“There are two ways of thinking bring over of what is the public urban space. One supports that it is a discursive space, in which the strangers speak between yes; and other one defends that it is a question of a space of the sight, where the persons interact visually, not verbally. In the history of the thought on the cities, Jürgen Habermas represents the first type: it is interested in the places where the persons read and then they discuss between yes what they have read; a space in the one that predominates over the verbal interaction. My conception is very different. To my to deal, the public sphere is essentially a visual sphere, which supposes a set of different well questions. It implies matters as the form in which the persons place in the space, up to where they manage to see … The public sphere is, somehow, much more tactile because you move, you have experiences that define the way in which your body is orientated towards other persons.
This is important because Habermas, and the thinkers who, as him, conceive the public space as the space of the words, think that the politics emerges spontaneously of there. Whereas, to my to deal, the public space has a more social configuration and the questions that I raise are rather on the relation between the visual thing and the social thing, and not on the public thing and the political thing.
On having walked by night along the street a set of questions arises on the public sphere very differently from the one that would appear to full daylight. They are not political, but social questions. They centre on the danger, in the discovery, in all kinds of experiences that for someone who thinks about the discursive space would be peripheral. And the way in which these differences evolve on having thought what is the public sphere gives as result that the city like significant space is eliminating progressively of the thinkers’ debates as the habermasianos. The physical city has disappeared as significant object of the thought on the public life. Whereas for me, the physical elements of the city, his corporeal components, the physical experience, have moved to the first plane”.1
Let’s go on parts.
In this text Sennett an irreconcilable dichotomy raises us. Or we understand the urban space as the space of the word, or understand it as the space of the sight. Sennett owes to a statement of the confrontation to clarify his preferences. Of there to thinking that both conceptions of the essentially urban thing are exclusive, it is more than doubtful. It is more, we might refute that the word, the discursive area of the urban space, is in full revival across the technologies of relation, or what commonly are called social networks. In any case, if that is totally true that the urban space has grown and come out towards the digital space with an extraordinary force. That is to say, already not only we stay in the physical square to speak, but also we stay constant in the virtual square that the networks have constructed.
We might say that this hard competition, it has reduced the aptitude of the physical square to continue being the support of the public speech. I would prefer understanding that more than a competition, it is a coopetición, that is to say a cooperation that should allow the public square and the virtual one, to compete better for catching the attention. Because about it it treats itself, in a world full of noise in all the many-colored forms that the information has, catch the attention of an individual is key. And on the part of the individual, to have the skill for centring his attention on something of profit, own or collectivly, it is essential. Therefore, both urban spaces, the royal square and the virtual one are still in force as discursive space, of eminently political mien, while inhabitants of the polis.
Of the pointed thing before, nothing excludes the logic of the visual thing in the public space. It is to say the square, quintessence of the public space, can be perfectly a politics, and simultaneously, socially. It is more, it should be not only it simultaneously, but also, I spread of the symbolic construction in the cultural thing, space of new productive models in the economic thing and place for the free development of the technology. Then, porqué this confrontation?
I suspect that actually, Sennett pleads for returning to take in consideration the physical thing in the spatial area of the public thing. And certainly probably we had lost it a bit of sight. In his theory on the attitude of the craftsman, Sennett succeeds in a key that has weakened enormously in the last decades. The technology like procedure does not belong to the practical manufacture, but it is a way of thinking if same. Even more, if the attitude is like that of the craftsman, who pledges in doing it well, in incorporating an ethical dimension into the manual work, it reverberates directly in the intellectual quality, in the depth and relevancy of the thought.
This idea that relates the technology to the results, belongs applicable to the potter, but also to the director of orquestra or the laborator investigator. I think firmly that also the architect should be applied.
Sennett affirms that
“to my way of seeing, when we distinguish between the practice and the idea, the practice and the theory, which turns out to be harmed is the intellectual part. That is to say, to separate the material area of the analytical one takes as a consequence an intellectual weakening, a decrease of our capacity of vision and of comprehension”.2
Let’s return initially.
The context in which Sennett deprives of authority the discursive power of the public space is more related the fact that for the author the word is not material, that the fact that the word does not take value as a matter in the construction of the argumentation of the collective thing. From there, if that one can start deepening in the different considerations of the public space. We all will agree that the places of meeting that the city offers us, are material structures that in most cases his use remains restricted to the look, and the later recognition on the part of the individuals, of the messages that the material thing detaches. A street reduces and badly illuminated automatically one throws message of alert for the occasional walker, whereas a crowded square, full of bars and terraces, offers a message of comfort. It is evident in the moment in which we construct social bows between equal with the public space of bottom.
In summarized accounts, it is true that for already too much time, we have forgotten the art of doing cities, while we have put the accent in the objects that shape a public space and not in the emptiness that these objects form. It is more, possibly we have lost totally the notion of which a front of a building that it faces a square or a street does not belong so much to the architectural object, as which it belongs to the space of the common thing, or saying of another form, a front is a public space in vertically, and owes to the logics of this space, in the same way as it owes to the program that it shelters, to the energetic conditions, to the watertightness or to the matter in which this front is constructed. That is to say, a way of giving materiality and practice to the public space would be to understand that all that that forms it, both his vertical plane, and his horizontal plane, forms a part of the public space.
And this way, to re-arise from the discursive thing in the political thing, the symbolic thing in the cultural thing, the productive thing in the economic thing and the thermodynamic thing in the technological thing, they will have an opportunity to form a royal ecosystem.
Miquel Lacasta. PhD architect
Barcelona, may 2013
Es cofundador en ARCHIKUBIK y también en @kubik – espacio multidisciplinario. Obtuvo un Ph.D. con honores (cum laude) en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya UIC y también fue galardonado con el premio especial Ph.D (UIC 2012), M.arch en ESARQ Universitat Internacional de Catalunya, y se graduó como arquitecto en ETSAB Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya . Miquel es profesor asociado en ESARQ desde 1996. Anteriormente, fue profesor en Elisava y Escola LAI, y también en programas de postgrado en ETSAB y La Salle. Fue arquitecto en la oficina de Manuel Brullet desde 1989 desde 1995.