Continuous city

Year 2008
Location Vienna, Austria
Typology Urban strategy
Scale 230 ha
Status Master thesis
Author Miha Volgemut

Globalisation can be percieved in two ways: we can see it as an insidious homogenizing tendency, the territory of unscrupulous and ungoverned multinational corporations, and the repressive law of the father? Or it is a progressive plurality, space of flows, planet as a superorganism? (C. Hubert) We can say that liquefaction of the social substance is happening today in the age of globalization. Collisions and frictions of cultural systems cause great heat and pressure in the global society, therefore it seems like everything has been melting: values, authorities, ideologies, hierarchies, cultures, theories etc., like no solid psychological or social structure could persist today.

The proposed strategy is dealing with contemporary society of flows. How the city of flows could work or behave. How to attach and integrate public and private life to the city of flows? How to organize complex, dense and heterogeneous city life that is driven by numerous flows into continuous, social organism in the size of the city?

As the point of departure, I am proposing the city that uses the organizational system of a shopping mall, which is based on streams and movement driven by desires. Basic organizational scheme of the shopping mall is created by stream that connects two attractors, which cause the flow of the people on the stream between them. Flow of the people attracts than small shops that start to attach themselves to the stream. So, in this case the flow acts as a stable component, while program is dynamic and changeable.

In the next step I define a city as a collision of topology and society. As the alternative to the conventional urban grid system, which is based on extensive parameters (F.A.R., proximity, height, width, coverage…), I propose “body system”, which is based on properties such as connectivity, plasticity, densification, diversity etc. To unite this “body system” to psychosocial reality of society, I use the human-body analogy as the mediator between topology and society. Which means the orifices of high genus entity constitutes intensities and sensibilities in the city, like orifices of human body are related to libido (undead, non-symbolic substance of the drive energy). Solution is than an interiorized city space that behaves according to the intensities in space, that the city is able to use to colonize the »streams of desire«. So, in a way the whole city life is pushed into one big »shopping mall« that together with zones of intensities produces truly productive social space. This »hyper-urban continuum«, is a building and a city at one time, where the human body and city space are much more integrated with each other. This results into the fusion of flows and places, where “sense of place is happening on a far larger scale and is constructed by particular moments in network of social relations and experiences”(D. Massey). In this kind of space without objects, identities and determinations, the city is driven by desires, where interactions prevail over contradictions.

The inhabitant who lives in this city is caught into the ecological loop, where the environmental characteristics together with the inhabitant’s nature constitute a certain urban biotope. So he/she with his/her work, activities, taste, character, desires etc. can adopt his/her nature to the specific intensities in the city. So the whole city should work like one big apartment or social living room. In terms of conditions for richer diversity of the urban ecology, the city works by the principal of the “plug-in city”, where together with topology it constitutes great programmatic plasticity that is open for continuous reconfiguration or improvement of city space.

The program of the city is organized according to the self-organizing system, which follows Frei Otto’s “path optimization” geometry exercise that is taken in three steps. In first, the straight lines are basis for random distribution of the program; in second step the lines get loosened, so the borders between programs get blurred; in final step, when we take the model out of the water, the loosened lines self-organizes in a sort of cellular geometry, where imaginary programs merge together. By this scheme the program is organized according to the cells (orifices) that stand for thematic open public areas and create zones of intensities. Close to the orifices (which are the main sources of natural light, air and green) programmatic streams gets denser and more intertwined, so program gets more mixed, and fading out towards the external city borders. More private conditions grow along the borders of the city, which corresponds with the distance from the orifices and also with the decreasing topography of the cityscape.

With a distance from the orifices that are highly public, more and more private units grow towards the external borders of the city. These are the areas where people are “stored”. These enclaves are the environment that is released from the need for traditional qualities like sun, air and green. With necessity to reinterpret the traditional space, which is based on traditional qualities, I also introduce a digital, mono-sensual, progressive space; so the friction of the two also forms the layers of intensities. The individual sleeping units in enclaves are technologically highly developed apartments (digital screens for simulating panoramas, noiseless air conditioning, small electric city vehicles etc.) that re-establish sensual potentials of digital place. The main purpose of this mono-sensual environment in the private units (besides the extreme densification of the city) is to stimulate inhabitant to adapt his living also to all other fields of intensities and specificities that are disposed across the city. So, that one can really use the entire city space as an extended apartment.

The hypothesis of the proposal is to develop a city as a coherent, complex social organism, that comprehends very condensed, heterogeneous and liquefied society and yet it is still capable of maintaining dynamic balance, learning from past mistakes and repairing itself. That is to achieve open-ended society that is densifying and diversifying inwardly. It is like the process of illness in organism, which is a composition of numerous bacteria cultures that live in the symbiosis. Immune system defends the existing systemic configuration and when a new bacteria culture wants to break the configuration and integrate into the system, the organism gets ill. Immune system is a protocol that provides structural logistics for different autonomous cultures to live together. After the illness, new culture is integrated and the system will never be the same again. It gets more complex and more vigorous.