The final results for the 3rd edition of the POST+CAPITALIST CITY Competition cycle, LIVE, organized by Collage Lab and for which I have been one of the members of the jury, have been just announced!!
[be, inhabit, subsist, experience]
«Man’s relation to locations, and through locations to spaces, inheres in his dwelling. The relationship between man and space is none other than dwelling, strictly thought and spoken.» ~ Martin Heidegger, Building Dwelling Thinking 1951
According to the last report of the United Nations Population Fund, we have reached 7 billion people with 7 billion possibilities. Nonetheless, those 7 billion possibilities don’t correspond to 7 billion of equal possibilities. There are as many ways of living as people on the planet. The increasing demographic changes – due to the combination of medical and technological progress leading to the growth of aging population and the decrease of birth mortality – tend to generate fast informal expansion of urban territories: whereas demographics in Europe announces a limited growth for the future, the prognostic numbers concerning Asia and Africa are alarming. Studies prove that education level, birth rate and average income are intrinsically linked and that by facilitating education in the countries in situation of high poverty, we could reach a necessary state of balance.
But the question induced behind those numbers is the question of “how”.
The worries seem to focus on space: we can observe the horizontal development of slums and shanty towns – which Robert Neuwirth proposes to stop considering as informal or a-normal but instead, to recognize as an acknowledged architectural typology as it is one of the most common – if not the most – around the world while, at the same time, ex-industrial towns see their population shrinking. Also the mortgage crisis of 2008 in U.S. lead to the non-desired abandonment of thousands of houses nowadays, that organizations likeTake Back the Land” are trying to get back to use by claiming the “right to housing”. If it is not a question of space available, what is it about?
But the right to housing is not only a question of global scale or global balance. The access to private space – for rent as for sale – and the evolution and diversification of the ways of living took an unlikely direction over the last years: the personal guarantees one has to insure in order to have a roof, and the non-proportional raise of the prices of the real estate market against average salaries drove to trivialize shared living spaces, irrespectively of the personal situation, age or family status. Even more, the criteria of admission for getting an apartment do not stop reinforcing whereas the working policies tend contrarily to liberalize: the seeker is submitted to high competition where the perfect concurrent has something which is about to disappear: the perfect job for life and the good reputation in some countries directly ranked through your bank account data.
Could we think about an alternative society in which we could perceive space as part of a four-dimensional system in which the inhabitants, the use and the occupation can alter in time? If consuming were not the main motto anymore, if production and distribution would be reduced to the satisfaction of our global basic needs, wouldn’t we have more free time to live? Where would personal creativity and action find its place? How could a post+capitalist society affect our daily lives and the way we envision housing?
Would we still own and if yes, what would we own? Compulsory, the heritage to our kids would be a different one. Assuming that our cities can provide “everything we need”, how could an after crisis scenario look like? What would happen to real estate if there were no speculation on living? What would be the scale of inhabiting: will there be controlled islands or open spaces for free evolving community structures? Will we live close or enclosed from nature? Will we occupy even more space or will we switch to minimal standards of living? How would it change the structure of the megacities and their infinite expansion?
The jury was held in London on the 2nd of February, 2013.
Jury Members: Petra Havelska, Ioana Mihailescu, Daniel Fernández Pascual, Joanne Pouzenc, Philine Schneider.
Since it was hard to decide whether the POST+CAPITALIST CITY has to be approached through dystopian scenarios; poetic forms of dwelling; or real-estate feasibility, we eventually awarded THREE FIRST PRIZES among the finalists. Congrats to all!!!
PARIS CIRCLE, by Philip Clemens – Australia:
On 3 June 2010, the French National Assembly and the Senate adopted Law 2010-597 which formalised the goal to build 70,000 new homes within the Paris metropolitan region each year. This project takes Law 2010-597 as a starting point in an alternate future where Paris is reconfigured at a massive scale by a single line inscribing its boundary, clarifying its interior. This line takes the form of a circle 15.9km in radius, exactly 100km long. This circle has a width of 6.7m and has ten stories. Separated from the towers of La Defense, it looms above its neighbours. There are four typologies of apartments with variations based on the location of communal spaces that puncture both façades. On average, there is a new apartment every 14.2m with provisions for circulation, maintenance and communal spaces. In total, there are 70,000 apartments within the circle. Scale distorts. The line is a circle is a building. The building is wall is home. The abstraction forces its exceptional status within the city. Yet it remains necessarily habitable, an ambivalent figure, looking out in both directions. Knife thin, the Paris Circle defines and exists within both metropolis and hinterland. Thus bound, the metropolis turns inwards, upon itself.
PETRZALKA, by Natalia Petkova, Paula Petkova, Bernardo Robles Hidalgo – Slovakia / Spain:
Architecture is a potent expression of ideology. But nowhere is this made more evident as when it outlives the ideology that conceived it. In such cases, the built environment is compelled to reconcile with new societal aspirations, or face its untimely demise, be it physical or spiritual. Petrzalka, a prefabricated mass-housing estate, which flowered under the communist regime in 1970s Bratislava, is the densest of its peers in all of Central Europe, housing one third of the city’s population. The demolition of the estate after the Velvet Revolution of 1989 was therefore inconceivable. Instead, standing among the ashes of the regime that constructed it, the 150,000-strong community suffered substantial neglect and deprivation under the ‘turbo’ neo-liberalism that swept through Slovakia. Our tale of life on the estate – a bricolage of reality and fiction – seeks to illustrate the uniquely human capacity to re-imagine and re-appropriate spaces, mobilizing their latent potential, and paving the way for regeneration. Against a background of concerns regarding urban sprawl, and the reality of the shrinking welfare state, we attempt to give sense to – and take advantage of – the existing ‘architecture of congestion’.
MACRO-LOT, by Camiel Van Noten – Belgium:
Macro-Lots examines strategic mutations of existing lot divisions in order to create a new housing condition, based on collective ownership. It proposes both a physical concept of combining multiple lots to enable new housing conditions, and a socio-economic strategy, which strives for affordable homeownership as a collective interest. This strategy focuses on the border condition in North American cities. These neighborhoods are located at the edge of the city and are inhabited by a socially disadvantaged class. These types of urban fabric symbolize the social inequality as a result from the uneven development inherent to neoliberal urbanisation. The most recent foreclosure crisis has proven that the current parcelization structure is not viable anymore. The system of private ownership of land led to high personal independency of European immigrants one hundred years ago, but now has become a major source of social and economic inequality. Therefore, the concept of a macro-lot derives from the idea that a new parcelization structure, consisting of larger ëamalgamatedí lots, enables a new housing condition based on collective instead of private ownership. A macro-lot arises by combining multiple portions of or complete lots together. Local homeowners, who encounter financial difficulties, can decide to join the macro-lot. Furthermore a macro-lot will provide new housing units. The new context, obtained by omitting the parcel boundaries, enables different typologies as a alternative on the existing housing stock. As an answer to the current housing issues, the main goal of a macro-lot is the provision of affordable homeownership. The division of land- and homeownership, based on community land trust ideas, is the fundamental principle of the financial structure of a macro-lot. However, more than an architectural design, the concept of a macro-lot primarily represents a socio-economic reorganization. A macro-lot arises from a group of people who believe they are stronger together than alone. By definition, a macro-lot cannot be imposed on people, since it is set up, maintained and expanded by its residents. Therefore a macro-lot cannot be imagined by one person in front of a laptop. The involvement and the informing of the inhabitants is the most important ingredient for the success of a macro-lot.