Technology and Urban Structure: The Grid City Between Technological Innovation and New Public Space System

Technology and Urban Structure: The Grid City Between Technological Innovation and New Public Space System

Vincenzo Paolo Bagnato (Polytechnic of Bari, Italy)
Copyright: © 2018 |Pages: 16
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-3613-0.ch013


In the last decades, the concept of cultural landscape, in its physical and social dimension, has been stoked by the contribution of a new interpretation of “technology,” understood as an innovative approach in the definition of new relationships between information, sustainability, and public space. It is a perspective that follows the changing cultural references of urban society, wondering which is the relationship between embodiment and location, between technological innovation and urban structure and how the digital and information revolution could influence and define the characteristics of urban aesthetics in the contemporary city. This chapter offers a key for reading these topics, starting from the analysis of the grid city's ontological space, its image between morphology and technology, between streets/buildings and infrastructure/landscapes, and finally, defining new ethical and dialogical interpretative approaches on sustainability and urban development, trying to find out the potentialities of the grid cities as complex public space systems.
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Casas enfiladas, casas enfiladas,

casas enfiladas.

Cuadrados, cuadrados, cuadrados,

casas enfiladas.

Las gentes ya tienen el alma cuadrada,

Ideas en fila

Y angulo en la espalda.

Yo misma he vertido ayer una lagrima,

Dios mio, cuadrada.

Alfonsina Storni (1892-1938), Cuadrados y angulos, in Obra poetica, Buenos Aires, 1952.


Ontology, Space, Perception

Michael Foucault reminds us that since the eighteenth century, in the western cities, the concept of “localization” as a clear distinct space limited by physical boundaries, well-defined and separating “indoor space” from “outdoor space” was replaced by the concept of “extension”. In contemporary times, the latter gave space to an even more original principle, that is to say “proximity”, as a group of relationships between nearby points or elements. This epistemological and conceptual transfer is of highly relevance as it sets forth a new dynamic condition for the cities. It acknowledges the speed through which urban contexts change, and it identifies how it not any longer is the flow of time, nonetheless the space (henceforth the way in which spaces are lived) to determine people’s life and actions in the city, with all consequent physical and social implications. The space becomes more complex; it becomes heterogeneous; it shows itself through multiple representations that are: private and public, familiar and social, cultural and productive. The space goes from one to another function every time more rapidly. It goes: from single use to multiple uses; from recreational space to working space; and from indoor space to external space. Foucault defines multiple spaces “heterotopics”. These are spaces that may not have physical space dimensions, nor geographical references that can be objectively measured. Although these spaces may be virtual and interpretational through the lens of our human condition, they are full of rules, functions, rituals, meanings, hierarchies, and classes (Foucault, 1984). Grid cities insert themselves in these heterotopics. Spaces that are: open and closed at the same time; simultaneously real and virtual; abstract matrix of an infinite multiplicity of urban images and identities, individually and collectively built. All the above ontological categories determine a peculiar configuration of the different urban temporality of the contemporary city, in which the dichotomic relationships slow/fast and permanent/ephemeral are absorbed and transformed into a new complexity of alternations, overlaps, correspondences, slippages, contradictions, analogies, and contrasts.

Despite the regular grids, and contrary to the popular interpretation of the orthogonal structure as basically antithetic to the “labyrinth”, the contemporary grid city defines a new, clear and dialogical dimension of the labyrinth itself. In fact, far from the urban structures with no frequent intersections, the grid city as above defined enables the inhabitants of the city to travel across and experience every time in a different way from the previous and the next time, thus building the matrix for the development of cognitive maps in continuous evolution, revision, and change. The labyrinth is not any longer the place where people may get lost, then the place from which the inhabitants are constantly and permanently seeking the exit, with the support of memory, hints, and cues. It offers a cognitive experience that accepts the complexity of the city and deals with it with wisdom and an approach of constant search and curiosity, which may vary and renew itself at each change of cultural dynamics of the specific urban context, in both physical and social significance.

Figure 1.

Farah Atassi, Workshop II, 2012

Source: Zoo Magazine, 39, May 2003.

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