1946, First Year of the New Era. After 1945’s atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the scientific age began.
The mushroom-cloud images over these Japanese cities bear us witnesses of the enormous destructive power of humanity. A few years later in 1961 Yuri Gagarin became the first man to orbit around the earth, and the first one to look at the Earth’s fragile crust from outer space.
During the present days, pictures of Earth had become so ordinary. Satellite pictures of increased nighttime lighting indicate economic growth.
But, they also show us the human power to shape his natural habitat. For the first time in history the global population is more urban than rural. While the term urban and rural mean different things to different people, municipalities of all sizes are an always have been dynamic centers of activity. Cities offer jobs and prosperity, important social interaction and rich opportunities for cultural expression, learning and education. Changes are more apparent in this ever evolving urban context.
Chora’s manifesto postulates that drastic reforms and innovations are necessary within the practice and education of urban planning.
A compilation of essays, projects and analysis; expose the fact that global forces have an impact on contemporary cities. Flows of currency, weather, refugees, political ideas and global trends create urban flotsam. Urban flotsam increases instability and creates complex dynamics that shape the second skin of the earth.
The ‘skin of the earth’ metaphor implies that we are inhabiting a living organism.
The organism’s skin is a living tissue called nature. Cities which are on or in the skin of the earth, behave like organisms. Yet humanity is but a parasite.
We are tiny particles in an atom of some immense organic being. We are infinitely small compared to the size of the earth, yet we have the same structure. Contemporary cities have malformed the skin of the earth into a malignant organism. Cities should be understood and analyze not only through the influence global trends create, they have to be understood as organisms within this planet. We must come up with a new way of growth and planning that is tuned in with the ‘skin of the earth’.
The dynamics of the second skin affect the skin of the earth.
Cities dynamics echoes the crust of the earth, but with different mechanics, different rhythms and undulations. Unless we moderate, unless we re-invent these dynamics enormous increases in suffering, in separation, in isolation, in segregation… will occur.
Urban Curators are the beginning curators of what Paolo Soleri would call ‘laboratories’. And what so many other would call ‘mega-buildings’ or ‘mega-cities’.
Chora advocates for the introduction of a new Urban Curation practice. Urban Curators gather emergent phenomena, construct intertwining scenarios and give form to programmes. The curator is a custodian of emergent trends.
Sheltering is the bulkiest, the most expensive, the most demanding and the most necessary aspect of planning in architecture.
We have to shelter ourselves, our families, our society, and all the institutions that society needs. Sheltering is an immense imposition. There is an immense transformation of nature into shelter.
The most consuming, the most wasteful, the most polluted, the most segregative kind of shelter we can come up is the suburban shelter.
If the choice of habitat is the wrong choice, we are in for a big catastrophe. Building larger and larger units, isolating them into the suburban sprawl, and then trying to connect the resources and the utilities is the most inefficient.
History of communities is that they tend to be very large, because through numbers we are able to afford things that we are otherwise unable to afford.
There is a contest between the amount of people, the consumption that we are beginning to feel is imperative (due to global trends and media), and the fact that the planet cannot deliver. We should be coherent with the factor about the limitations of the planet and the danger of becoming oriented toward materialism. We have to abandon the notion that suburban sprawl is going to be the answer, and we have to return to the notion that the city is where we can develop our future.
The ‘second skin of the earth’ is the largest shelter or habitat we have.
Mexico city and its more than 23 million inhabitants are the clearest example of a mega-skin of the earth, or in other words, a mega-city. Mega-city not only talks about size. Mega-cities are very demanding in resources and difficult to deal with, spatially, dynamically, logistically, and metabolically.
Mega-cities are complicated. And is clear that complicated is not the most efficient planning strategy. Complicated is not the same as complex. An spaceship is a very complicated piece of equipment, but its still complicated and not complex. A bird is a complex phenomenon. A bird has in its genes the instinct to fly. A plane needs a pilot, and it would take millions of planes to become as complex as a bird. This is a result of a new element and it’s the element of miniaturization, or in other words compactness.
The ‘second skin of the earth’ gathers people, fluxes, dynamics, and other material things, that get closer together. The history of the ‘second skin of the earth’ is and always will be about concentration. Cities had been built for the concentration of institutions. Compact cities reduce the constraint space-time.
The old example of successful cities is the european example, the medieval city and its compactness.
‘Medieval-Laboratories’ that had been already tested and found successful. This ‘medieval-laboratories’ gave birth to the Renaissance, a bridge between the Middle Ages and the Modern era. The Renaissance brought revolutions in many intellectual pursuits (polymaths such as Leonardo da Vinci and Michelangelo), as well as social and political upheaval.
As a cultural movement, the Renaissance encompassed a resurgence of learning based on classical sources, but it was not just the growing awareness of classical antiquity that drove this development, but also the growing desire to study and imitate nature, and its complexity.
To govern the miniaturized universe of an organism, there is the brain, the mastermind and collector of memories.
In addition to the human cranial brain, there are ‘sub-stations’ of decision making matter. If we had a super-organism made up of men, men retaining their own uniqueness, then such an organism will be made up of thousands or millions or more of brains.
The organism of a thousand minds exists today in thousands of examples: the towns and cities.
Nevertheless these organisms are un-capable of sustaining its spare physical energies, of cleansing its receptacles and arteries, of giving to each cell its due.
A super-organism of a thousand minds is the city of tomorrow.
In such a super-organism the individual brain will have a collective counterpart: the nonbiological memory archive and logical decision-maker, the computer.
In an age of global warming, population growth and increasing resource constraints, city planning must evolve. We must solve inefficiencies in the current urban infrastructure while keeping in mind the ‘medieval-city’ model, and we must shift energy production to low carbon alternatives. Urban design and communication technology can help achieving this efficiency gains and reducing humanity’s environmental footprint.
Cities are the largest contributors to green house gas emissions and climate change. They produce the eighty percent of greenhouse emission. Energy consumption should be measured and tracked to manage it in a more efficient way. Distances should be shortened to help maintain energy efficiency and distribution. Real time data can enhance the effectiveness of the logical decision-maker, and control public transport systems, improve traffic flow and reduce pollution. A compact yet connected urban environment can benefit different agents, the government, the business, the citizen, and nature.
Information and communication technology can help us visualizing the bones, guts and the nerve endings of these ultracomplex organisms. The ducts and conduits under our feet, the pipes and cables behind our walls and the industrial facilities and plants beyond our city limits. A network of sensors and receptors can ultimately permeate every layer of an increasingly connected built environment. Advanced information and communication technology would also help us monitor our progress as we move into a post-carbon era.
There is a need for new modes of communication, dynamics and collaboration. Revolutionizing the way we interact with each other and with the urban environment around us is part of the miniaturization process.
We must become an ultra-complex organism with the skin of the earth.
“The phenomenon then of the city, a congruent, humanized micro-universe sustained by the neo-natural (the physical structure of the city), is an ultra-complex organism whose centralized brain is the instrument that works for the satisfaction of the thousands of epidermal individual minds bound together by forces of sociality and culture” – Paolo Soleri