 1998. Wolfgang Welsch teaches at the University of Magdeburg and
has been the most convincing and keenest advocate of the post-modern in
Germany. He is the author and editor of various books, among which the recent:
Aktualität des Aesthetischen, Munich, Fink Verlag, 1993; of his work an essay has
been translated into Italian entitled: “La terra e l’opera d’arte”, published in 1991
by the Gallio publishing company in Ferrara.
“The city, Mumford affirms (Mumford 1938a) is, with language, the greatest
work of art of man”. He does not hesitate, of course, to criticise the industrial city,
which he sometimes calls “necropolis” or “tyrannopolis”, but his humanistic
approach is related to the antique urban sociology of the Greek-Roman classics.
The type of ideal city that he considers may be criticised; and, as we will see, it is
certainly not the image that the majority of modern sociologists create for
themselves of the city. But the image described above has its reverse side, much
disputed and characterised by urban ‘pessimism.’”
Il Manifeste du Tiers paysage, published in the French edition in 2004, goes
back over some of these positions. The expression “Third landscape” appears here
for the first time (beginning on page 83) and one of the possible points of interest
of the concept is in the fact that it provides Clément with more effective
instruments to confront the field of observation, the city, which has always
represented a difficult stumbling-block for his ideas. (cf. Clément 2004b; De Pieri
The idea is reinforced of environment-organism co-determination and co-
evolution which Oyama expresses in the following terms: “Form emerges through
successive interactions. Far from being imposed on matter by some agent, it
depends of reactivity of matter at many hierarchical levels, as well as the
reciprocal sensitivity of those interactions.” (cf. Oyama 1985, p. 22, quoted in
Tagliagambe 1994).
Cf. L. Snozzi, “Metro Polis”, in this instalment of Parametro.
Tokyo-ga, directed by Wim Wenders, Road Movies Filmproduktion/ Berlin
Wim Wenders Produktion.
A. Endell, Die Schönheit der großen Stadt, (quoted in Wenders 1992, pp.
102–103). Each day in the metropolis we pass by hundreds, thousands of people,
in silence, each a stranger to the other, like the trees in a wood. Man is just a
phenomenon, a microcosm whose relations do not interest us, but whose form is
accessible to us as are those of the mountains and trees. Man is an element of
nature. An element just as fascinating, just as attractive as any other. […] There is
nothing nicer than sitting in silence in the tram among strangers, not to spy on
their conversations, but to experience their feelings, to enjoy observing them. […]
Towards a Reinvented City 179

One man is enough, a point that is moving, to upset the ordered symmetry of a
street. This takes on, to a certain extent, a human dimension, asymmetrical, with
the free space divided up by the movement of this body, distance and size take on
a new significance. […] He who thinks of architecture, thinks of the consequences
of the elements of construction, façades, columns, embellishments – and yet, all
this is secondary. What counts first and foremost is not the single form, but its
context, the space surrounding it, the void that extends rhythmically between the
walls, and is delimited by them (Endell 1908, pp. 153 and 157).
Partage d’exotisme, Biennale de Lyon, Halle Tony Garnier, Lyon, 2000.
Quoted in A. Detheridge, “Da maghi ad artisti nel circuito globale”, Il Sole 24 ore,
August 20.
The case of the Euralille project is emblematic, based on the hypothesis that
the “experience” of Europe will completely change with the impact of the tunnel
linking Great Britain with the continent and with the extension of the French TGV
network as far as London. If this hypothesis proves founded, the city of Lille,
dormant gravitational centre of the London/Brussels/Paris triangle, will, as if
under a spell, take on great importance as the vessel of a wide range of typically
“contemporary” activities. At Lille, the new TGV line is designed on the site of
the old fortifications. A place now occupied by outskirts that are continually
expanding. At a stone’s throw from the historic centre a gigantic futuristic project
is imagined, a hybrid, unusual condition enabling so-called peripheral activities to
be placed near the heart of the city. Euralille, Lille, France, 1994, project by Rem
Koolhaas, François Delhay, F.M. Delhay-Caille, Commissioned by Euralille.
The Plan for European Space Development, to use the French acronym Sdec,
gives these numbers in a background of contradictory arguments which on the one
side places the emphasis on the endless entity of the problems and on the other
envisages a field of conventional activities for impossible all-out recuperation.
Cf. SSSE, Plan for European Space Development (first official draft), Meeting of
Ministers for territory order in member States of the European Union, Noordwijk,
9 and 10 June 1997.
A position in which a business strategy is applied to the city, a strategy
understood as minimisation of risk, of the loss the business city might suffer with
respect to the external world, a strategy that not by chance was promoted by
private organisations.
“Guattari is right to take offence at environmentalist reductionism. To not see
that pollution is a category of modernity, to not see that there is no difference, but
a close relationship between pollution of ideas, excess of information and
pollution of the seas, means to accept the game with the rules imposed by the great
centres of the media.” (La Cecla 1991, p. 56).
Perhaps for this – if we think of Wenders’ research on Lisbon – in the last part
of Lisbon Story, Friedrich’s cine-camera eye and Winter’s microphone return
together to look and listen incessantly, almost in a “feverish vigil”, to try to “see”
Lisbon, finding hope again in the commitment to uninterrupted projectuality
innate in the human condition, and which means that each projectual experience,
even the smallest, is converted into an action that brings to light the sense of this
180 Reinventing the City

