The border city | Luis Gil

Kayar, Senegal
Kayar, Senegal

The liminal cities, they are of entry and exit, susceptible to be besieged and therefore forced to protection in adverse moments. They are spaces or surrounding territories fighting at the same time against the outside that with the own necessity to grow like other communities in more stable situations.

The closed or walled city, both the maritime, the one built on the coast, and the interior, has been the city in continuous struggle, in constant readjustment depending on the exterior, which protects, closes or folds on itself avoiding the world outside the siege, the enemy fleet trying to access, sneak. The history of architecture is full of examples marked by the concretion and fossilization of the limit when it is to be understood in a closed way, the wall as a protective enclosure.

Because the border city, when it senses danger, dresses up with a smaller border, a rigid suit that marks its life and growth. It is the city chest, bulwark or fortress, the point of access to the continent, the place of regrouping and arrival of goods, from where later the accumulated wealth is distributed to other spaces of the continent.

La ciudad de frontera Luis Gil
Border Town

The border city is a door city, both for the entry and exit of goods and people (observed the latter also as merchandise from ancient times to the present day) in search of a new life within cultures and remote behaviors. Door therefore in a more abstract and general sense as an access space and also door in a concrete and defined sense as the hole that exists in the bastion that protects it.

There have been and there are border cities, gates based on accumulation, condensing references, before perhaps a new foreign mission for those goods, old manufacturing and commerce cities such as Amsterdam and other cities that are first reception doors with a clear and quick sense centrifuge and distributor of what it accesses on the territory that surrounds it as it is the case of New York, first point of refueling in the transgression of the border towards the west.

However, when this pressure in the form of external conquest disappears on the bulwark city and the foreign is understood in relation to economic or cultural exchange, then the city is capable of profoundly varying its physiognomy. The walls and forts disappear allowing access not only from the outside but, at the same time, favoring the expansion, decompression of inner life and colonization outside the walls. The city loosens and expands around its former artificial defense limit until the need for protection comes back over time …

Luis Gil Pita, architect
Santiago de Compostela, November 2019

Article chapter Allegory of the border and the limit, originally published in the Obradoiro magazine nº34, winter 2009.

Luis Gil Pita

Arquitecto por la ETSA de A Coruña en 1997, desde ese año colabora en el estudio de Manuel Gallego Jorreto hasta 1999. Becado de investigación en Holanda en 2000-1, con un estudio sobre lo fronterizo y liminar en arquitectura, por la Diputación de A Coruña, fue posteriormente Profesor invitado en el área de proyectos de la Facultad de Arquitectura de Guimaráes, Universidade do Minho, del 2001 hasta el 2007. Desde el inicio de su carrera ha publicado asíduamente artículos y ha participado como editor en diferentes publicaciones alrededor de la arquitectura.

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