Culture hungers: new appetites for contemporary cities

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SoftGrid in association with AESOP and IFHP
Dysfunctional abundance. The city is an egg (Price, 1961). The ancient city, hemmed in the physical line of the walls and made up of an historical core, is a boiled egg: we are able to distinguish the borders and its density. During the centuries of industrialization and demographic boom, the city begins to develop itself beyond the walls, taking the form of a fried egg: the periphery is born. The city centre, up to now solid on the core, loses its magnetic force and infects itself with an urban magma which floods everything dissolving hierarchies: the modern city become scrambled.Despite Price’s model, our cities entered a new phase, one in which growth and the blending of centres and periphery brings about a new phenomenon of erosion and blurring: it causes the emptying of entire urban parts, towards a porous islands’ city model (Ungers, 1977). We are living in redundant spaces, unfinished or unplanned, revealing a stopped growing process: we are talking about vacant spaces or, more often, completed spaces with function but without sense. We can define those spaces ‘urban lacunas’; they are protagonists in the loss of meaning of the whole work which is the city. Is abandonment a symptom of crisis or the result of a natural selection? We cannot continue categorizing shrinkage as a contemporary wound or a sign of decline; rather, we have to admit it is the expression of latent social behaviours and economic trends which bring us to reconsider quantity and quality of the space. The emptying scenario is a topic in the debate among local community and hyper-community (political and economic), two opposite fronts both for aims and kind of space use.To understand the reasons of shrinkage we have to observe how people meet, how they eat, what they buy, how long they live in public space or in private: substantially, it’s time to study the culture space capable of synthesizing the identity of a bigger de-territorialized community.
Architecture & Planning in Times of Scarcity : Reclaiming the Possibility of Making. 3rd AESOP European Urban Summer School 2012, Manchester
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