PUBLIC SPACE by Michal Jurgielewicz x me.

yo, wieść gminna niesie, że na tym blogu pojawią się goście mądrzejsi ode mnie :) dzisiaj pierwszy z -- mam nadzieje -- serii tekstów; zapraszam do lektury.

It is said that path cannot be taught, only lived. But there are some lessons that sear the heart.
Lone Wolf and Cub, Kazuo Koike

Is public space public at all? It was on my mind for quite a long time, but I’ve never tried to put all my thoughts/observations together to write an article. Can one say that authorities are attempting to take posession of public spaces? Or maybe it does belong to them from the very beginning, and a popular conception of a public space, coming from etymology of the adjective, i.e. latin word publicus (made of the people;  to serve the people and to be open for all of the people) is wrong? Public space had never existed; or what one understands by the word “public” doesn’t  really convey their expectations. We take the public place as one serving the people, while in fact it’s only available for some of us to use in strictly specified ways. Always.
Today, as the world keeps moving forward, worrisome events in this matter come up constantly and current uproars in Turkey brought it again as bloody, dirty, and very tragic evidence. Never before did I feel that I can repeat so boldly after Lebbeus Woods: architecture is war; and after Leopold Lambert: architecture is weapon. I confront with architecture on multiple levels: as a graffiti writer  I use its walls, being a part of the “publicity” I use its in-between, and I am also architect, so I design it. I claim that there was no public space to be considered according to the word’s widely spread (and, logically, pretty correct, to this matter) understanding  from the very beginning; all you could do was only what they allowed you to.
Istanbul example is very clear — we have no problem with drawing a line between certain forces, because subject of the claim is a park. The reason why a clash between civics and authorities occurred is the city’s municipality’s will to destroy Takism Gezi Park,  being the last green area in rapidly developing city center. Yet another shopping mall, that is to replace it, would be an embodiment of the authorities’ autonomous power. It’s so boring, it’s so cliche, we’re all so done discussing it — except it still, anyway, does happen. I’ve to mention that a supermarket, no matter how fancy and pretty and nice, is a typical example of architecture of control — an open space with high supervision. At a mental level, it’s almost panopticonic. It’s to let one dive in an illusion of public comfortably, although never ceasing to disturb the brain with commercial messages, but it will slap you with the same ease and throw you out if you’d break any rule. Let’s allow the facts speak for themselves, while we’re taking a closer look at how BIG designed their latest Europa City project. Landform character serves only to blur the perception of being closed inside a shopping/customer loop, not in a position to get out of it far enough to rest.
According to Manuel De Landa, cities control movement of our bodies; they behave like an exoskeleton for city inhabitants. Therefore, parks (unlike dwelling, commercial areas, transfer routes etc.) are not frequent, as they are spaces where people can diffuse and celebrate their own pleasures among the others in the city. What’s more, streets, squares, facades and parks are only places in the city where a person can make a physical statement of their opinion. Geobbels’ words Whoever can conquer the street will one day conquer the state are, naturally, relevant.

Leopold Lambert in one of the latest articles on The Funambulist states:
The main characteristic of capitalist design is to leave nothing to chance. Indeed chance provokes uncertainty and uncertainty provides an illegibility that can be unproductive for Capitalism.
It’s true, but it can be said about any random system that had occurred in the past.  Nevertheless, architecture is undeniably bounded with law. I found an interesting observation about relations between law and architecture, or architecture and public space in Ancient Greece.
The Greeks understood architecture to embody meaning and order. Political order was no the least of the kosmos revealed by architecture. Thus, to the Athenians, the significance of civic architecture was a function of political context: the political persuasion of the sponsoring regime determined, to a large extent, the meaning of the building, despite their remarkable formal consistency. The Stoa of Attalos, for example, though a direct descendant of the Classical stoas that symbolized the equality of the citizens of the democratic polis emblematized the foreign domination of Athens during the Hellenistic era and served to aggrandize the builder at the cost of equality in the agora. Architecture was a political tool. It served to propel democracy for a short time, and otherwise served to legitimate asymmetrical power arrangements and perpetuate the status quo.
John Vanderberg Lewis

