Tuesday, 26 December 2006

Mediterranean Readymade / Basauri & Berc


Tourism is a phenomenon with the potential to affect our living environments and their physical appearance. Once we had a talk with J.B.J and F.G. about the possibility to show the urbanizing force of tourism in Croatia since we’re already dealing with the subject. The Croatian coastal belt is around 2000 x 200 km ribbon and it’s transforming into a diffuse urbanized area. Prosperity is not the only outcome tourism has to offer (as well as unintended negative side effects). There’s an interesting artificial landscape rising from it, where coastal, inland, urban, rural, semi-urban, semi-rural and historical areas blend with recognizable urban features, and not necessarily disregarding natural preservation.

The idea is to show this ribbon which follows the Magistrala (the winding coastal road that connects the north to the south). This belt is, of course, constituted by points of density and in-between areas.
Here are some pictures illustrating Magistrala…a starting point.

…regarding tourist phenomena, here are some pictures complementing the topics described further on (for those interested).

MEDITERRANEAN READYMADE, towards an urbanized tourism


Tourism is not just about short-term displacement; in Europe it’s blending more and more with quotidian life. Global growth, productivity and higher incomes are leading to longer and stressful working hours. The quality of free time has become one of the ways to compensate such demands. Conversely, more spare time is becoming available to those who, by choice, decide to cut their regimes of work in favor of a more qualitative life- a practice generally bound to ‘more developed’ countries. Nevertheless, spare time and qualitative time focus mainly on leisure. Leisure converted itself from a status symbol in the fifties into a regular activity during the nineties- and as such, coming closer to tourism during this decade, for an increased and cheaper mobility is making out of traveling an accessible commodity.

Commodity of ‘the familiar’
Tourism has always been a temporal (or seasonal) phenomenon and always had its purpose on rest, leisure and traveling- a quest for knowledge through the broadening of one’s living experiences. Today the later is somehow becoming less relevant.
In a tourist industry where leisure is the prime product, the tendency of consuming unvisited places is becoming characterized and conditioned by ‘a commodity of the familiar’. Although destinations in general, even remote and exotic, represent an ideal desire, often it’s unconsciously expected from them to operate within familiar codes and procedures– the paradox of escaping away from routine in order to find ‘home’, where home is a sign of safety and comfort opposed to the apparent ‘risk’ and ‘difficulty’ of performing the seemingly unknown procedures and activities implied in world travel. These conscious or unconscious expectations are also due to an increasing blend between travel and daily life, in which excitement frequently subordinates to a ‘comfortable sense of temporal belonging’.

Expected imagery
Often there’s a contradiction between the consumers’ iconographic expectations and the tourist products, landscape and building facilities that comply these expectations; an ideal and generic Mediterranean imagery cannot constitute part in the realm of the original typological and idiosyncratic environment that produces such imagery. Most of the time, the shortcomings of tourist products happen because they’re isolated semi-multifunctional complexes, unable to replicate the whole repertory and atmosphere a consolidated town has to offer (narrow streets, dramatic light and shade contrasts, outdoor life, etc). In addition, the feasibility aspects of such a profit oriented sector, which ‘can’t afford’ over investments, make it difficult to achieve expensive effects. In short, it’s difficult for new accommodation facilities to look like real vernacular villages. Nevertheless, it’s clear that a large amount of users and travelers are becoming progressively acquainted with the implanted iconographies on offer and consequentially shifting expectations.


