Architecture Festival: Opening lecture The good city thrives with contrasts
The Corona-delayed architecture festival opens this week and it has the most relevant theme imaginable: City of Wealth or City of Welfare? In a multiplicity of ways, this is precisely the question at the heart of all the debates being had about the good city in Odense right now.
At the opening lecture, Kristoffer Lindhardt Weiss, author of the book “Kritisk By” (Critical City) sets the tone. He posits that Danish welfare cities are transforming into cities of wealth meant only for the elite.
For me, this theme hits home for two reasons. Partly because the underlying dynamics that drive urban development today: Power and profit, only rarely let themselves be tamed by well-meant visions and only only superficially shaped by soft words. And partly because architecture – which is at the center of urban development – is essentially as full of contradictions as life. In doubt and always up for debate.
Because some parts of the city are simply better than others, but if you eliminate the one, you end up missing something. When something is especially beautiful, because it has been crafted by a firm vision, there’s less room for interpretation. The better a city gets, the less people can afford to use it. The most beautiful ideals have created the worst cities – but urban development without ideals has no future. Development is a way to improve the city, but at its inception, the goal of a better city is secondary to the goal of making money. The dense interconnectedness of cities is the strongest source of our creativity, but it also drains our brains. Green cities promote health, but the more nature in the city, the more space is takes away from nature.
If anyone tells you that the road to the good city lies at the end of a particularly defined path, you should be on guard. Regardless of whether it’s the hedonistic hotshot architect, Bjarke Ingels, or the foreman for Arkitekturoprøret (the “Architectural Revolution”).
Here’s my critical manifesto on the good city: The good city is constantly in motion. The good city cannot exist in a standstill and can’t be found in a compromise. The good city is in a dialogue between contradictory visions, that don’t seem to be able to live together. A city is by definition a place where opposites meet, and when the contrasts are negated, the city becomes either a sound-stage selling you the lie of the good life, or a sodden mass without any activating dynamism.
What does that mean? Well, a street under construction is not an obstacle. It is a dream that you can decide the contents of. The good city is super urban, but also wild and radically green. In the good city, rich and poor live side-by-side, with kids in the same schools, taking part in the same conversations. In the good city, you will find perfectly planned works with mosaic tiles and artfully laid brick and back alleys with graffiti and dirt. The good city has presentable fronts and ellipses which need to be discovered. The good city has a tempo that can force your brain to achieve unimaginable things, but there has to be just as much room for drifting off in a reverie.
Happy architecture festival!
Disclaimer: The Architecture festival is organized by Mira and Pil, who are a part of This Is Odense. They don’t have an impact on this weeks recommendations, but we like to give due notice when we know the people we’re recommending. See the full program at https://cafx.dk/odense/.Link to the event