October 2013. It is that time of the year.
Nobel prizes are being awarded, controversy erupts.
The time has come to put an end to the too often gratuitous political tension surrounding the Nobel name and to call for the establishment of a true Nobel prize for the MMM–the third Millenium and its most pressing issue: the growing processes of self-made, thoughtless wild urbanization taking place all over the world.
The time has come for a Nobel Project fofr Urbanity in the MMM.
The manifesto that follows is part of my new app for ipad Dystopic Town-Lines.
Alfred Bernhard Nobel is the Swedish chemist and engineer who held 355 different patents, dynamite being the most famous.
In 1888 Alfred’s brother Ludvig died while visiting Cannes, and a French newspaper erroneously published Alfred’s obituary, which is said to have brought about Nobel’s decision to leave a better legacy after his death. The obituary read Le marchand de la mort est mort–The merchant of death is dead–and went on to say that ‘Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.’
Nobel immediately understood how he would be remembered and, consequently, on 27 November 1895, he signed his last will and testament and set aside the bulk of his estate—31,225,000 Swedish kronor (equivalent to about 250 million US dollars—to establish the Nobel prizes to be awarded annually without distinction of nationality. A year later, on 10 December 1896, he had a stroke in Sanremo, Italy and passed away.
The Nobel prizes are awarded for eminence in physical science, in chemistry, and in medical science or physiology. There is a fourth prize for literary work ‘in an ideal direction’ and fifth to be awarded to the person or company that renders the greatest service to the cause of international fraternity, in the suppression or reduction of standing armies, or in the establishment or furtherance of peace.The phrasing for the literary prize given for a work ‘in an ideal direction’ has caused a great deal of confusion since the start.
For many years, the Swedish Academy interpreted ‘ideal’ as ‘idealistic’ and used it as a reason not to give the prize to important but less Romantic authors, such as Henrik Ibsen and Leo Tolstoy. This interpretation has since been revised and the prize has been awarded to authors who are not representative of literary idealism. In 2001 Alfred Nobel’s great-grandnephew, Peter Nobel, asked the Bank of Sweden to differentiate the award given to economists ‘in Alfred Nobel’s memory’ from the five other awards. This has caused considerable controversy about whether the Bank of Sweden Prize in Economic Sciences in Memory of Alfred Nobel is actually a ‘Nobel Prize.’
I believe that all of the above will convince others, other than me, that it is time to ease the political or artistic tension surrounding Nobel name, and to call for the establishment of a true Nobel project, one that is more in tune with the well-deserved aura of the mythical inventor.
10 points for a 10% reduction
Against an uncritically accepted scenario in which a constantly growing, unplanned, and ungovernable ‘generic city model’—the ‘anything goes’ geometry-free model implemented daily—makes a ‘requiem’ for urbanity an imminent possibility a new theoretical possibility for urban growth emerges: the archipelago-town liberated from the urban matter by which it is currently engulfed.
1 Lack of geometry
The current reign of wild urbanization has left the world with unprecedented portions of urbanity without any spatially defined figures based on a geometry the majority of its users can understand, from the temporary to the permanent, from the ‘documented’ to the ‘undocumented.’
2 Lack of vision
There is a paradox to such endless (and thoughtless) growth: on average, over 10% of this built matter is so disgusting, it is uninhabitable. Existing pockets of emptiness are hidden away in an obnoxious and disordered built amalgam. There’s no space left for visions unfazed by the popular culture of—clearly avoidable—congestion. A vision is needed.
3 10% reduction
At least 10% of the generic city could conceivably be scrapped to restore faith in the notion that urban matter is not defined by buildings alone. The amount of urban matter could be diminished for the benefit of the geometric design of the negative (empty) portion of the urban texture that makes the positive (filled) readable. Manageable.
4 Demolition as a positive act
The scrapyard is a good place. Demolition is part of the urban life cycle. It reboots urbanity and the minds of so many city ‘experts’ who have spent so much time producing new urban planning they’ve lost sight of their work’s final goal. The scrapyard makes room for a decentralized, distributive, open, shared, asymmetrical, and emphatic option for urbanity, allowing the territory to breathe rather than indiscriminately consuming its soil.
5 Creating value
At least 10% of the generic ‘empty’ city should be selectively torn down, putting an end to its misery. Or agony. A Nobel project for urbanity is needed. It calls for the creation (via demolition) of new unbuilt towns that, in turn, create value for everyone: city dwellers, the administration, the real estate market.
6 High density-low density
The Nobel project strives to balance verticality and horizontality keeping the dense structures as an exception at critical infrastructure nodes. It is an option that aims at restoring equilibrium in the current imbalance between high and low density.
7 Island of emptiness
The 10% reduction aims at creating some badly needed islands of emptiness that may define an archipelago of towns, or an archipelago-town in which a suffering population may enjoy the breathing space of a truly sustainable urbanity rather than suffocating it to its ultimate demise.
8 Administrative model
The archipelago-town is an administrative model. It defines a new collection of ‘towns’ which, taken together, form a neighborhood, a community, in short, a multitude of languages sharing a zip code. The archipelago-town is based on the individuality of the different building units of the different ‘islands’ that, as in a virtual network, depend upon the mutual interaction between the different single members.
9 Energy Model
Just as buildings can become collectors and generators of clean energy, so the various towns of the archipelago-town can promote a revolution in the logic of urban relations and juxtapositions of built and unbuilt urban matters.
10 Bâtir sans Bâtir
Urban science in the West has developed on the assumption that the issue is the act of building and not the spaces between buildings. The time has come to use more resources for the well-being of the void, rather than the solid. By giving greater importance to the design of the void, perhaps we can manage to contain the solid. Bâtir san bâtir means we will start to ‘build’ the landscape left in-between the solid, demolishing the solid in accordance with a master plan that values the void over the solid.