indescribable thread of relations between space and life that is the city (cf. for
these reflections: Maciocco 1996).
Rather than abandon the local situations to their apparent irrationality with
regard to the “rational” logics of globalisation, almost as if they constituted
interference, a noise in objective knowledge, in the sense used by the theory of
information, one might think they belong to a different logic that can be studied
for itself. They will therefore be evaluated as a sort of “raw material”, a “mineral”,
from which it would be possible to extract essential elements of the life of
humanity, especially its life of desire and creative potential (cf. for these
reflections: Guattari 1997).
The considerations dealt with in this paragraph on the multidisciplinary
aperture of urbanistics are taken up again in G Maciocco’s essay, La città in
ombra (Maciocco 1996).
Silvano Tagliagambe faces the theme in his essay Landscape as a
regenerative structure of a fragmented territory, in G Maciocco, Landscape
Project, City Project (in press). Tagliagambe refers to the famous conference
entitled Building Dwelling Thinking, held on 5 August 1951 during the second
Darstadt meeting on “Man and space”, in which Heidegger studies in depth the
concept of “inhabiting”. Tagliagambe emphasises how Heidegger posed himself
the objective of establishing not only what “to inhabit” means, but also to
investigate the links between inhabiting and “to build”, meant not from the
specific viewpoint of architecture and technical aspects, but as the expression of
our activities within the material writings that have constituted and constitute the
world of men (Heidegger 1971, pp. 98–99 quoted in Tagliagambe 2008).
As Filippo De Pieri notes, analysing the theoretical position of Gilles Clément
in the essay Thomas et le Voyageur (Clément 1999) the information provided by
the Voyager … often concerns behavioural aspects, not figures, so that the
problem of a “figure of life” is constantly posed. To design what is between, not
what is. How?” Towards the concluding pages, perhaps a ray of hope may be
glimpsed. Some images found along the way will be of help: a miniature taken
from the visions of Hildegard of Bingen … the Korean Airlines logo … the “chart
of the biomes” of Troll and Ozenda … Perhaps, it is sensed, what is needed is to
“renew the bond with the analogical process of reading the universe, as if today it
were necessary to add elementary drawings to words, vaguely tributary of heraldry
or the cabbala, something medieval at the same time highly modern.” (Clément
and Blazy1995; De Pieri 2005).
If the problem is posed in these terms it is not a question only of “integrating
the ecological paradigm, but also of living it in its sacred dimension. What is
missing, in all evidence, is a myth adapted to the new state of knowledge: we
know well that it cannot be Gaia, but what figure can therefore be found for this
nascent eco-symbol?” (cf. Clément and Blazy 1995).
“Environmental planning” is a very general expression that includes different
experiences and trends of research which have in common a specific consideration
for environmental aspects in territorial and urban planning. One extreme
corresponds to a conception of the environment based on categories of principally
Towards a Reinvented City 181

aesthetic judgement, which are tributaries also of the pre-scientific experiences of

the Landscape Architects, while at the other extreme we can assign the founders of
the ecological approach to environmental planning and control.
Recent history shows an evolution that has a constant tension towards the
drawing close of the two extremes, which is expressed, on the one hand, through
the integration of environmental dimensions in landscape planning, and on the
other, through a conception comprehensive of the environment, which associates
to natural processes the material testimonies of the inseparabile relationship
between the people, activities and places of a territory.
Such as, for example, in the attempts of Rob and Leon Krier and their
See for example the Igm series 1992 on the scale 1:25,000 for Sardinia.
The “differential” quality of places is not to be seen as absolute, in that it is
intrinsically tied to the locus. Places are not meant here necessarily as physical
entities, but indeed as “single, specific complexes of relations” (Cacciari 1990),
single, specific “notional worlds” of communities. Their differences are tied to
processes of transformation and communication on a different scale, which affect
the sense communities grant to places and differences. But some of these places –
using the meaning as mentioned above – with respect to the selection processes of
the contemporary condition, are – in that they are lasting - more significant of
space organisation than others; they represent the “environmental dominants” of
human settlement (Maciocco 1991b).
Along the line of comparison between the two protagonists, the content of the
book Thomas et le Voyageur (Clément 1999) turns into a philosophical dialogue in
which new characters appear, positions become more hazy, meetings or
unforeseen events suggest various possibilities. A first list of words is drawn up
but immediately questioned; others are added, yet others (“red”, “desert” …) will
remain on paper. The final list (“horizon”, “grass”, “erosion”, “city”, “legend”,
“fire”, “garden”) spells out the chapters of the book and also the stages of possible
progression towards the construction of a knowledge (cf. De Pieri 2005).

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A-contextual, 13 Atlanta, 112

Aesthetic sensitivity, 162 Autopoietic, 76
Aesthetisation, 88 Autopoietic capacity, 113, 119
Africa, 171 Avignon-Clouet, 16
economies, 68 Ban-lieu, 79, 81, 83, 84
of highly-specialised services, 70 Barcelona, 14, 25, 26, 141
Aggregation Bare city, 81, 82
of specialised service, 69 Bare life, 82
Agorà, 7, 51, 136 Baudelairian flâneur, 26, 99
Aisthesis, 105, 109 Berlin, 71, 122
Alfama, 121 Berne, 115
Americanism, 51, 76 Besòs, 141
Ancien régime, 90 Bigness, 13
Ancient centres, 23 Bio-climatic architectures, 168
Anomia, 43 Biopolitical paradigm, 83
Anthropic and natural patrimony, 93 Border areas, 137
Anthropology, 125 Bosnia, 156
Antiurban hypothesis, 29 Boundaries, 18, 45, 61, 62
Apartment-men, 108 Brasilia, 23
Aporia of the set-up model, 93 Brazil, 171
Apotheosis of modernisation, 41 Brazzaville, 81
Archaeological park, 64 British Museum, 71
Archaeology of urbanity, 156 Brussels, 115
Archaic landscapes, 57 Bureaucratic structures, 92
Archetypal events, 46 Business park, 70
Architectonic simulations, 55 Buskers, 170
complexes, 77 Cameroons, 82
cult, 28 Canavese League of Councils, 32
methods, 10 Canberra, 112
modernism, 14 Cantor, 103
reality, 13 Capital cities, 148
simulation, 62 Cartographer’s sensitivity, 170, 174
Archizoom, 71 Central
Art of observing, 101 city, 45
Asia, 171 control, 68

200 Index

nucleus of a territorial policy, 163 territory, 25, 154, 170

places, 60, 146 is of the territory, 161
space, 7 of tomorrow, 84
Central Park, 131 transformation, 72
Chandigarn, 23 of the 20th Century, 53
Chaos, 85 City’s no-man’s-land, 79
Chechnya, 156 CityWalk, 63
Chernobyl, 127 Ciudad Lineal, 22
Chicago, 91 Civitas, 58, 89, 105, 158, 162
Chicago School of Sociology, 75 Classical
China, 171 city, 54, 77
Cities enclose, 134 concept of the city, 18
Citizen/non-citizen, 60 ecologism, 172
City reason, 15
adrift, 1, 7, 41 Classicism, 5
anaesthetised, 112 Clear and open identity, 93
belongs to the country, 148 Coastal strip, 148
centre, 61 Coevolutive
without city, 99, 124, 167 approach, 16
as a collective, 141 perspective, 15
is the community, 106 Cognitive
construction, 29, 109 conception of the project, 107
is of the country, 160 mapping, 11
culture, 133 maps, 11
deconstruction, 25 picture, 165
of the desert, 73 process, 137, 142
disciplines, 139 science, 104, 146
edges, 78 Collage city, 52, 123
of flows, 137, 142, 161 Collective
of immigrants, 77 action, 145
is all that is of interest, 166 awareness, 33
is life, 106 conscience, 164, 167
network, 35, 36 construction of a territorial city,
of places, 138, 142, 161 144, 146
port, 153 fruition, 109
project, 27, 64, 118, 135, 139, 142, ideal, 138
148, 150, 153, 159, 168, 174, imagination, 163
180 memory, 130
regeneration, 80 sensitivity, 166
as self-organised fact, 141 services, 30
as a significant environment, 71 space, 113
as a space of communication, 97 values, 104, 108
as space of the public sphere, 97 Collserola, 141
spaces, 146 Colombia, 78
of stone, 7 Combas, 128
Index 201

