Thursday, August 11, 2005

surrogate mother nature

Though much of the veneration of the old is just hegemonic and corporate image/media spoof, we could ask ourselves if there is something real in this relation, something in our biological natural instincts that attracts us to the old? If we eliminated all collective influence, what urban public spaces would we be drawn to/holding history/meaning for us? Could it be reduced to those spaces which we recognize as authentically natural (which usually are old)? Entirely man-made, the city, to begin with, is the antithesis of Nature.Nature and humanness have been being replaced by heightened global warming, technology, architecture that reflects technology, and surveillance, all of which favor a more independent/private lifestyle particularly in areas (such as the new balconyless flat buildings in Barcelona's Ciutat Vella, the general lack of benches, and the recent installation of bancos unipersonales (to stop people from lying down), and personal mobile music players become more popular…) which decrease social interactions particularly where tourists and upper-class residents frequent. In many of the dry cities of South-West Europe there is little green. Parks are replaced by “plazas duras” —flat sheets of gray cement with a thin sprouting tree exactly every some calculable distance. For this reason, one hot summer day when I took refuge on the shaded steps of an old church it occurred to me that, in the city, Mother Nature had appropriate the old; a true urban “Giving Tree.” Contrary to the impersonal, generic, banal, hard and flimsy Postmodern urban spaces (like those that were constructed in Barcelona for and after the Olympics, the old spaces/ruins (particularly those not surrounded by gates, surveillance or tourist stands) are generally public, imperfect, approachable, generous, palpable, they’re soft and soothing but solid and dependable, moss or vine-covered, pigeons and stray cats make they’re homes in the organic niches between their stones, they offer you a place to rest. Unfortunately, they’re also going extinct.

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