Public Space and Contemporary City

The evaluation of the city as an entity in constant evolution, as well as its specific denomination, has defined positions and established profound differences between those who seek a word that may characterize it unequivocally, and those who continue to designate it as the city, although acknowledging the formal, social, anthropological and urban transformations that mischaracterize it from the historically recognizable entity.

One of the characteristics of the current reality lies precisely in the new forms of occupation of the available territory, through a summing up of urban artefacts based primarily on economic priorities and also justified by the urgency of solving the permanent problem of housing.

These premises are located away from any general idea of ​​the city and follow adrift many conveniences, dictated by the value ​​of mobility and time, implemented in a territory that is used as a expectant void.


Thus, we are facing a city that expands indifferent to the particular geographical and physical conditions of the territory, constructed as a response, often effective, to programs dictated by the rapid decentralization of housing, industry or commerce, in parallel to an exponential growth of a diverse and ubiquitous road system.


It is evident that the city has never grown as much as in the last century, and that the technological and scientific progress, and the development of information and communication technology have changed considerably our day-to-day. But can the city as architecture, in its immanent physical structure, be sidelined by the range of new telematics systems, a "virtual city" that denies the urban text and does not allow the city to read the descriptive capacity of its urban form? In fact, what is patent is the inability to process a morphological analysis of the contemporary city that may develop as a basis for a disciplinary understanding of its growth, and that looks forward to a reordering of different expansive fragments.


Time ago, architects began their projects by analysing and exploiting the geographic particularities of the territory in order to be able to transform them, in continuity, guaranteeing that a specific place has a particular project.


Today, will the contemporary condition of infinitude of the city and the production of offset typologies that are settling through the territory create an urban aesthetic that is alternative to the one which was based in geography, history and memory?


Will the architectural production become homogeneous, no longer according to a rationalization of construction, technology and art (objectives that are dear to the supporters of an international style), but as a reproduction of images of success which the media elevate and celebrate?



Will the effective dissemination of architectural models and the ability to reproduce them lead to a homogenization of the forms of urban growth, giving an image to globalization as well as a possible formal division between the two contemporary urban conditions: the one of the city and the one of the widespread urbanity?


Will public space, as a qualifying element and the referencial of a collective urban identity, uncoated with a public function, be doomed to its gradual replacement by the new media technology telematics? In the contemporary society, will the exponential use of information and media change the physical boundary between the public and private sphere and create its own concepts of private and public?


Isn't the public space of the city still connected to a certain concept of permanence, uniqueness and formal autonomy in the urban fabric, that singles it out as a place of collective performance and public circumstance, essential urban meanings to a society that wishes to be equal, and that may have in the public space the place of its democratic exhibition?


The contemporary city, as it grows, will be cleaving two urban scenographies that were previously in constant dialogue, shaping one another: architecture and public space. In addition to this obvious disruption, the current growth process of the city often designs public space after the construction of its buildings.


Is the concern about the volume over the void contributing to a new performance of the urban public space in the shape of the contemporary city?


When Bernardo Secchi states that the image of the contemporary city already exists but it is waiting for a project, he underlines the urgent need to, when facing the complex new realities of contemporary society, design the forms that shape the city as an organism.

Is there some sort of order behind the apparent disorder of the contemporary city, or, more accurately, is it possible to establish new urban principles that allow an order in the form of the contemporary city?


As Carlos Marti states "The difficulty we experience when trying to define the public spaces specific of contemporary culture is due to our uncertainty about what is, or should be, the contemporary city. It is necessary, if possible, to clarify that new idea of ​​the city to move forward in the definition of public places that adjust to it. Actually, it is the same problem stated differently: rethinking the character, position and shape of the new public places is, amongst other things, what will allow us to advance our knowledge of the contemporary city. So shall it be, as the presence of public places is one of the features that characterizes the city, both now and ever.".