Common Consumerism, 42, 43, 51, 84,

humanity, 86 105, 106
knowledge, 159 Contaminated lands, 161
places, 106 Contemporary, 85, 102
sense, 111, 145, 174 amnesia, 105
Communications, 121 apocalypse, 42
Community, 29, 30, 32, 33, 52, 61, architecture, 44
70, 71, 75, 92, 106, 108, 126, city, 8, 46, 50, 138, 156
130, 163 contradiction, 169
planning, 30 life, 86
processes, 33 man, 59, 101
Compact metropolis, 85, 137
city, 169 modalities of urban
model of the city, 34 development, 35
Complex city, 89 post-cities, 53, 161
Complexity, 86, 145, 149, 172 public space, 98, 133, 135, 136,
Comprehensive regional plan, 30 138, 141, 142, 165, 168
Concept spatial condition, 123
of city, 152 urban condition, 104, 170
of city-place, 10 urban dimension, 44
of collective good, 110, 174 urban landscape, 157, 170
of context, 10, 12, 15 urban theatre, 35
of denotation and connotation, 147 Context, 24
of ethics, 18 as fiction, 47
of intermediate space, 83, 84, Contextual
136–138, 141 approach, 14
of place, 10, 12 architecture, 10
project, 159 Contextualisation, 12
of regional balance, 31 Continuous city, 153
space, 122 Copenhagen, 14
of tradition, 138 Copy of the copy of cities, 54
Conceptual Cosmopolitan, 97
architecture, 146 Costa Smeralda, 46, 47
artist, 59, 115, 128, 170 Counterspace, 131, 138–140, 144,
plane, 153 148, 155, 161, 163, 168
space, 1, 150 Country is of the city, 160
Conflictive, 85 Crete, 48
Connotative character, 165 Crisis
Conscience of a city, 137 of the context of proximity, 9
Consequence of modernity, 158 of ethics, 21
Conservative of the ethics of proximity, 97
utopia, 3, 22–24, 27, 60 in the space of proximity, 97
vision, 55 Critical belonging, 110
Construction Criticism
of the city, 30 of naturalism, 103
of the identity, 12 of the modern city, 71
202 Index

Crowded environment, 138 Differential

Cult entertainment, 64 quality, 53
Cultural quality of the city, 50
consumerism, 105–107 quality of territories, 154, 162
pluralism, 80 Dilation, 17, 18, 35, 152, 167, 169
self-preservation, 52 of spaces, 51, 52
Culturalist positions, 25 of the urban condition, 18
Culture of the urban realm, 174
of pleasure, 70 of the urbs, 169
of a territory, 162 Disappearance of urbanity, 23
of urban knowledge, 103 Discomposed city, 7, 97
Cyber cities, 77 Discovery of urban ecology, 52
Cyber-Fascism, 75 Disembedding, 19
Cyberpunk, 27 Disneyland, 62
Cyberspace, 8, 62, 78, 156 Disseminated urban form, 34
Dissociated world, 80
Dammerstock, 117 Dissolution of the city, 64
Dearticulation of the traditional Distance communications, 34
city, 50 Distribution of activities, 68
Decline of modernity, 80 Disurbanists, 23
Deconstructionist positions, 104 Diversity of the environment, 31
Deconstruction of the European city, 22 Dorian Gray
Deindustrialisation, 78 metamorphosis, 56
Delfi, 50 metaphor, 98
Delta Metropolis, 145, 146 syndrome, 56, 98
Demographic Dormitory city, 127
density, 34 Dorset, 27
increase, 51 Douala, 82
pressure, 100 Double spatial grid, 27
Denotative character, 165 Downtown, 73
Dense metropolises, 134, 161 Dual centre-suburbs city, 78
Dependency, 90 Dynamic traditionality, 120
Deregionalisation, 51
Dérive, 11, 51, 115 Earth Art, 129
Description of the real, 166 Ecological determinants, 75
Design, 15, 18, 32, 63, 91, 118, 145 Ecological scientific knowledge, 167
Desolate space, 158 Ecologists, 92
Despina, 143 Ecology of urban life, 159
Destiny Economic
of the city, 72 globalisation, 87
of moral reason, 19, 20 Economy
Destruction of local cultures and of poverty, 80
economies, 93 of scale, 36
Deterritorialisation, 93 Eco-social plan, 94
Dialogical Eden-Olympia, 70
aperture of the project, 174 Edge, 82, 83, 141, 155, 157, 158–160
Index 203

Edge spaces, 157, 159, 160 European “wastelands”, 161

Elitist segregation, 72, 99 Evolution of the city, 108
Emigrants, 83 Exclusion, 83
Empty spaces, 151–153 Exile, 86
Enclave, 48, 63, 69, 80, 91 Existing city, 13, 25, 44
End Exodus, 71
of the city, 81 Experience
of urbanism, 29 expert knowledge, 144
Endogenous transformation, 159 of memory, 138
Entertainment, 51, 52, 63, 64, of the city, 8, 50, 51, 105, 155
105, 157 Explosion of the city, 1, 7
urbanistic, 63 External
Environment, 93 city, 123
Environmental dimension, 143
component, 168 environment, 133
conception of the settlement territories, 161, 163, 165
project, 174 Externity, 99, 105, 134, 140, 150,
control, 169 160, 164
counterpoint, 161 Extraterritorial features, 48
determinism, 168, 172
dimension, 48, 148, 166 Factors of localisation, 36
disasters, 73 Favelas, 79
dominants, 17, 33, 148, 167, 168 Feel at home, 132
formalism, 172 Fiction, 14, 59
functionalism, 169, 172 Financial power, 87
interdependence, 161 Flâneur, 26, 50, 51, 62, 99, 101,
policies, 21 113, 115
processes, 21, 48 Flat Man, 79, 108
project, 17, 33, 167 Florida, 61
quality, 36, 161, 162 Fordism, 52, 76
signs, 153 Form
system, 33 process, 145
Ephemeral, 45, 97 of segregation, 82
Epistemology of effective action, 128 of urbanity, 148
Espace vécu, 11 Fortified quarters of the
Ethical professionals, 73
intentionality, 33 Fortified spaces, 84
solution, 19 Fortresses, 78
Ethics, 93, 108, 174 Fourth Migration, 30
of proximity, 18, 97 Fractal city, 52
Ethiopia, 171 Fragmentary glance, 128
Ethnic Fragmentation of the city, 80
quarters of migration, 80 Frankfurt, 79
segregation, 80 Fuck context, 13
Ethnocentrism, 174 Functional city, 23
European city, 23, 100, 123 Functionalism, 4, 41, 51, 71
204 Index

