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How will migration influence architecture and the city?

The Pyramids at Giza (III)The three main pyramids of the Giza necropolis belong to the Khufu, Khafre, and Menkaure. These Fourth Dynasty pharaohs ruled over Egypt during the Old Kingdom and built these immense pyramid complexes to take them into the afterlife. 

by Iris Fernandez (2009) copyright: 2009 Iris Fernandez (used with permission) photographed place: (Giza) [http://pleiades.stoa.org/places/442962448/] Published by the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World as part of the Ancient World Image Bank (AWIB). Further information: [http://www.nyu.edu/isaw/awib.htm]

Roberto Masiero

We have always been nomads. We are curious, possessive, aggressive, invasive, dominant. If this was not the case, we would not be what we are: the world itself. And so, we occupy the spaces, find shelters, define borders, build tents and then houses and cities, build roads, bridges, dams, ports and enhance our power by building amazing architecture. 

“About 300-400 meters from the pyramid I leaned, took a handful of sand, dropped it silently a little further and said in a low voice: I am modifying the Sahara”. So, Borges. He should have written “… I am modifying the earth's crust”.  This is what architecture does: it “scrubs” worlds and spreads the will to power: identity against other identities. 


This is if there are spaces to occupy, territories to possess, borders to be defined, nature to exploit, but what happens when there is nothing left to occupy except what we know is beyond our planet, in hyperuranium? what happens where the "other" no longer shows itself as the different but as the differently equal? where singular and collective identities disintegrate in an indefinite and therefore powerful and disturbing magma? 


Is there still the possibility of building that pyramid without an author that accounts for the measure of ourselves and of the world? What happens to architecture where there is no longer the possibility to distinguish between natural and artificial, between one place and another?  What happens to architecture where borders and conflicts proliferate because there are no more borders?  where the paths lead to no clearing? where does thought sail without knowing where the wind goes?


Will it find peace in a nature alleged order? in a link with the materials, the traditions, the signs of the places? will he rely on reason and its deep connection with necessity, technique, function? can it still delude itself that creativity can set us free? can it still think it is art among arts?


Now in the digital multiverse, in the polytheism of the impossible that has become possible, in the virtual more real than the real, architecture can adapt to the Junkspace, as Koolhaas already indicated a quarter of a century ago, and therefore let explode the multiplicity of jargons, and, in the immense background noise, playing with the swampy private and public emotions, with the empire of the indistinct in an aesthetic aggregation where the hierarchy is replaced with the bric a brac of the accumulation, the ordered composition with the randomness of addition. Hence everything becomes jumble, limitless freedom, hubris. And so also architecture can work hard to represent its own time. Isn't this really its function?


Methinks no! I think its function is to design a better world and not to adapt to what it finds. Today it should do so without any metaphysical presumption, without the hope in a transcendent order, seeking that each work should be order in itself, suspending the will of the subject to shout his/her/its own self….


After all, when you look at a pyramid, even today, you do not wonder who the author is, but what responsibility we all have with respect to the world, precisely because the world appears as a desert or, which is the same, as in a huge accumulation of garbage, where we nomads no longer know how to find any path to some clearing. This must be sought, knowing, among other things, that architecture, since man has been man, has always become a world.

Where migration is widespread, invasive, unstoppable, places are no longer places, horizons are dispersed, borders show their imposture and impotence as stupid violence, walls for other walls, and architecture has the difficult task of designing/building spaces as social devices, cities as great artifices for shared survival, homes as a way to rediscover our very human daily life peer to peer, territories to act on local and global collective identities, …. in short, ways of coexistence, inclusion, sharing, socializing, and pyramids that teach us to be together

Roberto Masiero teaches Architectural History at the Instituto Universitario di Architettura di Venezia and the Facoltà di Architettura di Trieste. He has published many essays and articles in sector periodicals. He has also published many books, among which many focus on the work of Livio Vacchini.