MovingCities mini-manifesto

The really important facts were that spatial relationships had ceased to matter very much and that my mind was perceiving the world in terms other than spatial categories. (…) Place and distance cease to be of much interest. The mind does its perceiving in terms of intensity of existence, profundity of significance, relationships within a pattern.

Aldous Huxley, The Doors of Perception – Heaven and Hell.

MovingCities | Beijing, 2007
MovingCities | Beijing, 2007

We have been looking for the city in the wrong places.

In the course of its historical ‘development’, humankind has crossed a crucial frontier, the divide between the urban and rural. Today, supposedly more people live in urban than in rural conditions, and it is expected that this will inevitably escalate. However, it is not a clean, classic split: the world is mixed with rural-urban sites, peri-urban environments, in-between zones subject to migratory movement, temporary shelters and havens for the massive floating population of migrants who are not inhabitants of the city, but the employees of the city.

In order to research, discuss and formulate the future of architecture and urbanism, and to determine the agenda for life on the new frontier of newly emerging urban situations we exploring the concept of moving cities. For us studio studies are less challenging than work in the open urban air, where from minute to minute the energies of people, space, architecture and society vibrates, transforms, coalesce and disperse, reconfigure and recalibrate. For us, Rilke still make sense – even if situations are so far ahead of what we think, of our intentions, one day we will surely catch up with their true appearance.

In line with the Futurist agenda of Filippo Tomaso Marinetti we inscribe ourselves in the old tradition where people are described as ‘the primitives of a new and completely transformed sensibility.’ What we inherited from the Futurists is the concern with materiality in flux. In this way, we want to prolong, extend and connect with the manner in which these people have threatened hitherto received ideas about space and time – more generally still, about all such principles of order in the world.

MovingCities under construction | Istanbul, 2005
MovingCities under construction | Istanbul, 2005

If one area experiences a shrinking of populations and economy, then this means that in other regions there will be growth of the same factors. Basically, one could state that growth in one sector causes shrinkage in another. In today’s world of globalised capital and labor, everything is interconnected, so both shrinking and expanding are not phenomena completely separated from each other.

One important mistake in the Shrinking Cities project, I believe, was the isolation of the shrinkage phenomenon; and by doing so, we do not get to understand the full scope or extent of its relations with the dynamics of urban growths. That is why I pleaded not to look at our subject cities as shrinking or expanding, but rather as ‘moving’ cities.

Kyong Park, interview with MovingCities, 9 April 2007, Beijing.

MovingCities under construction | Lisbon, 2007
MovingCities under construction | Lisbon, 2007

When and where do cities start moving? Can we see, feel, smell or even understand this? The movement of cultures, of communities, seems to follow a strange path. The primitive cultures adopted a certain form of nomadism – these days embraced by a group of highly mobile people, “travelers who no longer even know they’re traveling”, struggling with the technological constraints this world has put on their effort to be nomadic. We, (i.e.,) industrialized and ‘developed’ cultures, follow the path of progress, along lines of infrastructures, moving from hub to hub. These are mostly located in already existing cities. We don’t pioneer anymore, we don’t theorize nor centralize anymore; we despise intensity, and what we like to do is to move everything through division, segmentation, categorization, separate this from that; centers from suburbs, high-rise from houses, people from places. New movement provides the opportunity for the creation of new places, ‘occupied territories’ that will attract new flows of people, goods, consumers and resources. These flows are only to be halted at borders, a flow that experiences different levels of restrictions within urban space.

MovingCities is not as interested in conditions of transition as such, but rather in processes of intensification, circulation, accumulation, formation and standardization that this time of transition is provoking.