Articulating the city | Miquel Lacasta

Fragment of th Marina Papadopoulos´work, Arquitectura Precarious Architecture |

I raise of the Generic City of Rem Koolhaas it is undoubtedly, from a merely conceptual point of view, an exciting text. The general idea does not stop indifferently, though one suspects that the text is a tool for the justification of a certain return to it her tabulates levels more own of the modern movement, that of a contemporary positioning.

The verification, on the other hand totally certain, that the past is too small to live it, gives the perfect excuse to Koolhaas to do a praise to all that that does not have a historical significance or to everything what does not carry a cultural significance. This way the buildings and the cities must be irrelevant in his form, in his propriety or his formalization. Also in direct consequence, they do not offer any opportunity to the citizen to establish a relation of belonging.

We are not going to deny that something of it should be true. We cannot make limited the kindness of the architecture or of a portion of city to the happy expression of archetypes of beauty socially accepted. And we cannot do it because these archetypes are easily operable, demagogic and almost always they come from an elitist imposition of the beautiful thing. The traps of the popularly accepted like irrefutable category drove to the architectural postmodernity to an undecipherable pastiche of prejudices and falsehood.

Sin embargo el origen del texto de Koolhaas The Generic Cityempieza con una afirmación sobre la que se asientan todo el relato posterior que me parece dudosa.

“There has spread the idea that the identity derives from the physical substance, from the historical thing, from the context, of the royal thing.” 1 

I refer that the identity does not derive necessarily from the reality, but of a complex intellectual and sensual process of the one that interacts with this reality, that is to say, of the individual who uses the constructed reality and who shares his experience with other individuals. The identity her believes the individual and the social body in which this one is immersed. With this displacement of area the excuse of the past loses the negative force to redeeming and dismasts all the later reasonings of the text.

It it does not want to say that the past should turn a value per be, far from it. In any case it it will want to say that we should return to interpret what does that a set of individuals constructs the whole series of links with the reality, already be historical or recent, that it faces and is related up to the point of which this reality happens to form a part of his more intimate nature. That is to say, the topic of the identity does not reside exclusively in what the city and his architectures contain as message, but principally, in the complex mechanisms of relation, so much individual, since social, that the human being establishes.

Stretching of the thread.

To that we are facing when we speak about reality?

What is in essence the city and the architecture?

I return to Koolhaas.

Of the suggestive concept of the culture of the congestion, the concept can fix that the force and the fascination of the cities resides in the exceptional thing, the extreme thing and the excessive thing, arranged and in certain way provoked by the density obtained of the juxtaposition, the overlapping or the confrontation of many programs. This constitutes the basic value of the metropolitan contemporary condition. That is to say, it is not a question of making to him an objective simplification of the urban fact, but rather of assuming the inherent hyper-complexity of the reality of our cities and our architectures. In them everything is possible, everything is unrolled simultaneously, everything happens to the speed of the light.

If this is like that, the most intelligent way of negotiating with this reality multigelds, it would not be precisely the strategy of the generic thing, that is to say the strategy of the insignificance. It would be to look at the reality with the half-open eyes, and to erase his definition.

The strategy, or rather, the best or probably the only way of facing the city and the contemporary architecture is the joint. To articulate the city, to articulate the architecture.

Articulating, according to the dictionary of RAE, it consists in

“of joining two or more pieces so that they support between yes some freedom of movement.”

Also it consists in

“of organizing diverse elements to achieve a coherent and effective set.”

That is to say, to articulate consists of establishing unions not everlasting and you do not even fix in his meaning, unions with freedom of movement, with gradients of indetermination. It is more, it would add that to articulate means to establish relations solid and free, capable of returning to articulate when the conditions of the environment change the essence of this relation. Therefore, to articulate is to interact. To articulate also consists of organizing elements to achieve a coherent set, to construct a statement that is supported, forms a of relation that is capable of explaining, of narrating the reality.

Definitively, to articulate would come to structure parts with parts, something specially intelligent before the incommensurability of a reality excessive and congested by definition.

In architecture we are in the habit of speaking of articulating spaces, that is to say, of integrating a few spaces with others, of provoking a relation that does not dilute the parts and that nevertheless enriches the set. Here we might speak of articulating buildings, parts of a city, etc.

But what must we articulate? For the both private and public, both individual and collective management, the idea of articulating would mean to establish lines of force, vectors of relation, between the economic thing and the social thing, between the technological thing and the cultural thing, between the political and social thing, and so on in a counterfoil of 5×5. To articulate comes to determine parts with own coherence and to project in these parts strategies of interactivity so that the final result is richer, more opened and in turn more capable of being assumed and managed by the citizen. To articulate the city, it is to expand his field of action, his generative capacity, in order which from these vectors of relation the individual, or a certain collectivity, finds the sufficient space to feel physical and emotionally tied to a given reality. It is definitive to generate opportunities in order that it could construct his identity.

To articulate the city, also it would mean to establish lines of force between the times that meet in the urban thing. Not only the relation between last or historical time, with the present time, but also with the micro-times that every individual handles in his day after day. And furthermore, all this wrapped in the electronic and instantaneous time that we have had to live. Articulating is to do of the simultaneous time, a hyperpresent, hypertrophied, hyperdense time.

In this respect, to articulate the city would be everything opposite that to turn her in generic and to be articulated in the city, a way of interacting with her.

Miquel Lacasta. PhD architect
Barcelona, march 2013


1 KOOLHAAS, Rem, The Generic City, apto. 1.2, S,M,X,XL, The Monacelly Press, New York, 1995

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