The city of de­sign

Domus - - CONTENTS - Emilio Am­basz

Italy has re­mained a fed­er­a­tion of city-states. There are mu­seum-cities and fac­tory-cities. There is a city whose streets are made of wa­ter, and an­other where all streets are hol­lowed walls. There is one city where all its in­hab­i­tants work on the man­u­fac­ture of equip­ment for amuse­ment parks; a sec­ond where ev­ery­body makes shoes; and a third where all its dwellers build baroque fur­ni­ture. There are many cities where they still make a liv­ing by bak­ing bread and bot­tling wine, and one where they con­tinue to pack­age faith and trans­act with guilt. Nat­u­rally, there is also one city in­hab­ited solely by ar­chi­tects and de­sign­ers. This city is laid out on a grid, its blocks are square, and each is to­tally oc­cu­pied by a cu­bic build­ing. Its wails are blind, with­out win­dows or doors. The in­hab­i­tants of this city pride them­selves on be­ing rad­i­cally dif­fer­ent from each other. Vis­i­tors to the city claim, how­ever, that all in­hab­i­tants have one com­mon trait; they are all un­happy with the city they in­her­ited and more­over, con­cur that it is pos­si­ble to di­vide the cit­i­zens into sev­eral dis­tinct groups. The mem­bers of one of the groups live inside the build­ing blocks. Con­scious of the im­pos­si­bil­ity of com­mu­ni­cat­ing with oth­ers, each of them, in the iso­la­tion of his own block, builds and de­mol­ishes ev­ery­day, a new phys­i­cal set­ting. To these con­struc­tions they some­times give forms which they re­cover from their pri­vate mem­o­ries; on other oc­ca­sions, these con­structs are in­tended to rep­re­sent what they en­vi­sion com­mu­nal life may be on the out­side. An­other group dwells in the streets. Both as in­di­vid­u­als or as mem­bers of of­ten con­flict­ing sub-groups, they have one com­mon goal: to de­stroy the blocks that de­fine the streets. For that pur­pose they march along chant­ing in­vo­ca­tions, or write on the walls words and sym­bols which they be­lieve are en­dowed with the power to bring about their will. There is one group whose mem­bers sit on top of the build­ings. There they await the emer­gence of the first blade of grass from the roof that will an­nounce the ar­rival of the Mil­len­nium. As of late, ru­mours have been cir­cu­lat­ing that some mem­bers of the group dwelling in the streets have climbed up to the build­ings’ roof-tops, hop­ing that from this van­tage point they could be able to see whether the leg­endary peo­ple of the coun­try­side have be­gun their much pre­dicted march against the city, or whether they have opted to build a new city be­yond the bound­aries of the old one. Emilio Am­basz, 1973 The “leg­endary peo­ple of the coun­try­side” are co­a­lesc­ing, as of late, into a ver­i­ta­ble Hin­ter­land. Un­der­stand­ably en­raged against Me­trop­o­lis, they fol­low op­por­tune lead­ers promis­ing them a Fu­ture made up of yes­ter­days and of cities re­turned to green fields and pas­ture grounds. In the light of this it is le­git­i­mate to won­der if Me­trop­o­lis, most skill­ful at sur­viv­ing, will not adopt those guises the Hin­ter­land longs for. The mem­bers of Me­trop­o­lis, their smok­ing suits un­der cov­er­alls, have been seen lately try­ing to me­ta­mor­phose their build­ings by plac­ing planters and flow­er­pots on some of their bal­conies. Emilio Am­basz, 2017

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