Future processes, 67
of the city, 25, 32, 119, 167 of the local, 79
urbanity, 155 Gold Standard, 171
Futurists, 3 Grand Prix de Rome, 15
Gallura, 153 polis, 85
Garden city, 13, 23, 30 theatre, 141
Gated quarters, 72 Grid, 27, 77, 79, 128, 141, 148
The Gates, 131
Generating structures, 26 Hetero-directed
Generative man, 2
engine of urbanisation, 41 by the market, 126
structure, 141, 148 by mass organisation, 140
Generic city, 1, 41, 81, 97 Heterogeneous individuals, 85
Genesis of urban behaviours, 22 Heterotope, 80, 164
Genius loci, 12 Hierarchy of values, 174
Gentrification, 55, 72 High
Geographical density city, 161
dispersion, 68 density metropolis, 161
form of the map, 116 level professionals, 69
Geographic environment, 11 profit specialised service
Geography, 11, 20, 29, 35, 60, 71, 76, companies, 69
77, 79, 97, 102, 127, 167, 170 Historic
of city centralities, 60 centre, 26, 61
of poverty, 79 city, 23, 43, 81, 106, 122
German Elendsviertel, 79 patrimony, 27
Gestaltists, 147 quarter, 55, 62
Gestalt theory, 12 and social antecedents, 120
Ghetto, 81, 84 History
Ghettoisation processes, 90 as fiction, 64
Global of urban forms, 24
capitalism, 86 Hollywood, 63
city, 67, 70, 74, 77, 87, 146 Homère, 122
city-region, 67, 146 Homo absconditus, 5
economy, 67, 74 Hong Kong, 79
environment, 19 Horizon of modernity, 55, 60
flows, 89 House, 19, 46, 49, 58, 83, 106, 110,
identity of cities, 72 114, 128, 130, 144, 151, 168
infrastructures, 88 Housing and Regional Planning
interchange, 7 Report, 31
market, 68 Human
networks, 69 condition, 84
science, 19 dignity, 90
Globalisation, 35, 87 dimensions for the city, 128
of activities, 134 ecology, 75
Index 205

perception, 12 Interactive knowledge, 144

resources, 83 Intercity geography, 35
settlement, 22 Interconnections, 160
society, 93 Intermediate space, 83, 84,
territoriality, 109 136–138, 141
Hyper Interregional migrations, 149
market, 55, 62 Interstitial spaces, 88, 137, 157
mobile, 68 Intertextuality, 15
protection, 81 Introspective spaces, 138
reality, 62 Islands of perfect efficiency, 111
Italian megastructures, 25
IBA Emscher Park, 159
Iconic density, 148 Jet Society, 46
Ideal city, 80 Junkspace, 43
Identity, 18, 33, 157
of man, 12 Karlsruhe, 117
of place, 12 Kingdom of the urban, 35
Illuminist architecture, 9 Knowledge for action, 144, 146
Image Korea, 78
of labyrinth, 47
of the city, 51 Labyrinth, 48
Incapacity as absence of centre, 49
to ‘live’ the city, 112 as an archetype, 50
to ‘represent’ the city, 58 as defence, 49
to ‘see’ the city, 58 as enclave, 48
Inclusion, 2, 18, 20, 83, 159 as enclosure, 48
Independence, 90 as a form unfinished mandala, 49
Individual ideal, 138 as game, 47
Individual’s identity, 91 image, 46
Industrial as a primeval phenomenon, 50
city, 34, 53, 138 as prison, 48, 50
metropolis, 26, 53 as screen, 46
revolution, 22, 138 as a spiral, 49
Inequality, 85, 146 Landscape, 11, 15, 19, 50, 102, 107,
Information 138, 139, 141
era, 74 architecture, 156
technology, 57 artists, 103
Infosphere, 74 as desert, 57
Infrastructure, 67, 78, 87, 88, 146, development, 57
149, 160, 162, 163 as historic museum, 57
Inhabitants, 42 as industry, 57
Inhabited territory, 123 object, 165
Inheritance of the modern as ruin, 57
movement, 28 as supermarket, 57
Inseparability of the biological and Las Vegas, 72
the cultural dimensions, 171 Lebanon, 156
206 Index

Leonidov, 71 Marketing control, 68

Liminal space, 136 Mass
Limits consumerism, 42
of rationality, 19 consumption, 54, 112
of urban development, 28 Medieval
Linear city, 22, 71 city, 61
Liquefaction of the city, 1, 22 commune, 85
Liquidateur, 3 society, 61
Liquidatory utopia, 3, 4, 22, 23, 27, Mega-cities, 78, 156
33, 36, 43, 53, 60 Megalopolis, 27, 36, 76
Lisbon, 105 Megastructures, 24
Llobregat, 141 Melun-Séart, 152
Local Memory, 122, 139, 157
capacity, 163 Mental
communities, 156, 159 construct, 158
contexts, 110, 174 images, 168
economy, 21 map, 82, 170
identity, 61 nomadism, 20
landscape, 19 Metamorphosis of the city, 18
organisational scale, 27 Metaphor, 142
scale, 97, 110 of the artifice and enclosure, 48
sentiment, 19 of the modern citizen, 86
Logic of mobility, 51 of space, 85
Los Angeles, 62 Metropolis, 26, 30, 31, 53, 69,
Loss of 72–74, 85, 87, 120, 134, 135,
centre, 50 139, 149, 161
the city, 54, 97, 98 form, 74
place, 50 of illusions, 72
Low-density Metropolitan
city, 30, 161, 165 areas, 35, 60
territories, 134, 161 centres, 31
Ludic historicism, 24, 169 city, 104
Luxury ghettoes, 81, 82 condition, 85
conviviality, 123
Macrospace of the city, 80 explosion, 31
Maddalena archipelago, 109 ideal, 71
Maeander, 49 infrastructure, 146, 149
Manhattan, 77, 79 neo-pantheism, 172
Marginal network, 148
areas, 137 planning, 31
communities, 159 post-cities, 162
culture, 159 society, 31
economies, 21 space, 145
humanity, 27 universe, 161
space, 158 Mexico, 112
Market city, 141 Microgeography, 141
Index 207

