Home / About / Lectures / Catalogue / Education / Italian
Artists: Tamy Ben-Tor / Marnix de Nijs / Mark Formanek / Marzia Migliora / Julius Popp / Reynold Reynolds / Jens Risch / Michael Sailstorfer / Arcangelo Sassolino / Fiete Stolte
Zygmunt Bauman
Sandra Bonfiglioli
James Bradburne

Andrea Ferrara
Antonio Glessi
Alessandro Ludovico
Franziska Nori
Hartmut Rosa
The breath of the city

Our lives as city dwellers are constricted within merciless timetables. The domination of the timetable, which rules simultaneously over the collective life of the entire city and over my own personal life. The ambiguity of timetables, which we experience as limitations on our personal freedom, yet which make our social lives possible. We city dwellers are able to have a social life at all thanks to public timing, that is, thanks to the schedules of our jobs and of services for the general public, which in turn are regulated by the local working hours. We city residents are both complicit with and ambivalent about the social contract that has regulated the rhythms of our body according to a timetable, which we inherited along with our birth certificate, in exchange for the demanding beauty of public life. Indeed public life by definition means encountering others. And the physics of the encounter, from a territorial point of view, is the appointment. It is this public timing that established modern chronology, not the untamed stream of time, in order to guarantee that the appointment can take place. Appointment means 'there-at the agreed-upon hour'. This definition encapsulates the entire phenomenology of social life, the essence of urban life and the meaning of the city itself. It epitomizes the indispensable bond between the dimensions of space (there), time (at the agreed upon hour) and the social contract (an hour agreed upon). And ultimately, it implies the second major responsibility of urban planning: alongside the duty to provide spaces for the activities of life and work of a settled community, it also has the duty to guarantee accessibility, on every spatial scale, to the places and facilities of populated areas where the social activities of human life take place.  Respect for the conventions of timetables by those who carry out actions with others, the existence of a living space for one's own actions, the creation of a coordinated set of services that bring these conventions into the living space, the further functional organization of spaces and times within the living space: these are all aspects of the phenomenology of collective, coordinated action. This holds as true for temporary communities bound by affection and family responsibilities as it is for those held together exclusively by the rules of work. This is the distinctive way of living and working in the city. The appointment is the very expression of the modern city inhabited by masses of residents and non-residents temporarily 'co-present' in places, living spaces and throughout the city to carry out coordinated actions for a particular purpose. The expression and the functional organization of the modern city have been the focus of architectural and city planning analysis that began with the Industrial Revolution and the dynamics of standardized urbanization that it set in motion. As carried out by architects from the late 1700s to the 1970s, analysis of the modern city was oriented around the issues of private housing and the architecture of museums, stadiums, universities, shopping malls, and factories. These were the structures that provided the material furnishing of the new standardized public life, although these same issues have concerned urban architecture since the dawn of the discipline and the emergence of idea of the city itself. What is most distinct about the analysis of the industrial-age modern city is the concern with physical accessibility to these communal resources on the basis of uncommonly large quantitative scales and with uncommonly short rhythms, daily, timetables. Indeed, the circadian cycle has left its mark on the rhythms of the industrial city. The urban revolution, which began with industrialization and which reappears in this new era of the global economy, took place within the dimension of time. It took place within the dimension of collective intelligence, which was capable of transforming the individual, biological times of the human body into public hours providing the structure for social life. In effect, social time is rooted in nature, in the biological and biographical time of the lives and living of its inhabitants.

The nature of the city is time, not space

The city is not only the place where the individual and the community live according to modalities steeped in temporality. The city manifests the shape of our temporal experience; it concretizes it and represents it. On this foundation, my individual, biographical experience of my own life is rooted and reflected in a responsive, collective space-time environment, constructed together by me and by all of us. This complex interpretation-transcription is what architecture initiates when the city is built or rebuilt. Architecture is able to give perceptible form to the experiential dimension of individual living, transcribing it into a livable place that becomes the stage of my and our personal and public lives. Since the origins of architecture, this dimension has been recognized as its fundamental responsibility, a philosophical one articulated in the writings that established the theoretics of the discipline. Our experience of 'times', which heap together and multiply the density of our days and biological rhythms, is reflected in the temporal crashes of the reactive city. Thus are we affected by monuments intended to pass on the memory of the society's founding events from generation to generation. We are affected by the historical fabric of the city as well as that of its periods of major growth, by the vestiges of ancient walls, by ancient and modern building materials, and by the violations caused by bombing raids that new construction raises to the level of a monument. Thus are we affected by the fatigue of reconciling hours and times, reconciling the quality of experience and the quantity of hours. Thus are we affected by the rhythmic clatter of trains and trams, the clang of cars that converge during rush hour, the timescape of cell phone calls, the shops that open and close, rhythmically illuminating or darkening certain places, the social calendars organized according to the seasons and days in rites that confer a special flavour to public life, the unforeseen event that breaks through and unites the inhabitants in a community of feeling, the boredom of empty time and the melancholy of the eventide of the "desire … and melts the heart". Such is the temporal theatre of our daily lives as city dwellers. The discipline of architecture offers us a sensitively temporal city to observe, a city built and rebuilt with materials and forms set in entirely different scales depending on their life cycle, a city constructed and reconstructed according to different, consecutive visions of the city. Over the centuries, these visions have re-signifi ed and re-interpreted urban and architectonic forms and stylistic elements belonging to earlier time periods that, after their meaning has been analyzed, have been selected, interpreted and ritualized in a new present. The city that results from this vision is not an object that simply exists in time or one that evolves according to this external reference, as is the nature of objects. For the city, time is the building material. Hence, architecture constructs the time of the present, providing a living space for the things that happen. This is accomplished with the mediation of the vision of the city, which is not simply a multi-technical feat but rather a complex set of actions taking into consideration the responsibility implied by a historical-critical judgment.

A new global city: archipelago of easily accessible territories

The discipline of urban planning provides us with a city whose space is regulated through a control of its building sites and whose time is organized through systems determining accessibility. In fact, in the urban order, "near and far" is no longer simply an objective geographic relationship but rather the political and cultural outcome of systems determining accessibility to the city's places and resources. These systems deal in space and time: networks of infrastructures accommodating faster trains and better-regulated traffic, parking lots directly under the site of an event so that drivers lose no time, subways that resolve the complex geometry of the urban space by constructing an underground Euclidean geometry of movements with short routes and frequent service. These systems of accessibility amalgamate the power and public authority to regulate land use and working hours that allow services to function. Innovation takes place with regard to time: production of new forms of time to build new competitive organizations, structuring society on the basis of work regulated by working hours, territorial systems for easy accessibility to the ever-expanding archipelago of territories. Such are the innovative dimensions of planned time-in the past to construct the modern city and now to construct the global city. Modern societies have not developed systems to regulate time from a technical standpoint, which even archaic societies were capable of doing. Modern societies have learned to plan time to support processes of economic innovation and to manage the processes of social and urban structuring that go along with them. The contemporary city spread throughout territories of varying scales is not only a spatial phenomenon. The morphology resulting from this new logic of settlement arrangements is an archipelago of urbanized fabrics, dense or sparse, connected by infrastructures of fast or slow multi-scale mobility. This is the new city, an ever-changing city of dynamic territories. 

Palazzo Strozzi