From Speer’s delirious dreams for Hitler to the failure of harmonious communities to create collective monuments, the last hundred years brought the monument, in concept and form, to its extreme conclusion. And that century came to an end with the destruction of two highly symbolic monuments: the Twin Towers in New York and the Bamiyan Buddha in Afghanistan.
This new millennium begins with an interesting juxtaposition from the ancient desire to build monuments to a new wave of antimonumental impulse. On one hand the traditional, millennia-old attitude towards the logic of monuments, with the new Olympic stadium in Beijing, the skyscrapers challenging the skies of Dubai, Shanghai and Taiwan, or the new walls on the U.S. Mexican-border or between Israel and Palestine; and alongside these, a few more evolved, democratic, and contemporary metropolises that are producing, through spontaneous activities and commissions to young architects, a “new generation” of monuments that are trying to become horizontal. Open centers, creating an atmosphere of freedom and acceptance, change the demands represented by the many worlds that intersect in contemporary cities.
I believe that these urban creations almost involuntarily give rise to the formation of new communities that attempt to satisfy our deepest human need to meet others, to exchange with them and know them. In these micro-spaces, I see the potential to mediate in urban conflicts and also see a way toward a weaker, more diffuse center, a civil form of a secular and open urbanity.
It would be subject to the same flow of social, symbolic and economic transformations that modern cities constantly experience.
These urban fragments are the offspring of a "noble" twentieth century tradition that cross Ciam’s reflections on the ‘heart of the city’ with the restless urban experiments of Team X, Aldo Van Eyck’s playgrounds in Amsterdam and the Urbino shared with us by Giancarlo De Carlo, the street humanity of the Smithsons and the humanist radicalism of Archizoom. These urban and social experiments aim to rethink the scale of the metropolitan minute. They question the shadows at the heart of futuristic hyper-cities by offering a warm, welcoming refuge. They work like enzymes necessary for the detailed, silent transformation of the body politic by building new, recognizable centers. They contain the future and the hope that our cities and architecture are still capable of producing political answers.
That is why we felt that the virtuous mechanism of Check-In Architecture could be an extraordinary investigative tool into this important, unseen part of the European metropolis. Moving through these places, understanding how they are woven into the urban fabric and how people live in them and transform them. Stopping for a few hours within these walls, these public squares open to the world, means attempting to understand if the direction we’re heading in is the right one. Relaxing in the shade of an eco-boulevard in Madrid, playing basketball on the roof of the university cafeteria in Utrecht, walking alongside the new Forum in Palermo, or entering Basel stadium, but also investigating how the fragile monuments for the Olympic Games in Athens or the Forum in Barcelona have been, successfully or unsuccessfully, assimilated into the city. These are all fundamental ways, I believe, not only to understand, but also to generate new actions for the future.
Posted by Check In Architecture at Wednesday, April 09, 2008