Microscale, 106 Mutation, 139

Microspace of quarters, 80 Myth, 43, 46
Middle Ages, 2 of the green, 48
Militarisation of the territory, 75 Mythical
Mimetic urban forms, 112 notion of nature, 138
Minimal social life, 84 realities, 46
Mnemonic city, 62
Mobilisation of knowledge, 144 Narrative fiction, 72
Mobility, 7, 8, 18, 35, 45, 51, 74, 83, National/global dichotomy, 87
105, 108, 111, 121, 123, 146, Natural
162, 169 environment, 141, 148
Model landscapes, 57
of a complete city, 23 places, 141
of urbanity, 22 Nature, 172
Modern conservation, 57
architecture, 43 neighbourhood, 79, 82
city, 23, 41, 50, 139 Neo-community utopia, 92
condition, 44 Neo-historicist suggestions, 24
fear of exposure, 85 Neoindustrial technopolises, 78
individualism, 135 Neo-traditionalist, 28
rationalism, 71 Network, 20, 69, 74, 76, 78, 100, 123,
urban space, 45 148, 160, 173
Modernists, 14 of cities, 35, 36
Modernity categories, 84 city, 34, 35
Modern Movement, 9 of global cities, 35
Monte Carasso, 145, 147 metaphor, 35
Monte Moro, 48 of places, 89, 92, 93, 134
Monumentalised New
classic public spaces, 88 ecology of the mind, 158
public spaces, 138 fetish, 54
Monumental spaces, 133 modalities of spatial life, 21
Moral organisation of Earth space, 78
dimension, 19 suburbanism, 29
function, 27, 112 urban elites, 1, 98
problems, 20 New Opera House, 15
reason, 20, 97 New Urbanism, 27, 28
Mores, 170 New York, 74, 130
Morphism, 98 Nietzschean suggestions, 137
Morphogenesis of urban Nodes, 70, 71
space, 22 No-man’s-land, 137
Multicultural Non
migration, 79 citizens, 98, 135
society, 92 city, 8, 25, 46, 81, 98
Multidisciplinary negotiable values, 166
aperture of the project, 174 places, 80, 83, 129
Multifunctional landscapes, 57 resolute plan, 33
208 Index

urban, 8, 155 Physical

urban environment, 31 environment, 12, 33, 166
North American city, 75 relationship, 20, 97
Nostalgic architectonic forms, 28 space, 8, 106, 130, 132, 155
Notional worlds, 55 Physiognomy of the city, 52
Object inhabitants, 127 of action, 147
Objective knowledge, 125 of perception, 147
Occupation of space, 83, 84 Pietas, 158
Official city, 81 Place
Olbia, 153 of co-presence, 174
Old city, 58, 73, 114 identity, 13
Oligarchy, 69 of invariances, 162
Open system, 175 rich in nature and history, 110
Operational closure, 143 Planetary gardener, 19
Orange Country, 78 Planning, 46
Organic metaphors, 112 good sprawl, 30
Ornamental urbanistics, 172 process, 30, 124
Orwellian-style, 75 Plurality, 74, 136, 178
Orwellian universe, 72 Pluri-city, 36
Oslo, 15 Pluricultural urban dimension, 80
Outer space, 79 Pluriethnic, 78
Overexposed city, 46 Poetically inhabits man, 62
Poetry of insomnia, 108
Palestine, 156 Polis, 85, 86, 172
Parallel Quarters, 71 Political action, 87
Paris, 14, 25 Polycentric
Parisian ban-lieues, 83 development of cities, 73
Park, 43, 49, 64, 70, 141 model, 30
city, 45 Polycentrism of metropolises, 73
Partage d’exotisme, 156 Possible city, 103
Percements, 14, 26 Post
Perception, 8, 12, 37, 56, 102, 113, city, 43, 112
123, 137, 143, 147, 155, 175 mass media science fiction, 20
of the space, 11 modern city, 25
Perceptive worlds, 55, 56 modernist architects, 24
Péripheriques, 17 modern landscapes, 56
Peripherisation of the city, 29 modern universes, 57
Periurbanisation processes, 160 Post-industrial
Permeable city, 88 culture, 138
Perspective of urbanity, 158 landscape, 159
Perspectives for the city, 128 metropolis, 148
Pervasive Poundbury, 27
geography, 170 Pre-industrial
shopping, 2, 41 city, 24, 26, 100
Phrygian fields, 49 European city, 148
Index 209

Pre-urbanists, 32 Protective
Privatisation conservation, 21
of access, 49 ecosystems, 169
of public spaces, 72 Proteiform development of the
Problem-solving, 156, 159 city, 73
Process Protestant Reform, 2
of civitas, 131 Proximity, 1, 20, 36, 39, 97, 106
of conception and production of Pseudotechnical utopias, 24
space, 17 Psychogeographic theory, 11
of construction of identity, 162 Psychotope, 69
of deconstruction of the European Public
city, 25 dimension, 89, 135
of disgregation of the European life, 85
city, 24 park, 49, 138
of integration, 59 space, 2, 48, 88, 138
of interaction, 146 sphere, 85, 136, 166, 167
of interpretation, 167
organisation, 162 Quartz city, 74
of“ ruination”, 163 Quintessence of modernity, 51
of simplification, 138
of social cohesion, 131 Radburn, 30
of transformation, 124 Radical
of urbanisation, 31 architecture, 72
Processual character, 146 constructivism, 124, 142
Production of segregation, 78 Italian criticism, 71
Project, 2, 15, 16, 23, 33, 46, 67, modernity, 19, 21
144, 167 Radiocentric, 26, 148
for space, 16, 44, 46, 115, 135, 141 model, 27
of the city, 102, 169 scheme, 14, 27
for the city, 20, 25, 49, 103, 108, Ramifications of the city, 128
111, 126, 128, 132, 135, 143, Reality and possibility, 125
145, 152, 154, 162, 166 Real virtuality, 112
of the future, 149 Re-appropriation practices, 19
for the global society, 23 Recent urbanisation, 81
Projectual Recreation
action, 145 centres, 111
activity, 174 residence, 57
conception, 165 Recumbent city, 7
experience, 109 Rediscover the city, 99
interaction, 145 Rediscovery, 52, 163
perspective, 162 of nature in the city, 52
process, 142 of regionality, 52
Projectuality, 103, 108, 109, 124, Reductionism, 93
125, 179 Reflective
Proletariat, 69 planning, 21
Prospects of territories, 20 sliding, 4, 44
210 Index

