The plan of the city is organised as a sequence of rooms enclosed by what we refer to as city-walls. The city-walls are cruciform buildings (within which housing and offices are located), and they establish the space for development. They are the basic inhabitable architectural infrastructure at the service of urban space-generation.
The city-walls and their resulting rooms act as a framing system, a generator of available space. Just as it used to be for streets, the city-walls and rooms are not the conclusive form of the city but rather its definitive beginning – its primary urban datum. The result is a city where the grid is a built structure rather than the server of building: urbanism and architecture are one city section.
The choice of the room as the main theme of the city is meant to collapse the distinction between interior and exterior in the urban sections organised by the enclosing walls. The room principle organises the necessary separation of city units and reinforces their communality.
The space of the urban room emphasises accessibility as the sharing of space rather than as just the infrastructural plugging-in of units. The frame organises the unplannable by providing the rooms with a fixed and precise (back)ground. In our proposal, the inhabitable city-walls are intended as an urban-architectural object whose purpose is the coincidence of fixity and flexibility; the city-wall is intended as the geometrical place where the determination of frame and the unpredictability of content are solved in one form. This form is the experience of enclosure as a primary element that unifies and separates domestic and urban life.
A public-transport ring establishes the perimeter of the development area. In the initial stage, development takes place in proximity to the four main stations that link car traffic from outside with the public-transport system. Starting from these poles, development will gradually occupy the city’s interior. Public-transport hubs indicate the priorities for development.
In the place of the more typical centre-towards-periphery movement, our proposal concerns development from the periphery towards the centre. This principle is meant to preserve the rigidity of the city’s limits while allowing flexibility of development towards its core.
The principle we choose is explicitly arbitrary, but once we are committed to such a beginning, the resulting organism will undergo a natural evolution. Whether the evolution of this organism continues or stops will depend on the use of the principle – not as an abstract programmatic scenario controlled by some diagram, but as a real and passionate political will to construct a city.
The image of the city is the non-iconic appearance of walls. In our proposal we deliberately restrict our design to the definition of city-walls, intending to provide the minimum design necessary for the flourishing of coexistence.
Once we have restricted the design of the city to city-walls, the outcome is not a city made up of streets and plazas, of interior and exterior layouts; the outcome is space. The principle categorically refuses the old street/building syntax of the city. Our proposal addresses a city without streets, composed only as an array of spaces framed by walls. The perception of the city will be constituted by a sequence of rooms in which content is staged as furniture. Further building development inside the urban rooms will be visible, available, playful and, at the same time, overwhelmed by its captive condition. The city will look like a house, in which everyday passage through rooms makes the feeling of the architecture more relevant to our lives and less self-important in relation to itself.
The construction of our proposal depends heavily on the feeble relationship between two basic components: walls and spaces. Wall is the servant, space is the master. The inhabitable wall acts as a servant in a blissful state of innocence – giving so much in return for so little. Such an attitude plays a crucial role, since it establishes a regime of equality, the symmetry determining factors like plot dimension and serviceable area. The servant is both the enclosure of urban space and the domestic shelf (a building on its own), which, despite its abstract character, has enormous spatial offerings. This abstraction represents a new monumentality always on the verge of dissolution, disappearance.
The room (the space enclosed by the city-walls) acts as a master: aware of its generic character, it is reluctant to attach itself to a specific programme. The master is a module that can stand alone or as a component of a larger unit. Regardless of the arrangement, asymmetry will always result, due to the sharp disequilibrium between the room’s dictatorial framing and the uncanny nature of the content it seeks to civilise.
Walls as servant and rooms as master form the only essential principle of the city, and it is one that sets aside all celebrations but one: an idea of the city that is served/spared by the uncompromising conclusion of its own logic.
International Competition, First Prize
Pier Vittorio Aureli and Martino Tattara
In collaboration with Office Kersten Geers David van Severen