Temporal urbanity
Much has been said about the definition of ‘urbanity’ or urban life. The measure can be put in manifolds such as heterogeneity of the social landscape, civil culture, multiplicity of subcultures, density and diversity of program, duration of activities, flux between permanent and temporary urban dwellers, movement of capital and building activity, constant re-invention of the urban fabric from behalf of its users, etc, etc. For example, urban life can be somehow found in the temporary conversion of the homogeneous and domestic environment of the northern Croatian coast into a dense ‘internationally-urbanized landscape’ during tourist seasons. The surroundings of the coastal towns of Umag and Porec are a clear manifestation of the yearly-tree-month-implanted-transformation; a phenomena that could be characterized as follows.
1- Social landscape; international and demographic raise.
2- Programmatic diversification, where activities are both, offered to the ‘transitory citizens’ and at the same time originated by them.
3- Diversity in all different sorts of gadgets and iconography brought from outside the country, such as sun umbrellas, laying mats, toys, tools, cars, motorcycles, bikes, towels, floating devices, etc.
4- The multilingual soundscape.
5- The ad hoc or improvised multiple services such as food providers, cocktail huts, kiosks, retail stands, rental stands that oscillate from laying chairs, scooters, boats to diving equipment, etc.
This condition, although semi generic, always finds specific resonance in the particular areas, changing them in different ways. In this case, the population not only triplicates, but the environment becomes more urban, affecting locals mostly in positive terms. The underlying argument of tourism being a potential ‘urbanizing’ agent is a subject rather difficult to portrait, but the effects of the elements it uses for appropriating territory aren’t. These gadgets and ad hoc small infrastructures are micro-mobile devices able to perform programmatic use and represent individual identities, which in additive terms are able to transform dramatically the environment.

Space of tolerance
One of the aspects in the cases above, and hosting environments of mass tourism in general, is the level of tolerance and efficiency involved among the people sharing and negotiating their m2 (the sea shore, restaurants, public terraces, parking areas, apartment paths and terraces, sun decks, etc). A practice one can also find in the city (bars, restaurants, commercial strips, pick hours, etc). Often happens that the levels of civility these situations call for are the closest manifestations of the civil culture and citizenship once forethought for our urban environments, for good manners are being replaced regularly with just- nor more nor less- tolerance (tolerance understood as one of the main qualities of civility, aside from formal protocols of courteousness).

Urban inserts
It is clear that the Mediterranean coastline is becoming more populated. In Croatia, the implementation of low dense models of territorial colonization, partly behind such growth, is changing in favor of an organizational disposition than differs from the traditional practice. Many of these scattered objects are not being executed in coastal or semi rural styles, function and form (type). Instead, they are build progressively borrowing urban like typologies such as small 4 storey apartment blocks, row housing, suburban self-standing villas and urban villas (with 4 to 6 flat inside). These developments are probably the most feasible since they offer the least complication with permit procedures, fast and cheap executions and maximum exploitability of the parcel. And as mentioned before, this transformation is fueled by the increasing acceptance of urban types, of course, with a small glance of Mediterranean iconography. In this sense, parts of the Croatian coastal belt is starting to become a repertory of small architectural objects that remind you of city fragments, but with a specific natural background and points of dense activity.

Saturday, 23 December 2006

first image

The first jpg opened at random after finally reading the invite to Ideal Urbanity.

Thursday, 21 December 2006

Modernist birdcage by Cristian Pogacean

Inspired by the trip we did today (Weissenhof among other places) I remebered a great piece by Cristian Pogacean - Modernist birdcage.
Read some more about the exhibition where he showed it and check out some pictures of modern architecture in Bucharest.

Monday, 18 December 2006

Iosif Kiraly's Reconstructions

Iosif Kiraly is a former fellow of Solitude. In his Reconstructions series he takes photos in a David Hockney manner and arranges them as a puzzle. Unlinke Hockney, he relates this process to the process of memory where different memories mix together and overlapse, thus, in his montages he is adding pictures from completely different contexts, or, in some cases, he returnes to the place of the photograph after a period of time, takes more pictures which he is adding to the old montage.

Sunday, 10 December 2006

Stan Allen

Several of the fellows who have been selected in the architecture field were chosen by Stan Allen, currently dean of the Architecture School at Princeton. His research and infuential texts enter in resonance with some of the interests of this current project. Points and lines, published in 1999, gather several of his contributions. In particular the concept of field, as an interpretative tool for the city and therefore for the subsequent actions and projects aimed at its transformation has a particular depth.