Reflexive nature of modernity, 19 Scale, 13, 22, 25–27, 36, 43, 67, 79,
Regeneration project, 143 83, 100, 110, 134, 146, 153, 158,
Region, 9, 31, 32, 67, 146, 148, 149, 153 164, 173, 174
Regionalism, 22 Scales of urbanity, 36
Reinterpret the context, 17 Science fiction, 8, 20, 27, 42, 69, 72,
Reinvent the city, 99 74, 75, 155
Rejected space, 158 Seahaven, 61
Relationship between Second version of the city, 60
population and places, 36 See the city, 58, 103, 105, 155
Renaissance architecture, 9 Segregated city, 64, 69, 73, 97
Representation Segregation, 79, 84
of context, 17 phenomena, 156
of reality, 59 Selective polarisation, 35
of the city, 53 Selectivity, 59, 170, 177
Representational Self
conception of a world, 104 directed Renaissance man, 2
conception of reality, 103, 105 limiting ethic, 20
conception of the city, 165 organisation, 32, 33, 143
dimensions, 163 referential aperture, 143, 150
position of the project, 104 reproducibility, 162
theory of the mind, 104 sufficiency, 90
Residential buildings, 79 Sense
Residual spaces, 137, 153 making processes, 159
Resistant of place, 105
solutions, 84 of possibility, 124
utopia, 4, 5 of reality, 124
Reterritorialisation processes, 93 Sensitive knowledge, 113
Reversibility, 162 Sensory
Rhetoric of walking, 116 cognition, 105, 109
Right to the city, 89 experience, 112
Ring, 14, 26 Separation strategy, 85, 149
Roma Interrotta, 14, 24 Service class, 69, 70
Romantic enchantment, 138 Settled community, 33
Rome, 14 Settlement, 85
Ruanda, 156 nuclei, 48
Rural quality, 24 Shared
social instruments, 91
Safeguarding antiquity, 61 values, 133
Saint-Sauveur, 19 Shopping, 2, 41–45, 54, 57, 98
Salvador de Bahia, 133 centre, 42, 112
San Francisco, 45 city, 44, 45
San Paolo, 79 economy, 42
Sardinia, 46, 109, 130 islands, 112
Sardinian Gennargentu massif, 173 malls, 54, 111
Saturnal planning, 30 society, 57, 98
Scalarity, 158 Siberian natural gas-field, 78
Index 211

Sierra Leone, 156 respect, 91

Simulacrum, 54 responsibility, 108
of a city, 55, 64 scale, 83
city, 59, 60, 62, 112, 135 sciences, 156
like panoramas, 55 segregation, 78, 81, 156
Simulated spaces, 1, 78, 98
architecture, 64 stratifications, 77
city, 138 theory, 75
Singapore, 112 tie of proximity, 84
Site Sociality change, 2
selection, 130 Society, 97
specificity, 130 Socio
Situationism, 11, 51 economic multidimensionality, 80
Situations of exclusion, 159 geographical theories, 31
Skacok, 136 physical environment, 12
Slum, 63, 79 spatial form, 80
Small and medium cities, 30, 36, Sociological
134, 161 science fiction, 8
Social urbanistic dream, 61
apocalypses, 73 Sonora region, 30
character, 1 Sorgane, 25
class, 54, 84 Soul of the city, 108
cohesion, 132 Sounds of the city, 105
complexity, 149 South Africa, 78
contact, 135, 149 South America, 171
decay, 93 Space, 64, 100, 132
demand for evaluation, 166 accessible, 135
dimension of fruition, 109 of the “consumercity”, 140
disease, 42 of contact, 18, 30
divisions, 69 of flows, 131
dynamics, 90 of identification, 135
formations, 74 organisation, 33
fragmentation, 156 of relations, 130
imagination, 55, 62 of representation, 136
inequality, 72 of representation of power, 135
interaction, 98, 160 of visibility, 136
learning, 103 Spatial
legitimisation, 108, 128, 166, 174 agglomeration, 1, 98
mediations, 80 anchorage, 166
order, 69 archetype, 46
paths, 81 aspirations, 149
practices, 80 behaviours, 168
project, 2 concepts, 17, 102
psychology, 11 correlation of centrality, 148
relationships, 74 desires, 149
relations of proximity, 26 equity, 146
212 Index

expectations, 149 Suburbs, 52, 79, 122

experience, 45, 149, 170 Super-American city, 53, 76, 80
experience of the city, 51 Supra-local dimensions, 173
forms, 122, 174 Supramonti, 173
geometry, 148 Surrounding environment, 72
images, 148, 149 Survival strategies, 84
impacts, 22 Sustainable, 48, 93, 173
model, 26 Symbol, 104, 133, 167
organisation, 27, 97, 166 of the conviviality, 106
places, 123, 148 Symbolic, 10, 24, 54, 77, 83, 104,
proximity, 9, 21, 97, 106 106, 132, 133, 135, 149, 163,
referent, 116 164, 167, 169, 173
schemes, 134 dimensions, 110
segregation, 98 signification, 110
separation, 51 space, 135
and social segregation, 72, 77 strategies, 83
and temporal distance moral world, 54
thought, 20 Synthetic space, 8, 156
Spatio-temporal differences, 123 System of solidarity, 80
Spectacular scenes, 55
Sphere of ethics, 128, 166 Tactile knowledge, 109
Spirit of the place, 12 Tago, 110
Sprawl, 1, 7, 8, 9, 18, 25, 27, 28, 29, Tavolara, 153
30, 33, 34, 72, 73, 97, 99, 124 Tcity trilogy, 42
Stahlex, 42 Teheran, 112
Standardisation, 111, 165 Telecommunications networks, 36
of life, 1 Tele-topic, 56
of urban space, 41 Temporality, 51, 122, 174
Stellen, 26 Temporary social practices, 88
Sticky webs, 87 Tension between centre and
Strategic suburbs, 77
nodes, 148 Terrain vague, 88, 129, 139
place, 87 Territorial
potential of the territory, 163 behaviours, 97
site, 89 city, 33, 146
Strategist’s glance, 127 conception of the city, 123
Strategy, 4, 34, 35, 52, 85, 99, 101, conviviality, 22
109, 126, 140, 149 dynamics, 145
of the glance, 104, 149 ecogenesis, 12
of looking, 101, 105, 107 experience, 173
Street politics, 89 future of the city, 32
Strength of character, 144 future of urban form, 25
Structural perception, 147 identity, 48
Structure of possibilities, 124 marketing, 20
Subjectivity, 157 planning, 20, 32, 97
of individuals, 89 signs, 12
Index 213

