The spaces of the power | Íñigo García Odiaga

The unknown rebel,  Tiananmen Copyright © 1989 Jeff Widener

The public space has multiple income, his paradigm can be the square, but maybe also it it can be at present Internet. To place a great source or a statue in one great square, in the antiquity it was waited to a day of intense snowfalls. Was observed what space of the square was remaining virgin, free of trodden or tránsitos of cars and goods, and this way there was detected a dead space in which to place the street furniture.

This curious mechanism was gathered by Camillo Sitte in 1889 on having published the book that it would elevate to the history of the urbanism, “The art of constructing the cities”. Sitte crossed all the Europa’s big cities trying to identify the aspects that were making them cozy, interesting and agreeable. It tried to decipher the code of laws that had created these historical hulls full of life.

In the book the author proposes to construct the cities on an irregular plot splashed with spaces opened in the shape of squares that fill with urban activity the city. It is necessary to bear in mind that in his epoch it questioned the classic urbanism centred on the plant of the city to the detriment of the vertical dimension and criticized also the inflexibility and the sterility of the racionalist urbanism opposite to the formal and spatial wealth of the ancient designs. Somehow it postulated a city thought for the pedestrian, understanding that the historical hulls concerned more a little to the citizen while the new neighborhoods inspired by the urbanism of the modern movement concerned to the car.

Camillo Sitte’s conclusions though understandable they contain a great contradiction. The Red square of Moscow, Tian’anmen, the square Tahrir or the Parisian square of the Concord are probably some of the most famous public spaces of the world and all of them would be also a clear example of the postulates opposite to the defended ones in “The art of constructing the cities”. The most renowned public spaces of the big capitals are not in the habit of being comfortable places. They are out of scale, the wind sweeps them, they do not answer clearly to any idea of use. Only they are in the habit of answering to an idea that little or nothing has to see with the form or with the aesthetics, the representation of the power.

It is precisely this concentration of memory, sum of past events, clashes, definitively the sedimentation of the history on a place, which turns them into central spaces of the civil life.

Tahrir Square, february 2011

A good example of this another reality of the public space is the square of Tian’anmen, the biggest of the world, with 880 meters of north on south and 500 meters from this one to west and a total area of 440.000 square, great meters bigger than any small peoples. His importance like public space does not come determined by his architecture, the treatment of the edges or the contiguous buildings but rather for the memory that it hoards. Located in the geographical and political center of the Chinese capital, from the year 1000 it was destined for the celebration of public ceremonies. In this place they were proclaimed the new emperors and all the social events of relevancy were celebrated in the Chinese calendar.

The question to resolving is if the square would have today the same symbolic value if for example it had not been a scene of the student revolt of 1989 with the famous image of a man placing pacifically opposite to a tank to prevent his advance recorded already forever in the recollection of million persons.

It would be necessary something similar to wonder of Jamaa’s famous square the Fna in Marrachek. It are his architecture, his construction, his materials and his scale determinants or it is his condition of neuralgic center of the city what grants an incalculable value to him as public space. In this case it is his overflowing activity the one that generates the place, thousands of persons give themselves appointment between his buildings filling them with smells, colors, trade, tradition and culture. An infinite number of activities and persons who join and are overstocking the square to turn her into heart of the city.

Jamaa el Fna Square, Marrachek

Evidently these spaces are not only spaces, the place is a physical, architectural reality but also it is a space loaded with history that determines it as a space of representation of the power.

Maybe this one is precisely the wisdom of the social nets, to have provided a space, in this virtual case, which allows the interchange of activity between the citizens, which complemented with the occupation from the physical spaces of the city has derived in movements as 15M or in the pacific revolution of the Tahrir of Cairo square .

Definitively when the citizenship wants to recover his protagonism it has to recover both worlds that compose the spaces of the power, the physical place, the square and the virtual one, that one that the flood of content, his activity. It is there where Internet or more concretly social redes have contributed a place to be able to organize, interchange and agglutinate the experiences of the citizens. We might affirm with something of presumption that in certain way they have turned into the new public space.

íñigo garcía odiaga . architect

san sebastián. november 2011

It´s published in ZAZPIKA 20.11.2011

Íñigo García Odiaga

Doctor Arquitecto y profesor asociado de Proyectos Arquitectónicos, ETSASS. Editor de NOMU. 1/5 del estudio de arquitectura VAUMM. Vivo en Donosti.

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