Friday, 8 December 2006


At Solitude SMAQ, among other things, have designed and built wonderful baths. Outside Solitude they have researched the African city, Brazzaville and Kinshasa in particular.

Zoran Pantelic

Zoran is one of the very active members of Kuda, an interdisciplinary collective based in Novi Sad. Kuda and NAO collaborated for the project of a new stadium there. Of course it is not just about football...

Srdjan Jovanovic Weiss


Annett Zinsmeister

and some other projects she is involved with, within a platform named ethicdesign.

Cobi van Tonder


Vlad Nanca

Vlad Nanca
and a blog on Bucarest, called Bukresh.

Ligia Nobre

Some links about the participants.

Ligia Nobre.

Exo.org activities have been presented at the Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, within the project On differences #2.

Initial text

“Searching for an ideal urbanity”.

Already in 1970 the French philosopher Henri Lefebvre identified the surge of a new social, economic, political and therefore spatial environment, which he coined “urban condition”. By this term Lefebvre suggested the progressive expansion of structures and systems of life, deriving from the city and its culture, but assuming a far larger territory as their site of deployment. While criticising urbanism as an authoritarian and instantly obsolete practice of control of the processes of transformation of the city, Lefebvre suggested the possibility to even consider the “urban condition” as disconnected and autonomous from the real presence of a recognizable city, transcending the physicality of its presence to be described just as a complex system of relationships, still in the process of transforming its corresponding environment.

If we consider the urban condition described by Lefebvre as a convincing metaphor for today’s world, an incessantly instable equilibrium between multiple and asymmetrical subjectivities, means of production, reproduction and renovation of sovereignty, “general intellect” and powerful market forces, the rules of cohabitation between its dwellers assume a crucial role in the definition of its temporal stability.

It is not a coincidence that the term urban, in many languages, means polite, as it implicates the necessity of a mutual adjustment and respect so as to guarantee some collective survival.

What would be then the contemporary forms of urbanity? How is the urban condition declined locally, reflecting its connection to specific traditions and trajectories? Which elements and adjustments migrate from place to place contributing to the hybridization and diffusion of its culture? Is space the ultimate depository where to decipher the traces of transformation?

Besides a descriptive and analytical approach that might provide a base of knowledge upon which to imagine potential tactics of improvement and transformation, much is needed to be said and proposed in terms of an ideal urbanity towards which to aspire.

The “ideal city” of the Renaissance would have been a city planned following a scientific and rational method, the place where to imagine the flourishing of a municipal democracy, under the guidance of an enlightened government. It set a model, with which were measured and evaluated coeval conditions and processes. It was the underlying impulse of change and modernization of the city during centuries.

Now that the city as we knew is finally melting, reasoning and proposing a possible ideal, urbanity might provide a conceptual and operative instrument to tune and develop political, cultural and aesthetical practices that might become inclusive and beneficial to the inhabitants of the new urban condition.

The proposed exhibition at Akademie Schloss Solitude, in March 2007, and the eventual collateral activities which might be delineated by the Solitude fellows, can be considered as an initial experiment, where to delineate a platform of dialogue and interchange on that matter: different experiences, documents, materials, methodological approaches and angles, representations, narratives, case studies, designs and proposals can be juxtaposed and articulated, suggesting some coordinates of an implicit and necessary debate.

What is ideal?

Ideal city vs Ideal ubanity?

Searching for an ideal urbanity

This is a blog about an ongoing project at the Akademie Schloss Solitude in Stuttgart.
It involves several fellows. Some of them are actually at the Akademie, some others were there in the past years.
It is a collective activity, which central issue is "urbanity".
This term has been selected as it refers to the urban condition but also to the rules and behaviors that allow the gathering and co-existence of citizens.
So we will talk about an "ideal urbanity", or at least of its quest.

The project will be up by the end of March 2007 and last 6 weeks at least.