Territorialisation capacities, 93 Townships, 81

Territorialist project, 93 Traces, 162
Territoriality, 7, 109, 168 of the city of places, 138
Territory, 48, 97, 109, 161 Traditional city, 7, 8, 50, 62, 100
active, 149 Transformation of reality, 166
of the city, 110, 153, 160 True city, 62
as a deposit of the diversity of a
city, 164 Ulassai, 130
as enclave, 48 Uncertain city, 80, 81, 84
external to dense metropolises, Under-used spaces, 89, 134
134, 161 Undifferentiated urbanistics, 71
as a“ free good”, 109 Unequal city, 71
as a human condition, 170 Unequals, 85, 91
is the place where ethos is recuper- Unexpected revenge of
ated, 165 functionalism, 53
represents the potential of the low Unité d’Habitation, 25
density city, 161 Unity of local policies, 32
rich in nature and history, 162 Universalism, 86
of urban life, 170 Universal mobility, 7
without a voice, 162 Unpredictability, 145
Thailand, 78 Urban
Theatre of relations, 106 agglomeration, 68
Thematic urbanisations, 54 areas, 28, 29, 60, 78, 161
Thematisation, 44, 45, 134 art, 127
Theme park, 45, 47, 54, 55, 62, 64, 134 autopoiesis, 117, 118, 143
Theorié de la dérive, 51 change, 70, 86, 169
Theory chaos, 108
of autopoietic systems, 142, 143 complexity, 23
of intertextuality, 15 concentration, 22, 31
of social representations, 11 condition, 88, 122, 160
Third landscape, 139, 164 congestion, 36
Third World, 76, 171 conscience, 155
Thought of the synecdoche, 166 construction, 108
Threshold space, 136 conviviality, 81, 105, 106
Ticino Canton, 145 cosmetics, 111
Tokyo, 79, 112 culture, 52
Tokyo-ga, 151 cyberspace, 62
Top cities, 35 design, 145, 169
competition, 105 development, 34, 156
Topographical diffusion, 29
differentiation, 52 dispersion, 122–123, 173
plan, 46 dynamics, 145
Topoi, 115 economies, 21
Tourist, 46, 47, 48, 49, 62, 63, 77, 105 elites, 1, 67, 98, 99
development, 48 environment, 27, 31, 114, 139
settlements, 49, 153 epic of places, 102
214 Index

ethics, 22, 97, 170 system, 88, 115

experiences, 134, 148 theme park, 55
fabric, 74, 100 universe, 67, 133, 146
flows, 138 utopias, 126, 140
form, 24, 153 visions, 126, 128
functions, 123 Urbanisation models, 146
geography, 35, 77 Urbanism, 13, 29
highways, 82 Urbanistic
history, 119 action, 33
image, 59, 101, 102, 157, 170 architecture, 80
islands, 161 discipline, 71
landscape, 11, 165, 170, 173 fiction, 64
life, 42, 110, 139 make-up, 111, 168
liquefaction, 7 policies, 32, 82
machine, 155, 158, 162 projects, 73
marketing, 162 Urbanists, 5, 93
models, 28, 34 Urbanity, 20, 22, 23, 25, 36, 92, 100,
network, 35 106, 121, 148, 149, 155, 156,
nuclei, 27 158, 161
path, 101 Urbs, 89, 105, 158, 166
perspectives, 141 Uri, 141
plan, 59, 116, 153 Utopia, 2, 4, 25, 71, 125
politics, 89 Utopian, 27, 32, 72, 110, 119, 125,
projects, 17, 20, 67, 145, 146 126, 140
quality, 27, 52, 134, 146 city, 80
rationality, 155 ideal, 126
re-aestheticisation, 52 nature, 144
redevelopment, 72, 74 plea, 1
region, 146
renewal, 24 Vast territories of nature and
renovation, 43 history, 161
re-use, 43 Video-tourists, 105
revolution, 73 Vienna, 14, 25, 100
risk, 35 Village, 83, 130, 171
science fiction, 8, 69, 155 Ville Machine, 23
segregation, 1, 64, 72 Ville Radieuse, 13, 23
services, 69 Virtual
shape, 152 city, 7
simulator, 63 reality, 8, 74, 156
societies, 166 Visible and the invisible, 137
space, 46, 55, 150, 153 Vision of a city, 127
spatial experience, 51 Visual
strategy, 34, 35, 140 perception, 147
structure, 36, 58, 85 Vitality, 128
surroundings, 139 of the immigrant generations, 79
Index 215

Walled cities, 61 metropolis, 73

Wastelands, 78, 157, 161 networks, 87
Water extraction, 57 urbanisation, 30
Welfare state reform, 90 Winnicott’s psychology, 91
Western civilisation, 93 Working class, 91
Widespread, 28, 30, 34, 51, 62, 74, Worldscape of flows, 76
146, 173
city region, 31 Zone of ambiguity, 84
Name Index

Adams, Thomas, 31 Bruegmann, Robert, 34

Addams, Jane, 91 Bruner, Jerome S., 143
Adlard, Mark, 42 Bublex, Alain, 128
Agier, Michael, 80–84 Burgess, Ernest W., 75
Altmeppen, Heiner, 127
Arendt, Hannah, 85, 86, 178 Cabrini, Francesca Saveria, 91
Argan, Giulio Carlo, 14, 24 Cacciari, Massimo, 18, 123, 167
Aristotle, 86 Caillois, Roger, 3, 45
Arnaud, Maryvonne, 127 Calthorpe, Peter, 27, 28
Augé, Marc, 80 Calvino, Italo, 58, 143
Aymonino, Carlo, 9 Campanella, Tommaso, 3
Azara, Pedro, 155 Castells, Manuel, 74
Cerdà, Ildefons, 25, 26
Bagnasco, Arnaldo, 19 Chabard, Pierre, 9, 12–15
Balandier, Georges, 81 Cherchi, Placido, 3
Ballard, Mark, 42, 69, 70 Choay, Françoise, 13, 14, 22–26
Bandinu, Bachisio, 46, 47 Chomsky, Noam, 116
Banham, Reyner, 18, 25 Christo and Jeanne-Claude, 130
Barthes, Roland, 15 CIAM, 13
Basilico, Gabriele, 147 Cimabue, 142
Basso, Keith, 144 Clément, Gilles, 19, 57, 139, 164
Bataille, Georges, 45 Clemente, Fernando, 33, 153
Batty, Michael, 159 Combas, Robert, 128
Baudelaire, Charles, 50, 99, 103, Constant, 59, 170
121, 175 Costa, Xavier, 7, 8, 23
Baudrillard, Jean, 54, 56, 98 Couëlle, Jacques, 47
Baudson, Michel, 127 Cragg, Tony, 127
Bauman, Zygmunt, 2, 19, 20, 84
Beethoven, Ludwig Van, 140 Dahrendorf, Ralf, 84, 92
Benedikt, Michael, 74 Dante, 61, 158
Benevolo, Leonardo, 117 Davis, Mike, 28, 62, 72, 171
Benjamin, Walter, 53, 120 De Azua, Felix, 53–55, 60, 64,
Bloch, Ernst, 2, 4, 5, 125, 126, 140 98, 112, 135
Bloomberg, Michael R., 130 Debord, Guy, 51, 59, 170
Borges, Jorge Luis, 59, 157 De Carlo, Giancarlo, 32
Brancusi, Constantin, 77 De Certeau, Michel, 114
Brouwn, Stanley, 59 DECOI, 16

