“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.