Doesn’t this quotation describe a current state of urban design? Urbanism/architecture’s principles haven’t changed since the very early states of history; and cities are build on the same foundations as ancient polises up till now.
I currently work in China and, seeing new cities arising in front of my eyes, I must say that  their architecture is ugly as shit. It’s needless to go on comparing materials and precision of details in constructed buildings in China to Japanese or European ones. However, inspecting them as pure components of design makes them plain equal; I can’t tell a difference. I don’t see any contrast, despite geometry, in ground floor plans of tenement houses with interior courtyards, walled settlements or brand new fenced real estates. I have the same concern in regard to urban plans.
I feel that lock, stock and barrell of our cites is based on only slightly improved (for capitalism’s needs, that is) schemes of their progenitors — it means we are entirely lost in repetition. How l feel is, more of a puppet than of a user. I am surrounded and my moves are predictable.
In article “Walls of Change” Lebbeus Woods wrote that walls are meant to separate and  that an essential mission of the architect is to ‘define space’, which means to construct limits, edges, boundaries that carve out particular pieces of undifferentiated space for human purposes.  I am aware of it, but I also have to admit that walls and boundaries mixed with law and economy are meant to segregate. My fiancé also noticed it, that here, in China, a simple wall still may come first and state the law – before every other rule and regulation. All those components: streets, squares, and facades, vertical and horizontal elements, let us think we are in public space; the fact is we are just in between. This very phrase: in between, beloved by architects, is both terrifying and promising.
So, one of the things that I have noticed first was that discussion about public spaces very often concerns only the facades of the buildings — with both advertisement and graffiti on them. The main idea here is to forbid outdoor advertising or make new, more strict law regulations for advertisements, and at the same time to fight graffiti. Isn’t that scary? They don’t care about the users. They only care about those physical boundaries. Seeing cities with this kind advertisement law, where only those who have money can show the messages on the walls, where graffiti writers or street artists are chased by drones (the latest idea from Deutche Bahn) devastates me. What’s more, those tend to be cities, where groups of people cannot just gather and manifest their ideas, because to do so one has to register at the council, and get through a complex  procedure. If some oppresive rules are not obeyed, it’s illegal to demonstrate in the city scape, and the gatherers would be rushed by police or drones.
Observing 2013 protests in Singapore, when citizens went out on the streets to show their dissatisfaction with upgrowth of immigrants’ privileges, I noticed that media approved the idea of the stage in Merilion Park (kind of a Singapore Hyde Park) where one is supposed to be able to express their opinions in public. But the issue is that it’s the only place like this in the whole city/country. Plus, it is, above all, just a tourist attraction, no matter that it was originally placed to express freely opinions/ideas/dissatisfaction. Once again: it’s utterly ridiculous, but it bares the concept of public space in country ruled by strong authorities and capitalism. The stage itself was taken under consideration during urban planning, but just as one of many other parts of city program. That’s what it actually was until February 2013 – kind of a scenographical place in the city, never used and, in fact, just a fake. So those protest came out as a shock for the media and government for never before did it cross their minds that people could use the place as an opportunity to actually gather on streets or squares. Furthermore, in my opinion it’s not just a Singapore case; governments in all the other countries behave in more or less similar way. Different tools, different pressures, but the same oppressiveness of the law.
On the other hand, and this is where I put all my hopes and means at, even common people are recipients of every possible law; they can reshape its foundations from the inside. So, we can use both physical and digital environments to achieve our goals — Arabic Spring was perfect evidence to this. Diffusing in Web, but then conveying information and gathering in "real world" led to unexpected but, paradoxically, anticipated at the same time results. To change in the system.
Although I admire Egypt events that gave massive hope to everyone for future changes, I am quite averse when it comes to the revolution itself. It always leads to diminishing the “enemy”, what is undoubtedly wrong, because it brings the same behavior hidden under the different names. It’s like fighting with a shadow. Instead a revolution I would rather like see people use logic and calculation. What happened during Arabic Spring, and what is actually happening online: social media, open-source or crowd-founding, is an evidence that we are able to change our societies into the organic/swarm model. Share more and gain more. The hybrid of digital and built environment could help to skip bureaucracy and lead to the habitat without authorities.

I was wondering what city does have the best structure to serve as a base for new, real public space and I think that Hong Kong would make a perfect one. In my opinion it should be used as a new, foundational model of urban planning. Complexity, levels and a network of passages give a whole new experience of living and passing through the city. It’s so dense, and yet people use all architectural and urban components to perform their activities. The public space — or the city’s in-between — is spread with continuous parks, basketball fields and squares.
According to latest Cities Without Ground book release about Hong Kong (I totally want to buy it and study those diagrams): 
Hong Kong is a city without ground. This is true both physically (built on steep slopes, the city has no ground plane) and culturally (there is no concept of ground). Density obliterates figure-ground in the city, and in turn re-defines public-private spatial relationships. Perception of distance and time is distorted through compact networks of pedestrian infrastructure, public transport and natural topography in the urban landscape.
Inside of the autonomous Hong Kong City for many years existed my favorite Kowloon Walled City — a megastructure that functioned besides the law and operated in more swarm-like model. Popular way of describing that order in the means of “anarchy” twisted its image and perverted it, changing it in a public eye into another freaky swerve, while it should keep a regular and legitimate social/architectural status. In fact, it was a very rare example of habitat of the future, whose main rule was not legislative; it was just metabolism and moving forwards. In the same time it’s important to notice that it wasn’t a shady, pathological ghetto. Many people of various backgrounds and occupations were living there and, what’s even more interesting, thanks to multiplicity of walls inside they were separated, but not segregated.
Architecture was inseparably connected to law from its very beginning. What’s more, due to its solidness and stability it embodies the definition of law: it rules and regulates. Throughout the history main models and systems were, and are, nothing more than a repetition, perpetuation of status quo; there are the ones who rule, and the others that are ruled. It’s an obsolete system. I share Buckminster Fuller’s statement, that we must upgrade, and then replace it as its users. As architects, on the other hand, we can’t just say: “I’ve got a new type of column that I think will be great for the future of architecture.”(L.Woods).
I believe that with growing influence of digital environment and technology we — physibles — will be capable of swerving from bureaucracy to more swarm systems, where our ideas, words, and opinions will not be just strings of signs, but rather precious components that build a greater integrity.
It’s going to be a nice rise of the public.

Brak komentarzy:

Prześlij komentarz