218 Name Index

Dedalus, 47 Heidegger, Martin, 12, 62, 109,

Dematteis, Giuseppe, 36 132, 167
Derrida, Jacques, 138, 162 Hénard, Eugène, 25
Descombes, Georges, 141 Hillman, James, 46, 50, 144
De Solà-Morales, Ignasi, 9, 23, 88, Hirschhorn, Thomas, 156
111, 129, 137 Hoffmann, Theodor Amadeus, 101
Dominguez, Ricardo, 20 Homère, 122
Dorian Gray, 56, 98 Howard, Ebenezer, 13, 23
Downing, Andrew Jackson, 30 Huebler, Douglas, 59
Downs, Michael, 127 Husserl, Edmund, 137
Doxiadis, Konstantinos, 36
Dubesset & Lyon, 17 Icarus, 48
Dubuffet, Jean, 128
DZO, 16 Jacob & Macfarlane, 17
Jaussely, Léon, 25
Endell, August, 64, 153 Jefferson, Thomas, 31
Epimenide, 50 Jerde, Jon, 63
Estes, Richard, 127
Kandinski, Wassiliy, 5
Fellini, Federico, 15 Kanizsa, Gaetano, 147
Fink, Eugen, 137 Karavan, Dani, 128
Fitzgerald and Sanborn, 128 Kasimir, Marin, 128
Fiuza Faustino, Didier, 16 Klee, Paul, 5, 117
Florenskij, Pavel, 104, 133 Koolhaas, Rem, 2, 13, 41, 71, 152
Foucault, Michel, 75, 80 Kotkin, Joel, 29, 45
Friedman, Yona, 24 Kreienbuhl, Jurg, 127
Krier, Leon, 27
Gautrand, Manuelle, 16 Kristeva, Julia, 15
Geddes, Patrick, 31 Kundera, Milan, 120, 122
Gibson, William, 27, 62, 75
Giddens, Antony, 19 La Cecla, Franco, 18
Gilbert & George, 79, 128 Lai, Maria, 130, 132, 140, 174
Giotto, 61, 142 Latour, Bruno, 171, 172
Giovannoni, Gustavo, 27 Le Corbusier, 13, 23, 25, 111, 151
Goodman, Nelson, 59, 116 Lefebvre, Henry, 133
Gottmann, Jean, 35, 36 Leopold, Aldo, 169
Grassi, Giorgio, 9 Lorenzetti, Ambrogio, 127
Greenway, Peter, 58 Lukács, György, 140
Gregotti, Vittorio, 9, 25 Lynch, Kevin, 10
Gropius, Walter, 117
Grumbach, Antoine, 24 Magnaghi, Alberto, 92
Mahler, Gustav, 140
Hall, Peter, 30 Malle, Louis, 15
Hausmann, George Eugéne, Mandich, Giuliana, 18, 56
14, 25 Maneri Elia, Mario, 147, 163, 164
Name Index 219

Mason, Raymond, 127 Ricci, Leonardo, 25

Matisse, Henri, 1 Richter, Gerhard, 127
Maymont, Paul, 24 Riesman, David, 1, 2
Migliaccio, Carlo, 140 RMDM, 15
Minos, 48 Romains, Jules, 99
Monet, Claude, 101 Roncayolo, Marcel, 168
Morin, Edgar, 10 Rossi, Aldo, 9
Moss, Eric Owen, 28 Rovira y Trias, Antonio, 26, 27
Mumford, Lewis, 4, 29, 148, 161 RPAA, 30
Musil, Robert, 51–53, 76, 80, 124 Rykwert, Joseph, 45

Nadar, Felix, 53 Sabatier, Roland, 128

Nash, John, 71 Sassen, Saskia, 35, 51, 67, 68, 70,
Navarro, Miquel, 128 77, 84, 86–89
Niemeyer, Oscar Ribeiro, 23 Schöffer, Nicolas, 24
Nivola, Costantino, 151 Schuiten, François, 128
Norberg-Schulz, Christian, 12 Sennett, Richard, 84–86, 89–92,
Nouvel, Jean, 154 135, 148, 149, 160
Sernini, Michele, 60
Odum, Eugene, 169 Shakespeare, William, 119
Odysseus, 46 Siza, Alvaro, 123
Olivetti, Adriano, 32 Smithson, Robert, 129
Ovid, 48 Snozzi, Luigi, 144, 145, 148
Soares, Bernardo, 105
PAC (Autonomous Cultural Soja, Edward V., 78
Platform), 16 Soria y Mata, Arturo, 22
Pérez-Gómez, Alberto, 15, 135, Starr, Kevin, 45
141, 174 Stein, Clarence, 30
Perrault, Claude, 7 Steiner, Frederick, 30, 118
Pessoa, Fernando, 107, 109 Stübben, Joseph, 25
Picasso, Pablo, 3, 5 Superstudio Continuous
Pittaluga, Paola, 10–12, 158 Movement, 71
Poe, Edgar Allan, 99
Poirier, Anne, 128 Tagliagambe, Silvano, 10, 18, 59,
Poirier, Patrick, 128 130, 142
Proshansky, Harold, 12 Thomas, 19
Prost, Henri, 25 Traveller, 19
Tsung Leong, Sze, 41
Quaroni, Ludovico, 25
Rabascall, Joan, 127
Rasmussen, Steen Eiler, 14 Valery, Paul, 120
Regional Planning, 30 Vanarsky, Jack, 127
Regional Plan of New York and its Van Thieghem, David, 128
Environs, 31 Varela, Francisco, 141, 142
Restany, Pierre, 111 Vietti, Luigi, 46
220 Name Index

Villani, Tiziana, 56 Weinstein, Art, 41

Virgil, 157 Weir, Peter, 61
Virilio, Paul, 46, 56 Welsch, Wolfang, 137
Vitruvius, 7 Wenders, Wim, 64, 101, 109, 137,
Vostell, Wolf, 127 140, 150, 157
Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 58, 114
Wagner, Otto, 14, 25, 26 Wölfli, Adolf, 115
Wagner, Richard, 140 Wright, Henry, 30, 31
Webendorfer, Ingrid, 127