Patrice Riemens on Thu, 2 Oct 1997 18:31:30 +0200 (MET DST)

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<nettime> Woltaire Loth: Slums and Modernity

Slums and Modernity

In a recent article, titled "Let's rebuild the city, at last" the french
architect and urbanist Francis Nordeman deplored rightly "the fact that
the city is losing its substance.  It appears to evaporate, as if could
only achieve modernity by becoming inpalpable...before long, only a a
decor will be left..."

He also denounces the "laughable ambition" to put imitations everywhere:
imitation park benches for lovers, imitation 19th century lamposts,
imitation public squares, and a lot of empty spaces as outcome of the
obsession of the sixties with a fresh start (tabula rasa).

"Nothing" , he writes, "could be worse for the city than this emptiness
without borders, and hence without centre, without periphery, without
edges, without corners, without hierarchies, nor transitions, but the
random surface of a non-existent territory."

This is true about many concrete suburbs, far away from the pedestrian
streets in renovated city-centers. But that cannot be said about slums!

Slums are all hooks and crannies, dead-ends full of life, lurching
alleyways, clogged full with tangible, tormented flesh, or with
angry-looking skelettons, all this bathing in highly realistic smell, and
without any other emptiness than days without jobs.  Slums are the
flip-side of the modern urban scenery, with its catalogue-like quality and
glossy feel.  Slums are getting their market-share by accumulating all the
breakages issued from modern urbanism and the global market.

How many human beings in the Fourth Worlds of North and South are crowding
into these slums?  Hundred of millions? More than a  billion? Nobody knows
for sure, but for one thing: they're expanding fast.

The slum, as a fully filled and dynamic space of uprooting, of mutation of
beings into agglomerates, of transmutation of objects, of recycling of
monsters, of globalisation of tribes, is the most formidable urban
achievement of modernity, and its future.

Woltaire Loth (creativity consultant and writer)

(copy-lifted from Liberation (Paris), september 29, 1997.
and translated by Patrice Riemens)    

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