The necessary utopias
In 2005, the Sensations urbaines exhibition at the CCA in Montreal staged a different way of looking at the city and perceiving it. Left out of the canons and principles of traditional urban planning, the senses came into play: listening, touching, smelling, perceiving the city from new angles .
Have you ever noticed how different cities are in the dark?
How fascinating is the pattern of bright lines seen from the plane when landing at night?
Have you ever focused on the background buzz of the metropolis?
Or about deafening noises?
Have you ever walked it, letting go of step e
following more intuition than the map,
exploring an unscheduled itinerary on roads never taken?
The geography of the senses describes a different city: it is our city, the one that is engraved in the memory as an emotional, private and unrepeatable experience .
Another book, earlier than a few years but not so far from the cultural climate of the beginning of the millennium, (History of walking by Rebecca Solnit, 2002), focused on the meaning of walking on foot : "get out of an enclosed space and start walking in the world, in the cities and in the countryside, in the midst of a protest march or a pilgrimage .. ". Also in this case walking was described as wandering wandering: a zigzag proceeding, as in the Promenades described by Stendhal in his Roman diary: free traces of steps that cross the paths that the city offers. It is no coincidence that in that same year it was screened, about the Architecture and Media relationship
(Intimacy, in 2002 by iMage), Michaela Frühwirth's video on Calcutta: "I think of the city as a subtle geography of the senses - wrote the photographer and videomaker - I think of the city that acquires meaning through experiences and actions of those who live there ".
The city was traveled on foot, the shots were a continuous sequence shot held at the height of men huddled in stone shelters: walking on foot was in the story narrated by Frühwirth an elementary and primitive form of experience.
The condition of insecurity that we can re-read in these few clues has not completely abandoned us. There is a substantial resistance of the anthropological nature of man, in the face of the progressive virtualization of the digital age and any form of artificial intelligence that is not controllable. There is the use of elementary forms of perception of space and the assertion of the value of the senses. Feeling and feeling, perceiving and perceiving oneself, moving in space in the awareness of being able to shape and modify it, still makes us feel at ease. Walking through it, inhabiting it like a made- to-measure suit , but at the same time reinventing its spatial trajectories, we implicitly try to belong to it, to fully understand it and to realize, also through the intertwining of personal relationships, our microcosm of private and temporary happiness. It is a form of knowledge and we know that the condition of familiarity, of belonging, as well as of emotional and aesthetic experience have something in common, if not precisely with happiness, at least with a condition of momentary well-being. Architecture (and the city) are first of all an experience of space and theater of the relationships that are determined from time to time between things and people. Architecture or cities that do not interact with life are silent, unhappy works. Cities are the scene on which the facts of everyday life and exceptional events flow, they are the spectrum of our emotions and our intellect . Without this completeness, cities (architectures) would be celibate machines and would lose their meaning.
But on the other hand, when are we fully happy?
Can architecture interact or influence this condition?
Can it do this on a lasting basis?
These are questions that are difficult to answer. The concept of happiness itself is impalpable, elusive and subjective, like the concept of beauty.
Architecture is a means that would like to guarantee greater well-being to everyone but it is not the only one; and the architect is a mediator, an author, a visionary who builds necessary utopias.