1

García Lorca, F. (2016). Poeta en Nueva York. Madrid: Ediciones Cátedra

2

Jarmusch, J. (director). (1980). Permanent Vacation. Estados Unidos: Cinesthesia Productions

3

New Challenges

Chaos, violence, poverty, noise, widespread growth, filth, and misery have all formed an inseparable part of the greater metropolitan areas since their beginnings. Cities have always faced numerous problems that over time technological advancements and urban efforts have tried to solve. Now, a renovated confidence in technology allows us to fantasize about a not so distant future where cities will finally be idyllic environments to live in: places destined for work and for leisure, stripped of all that is considered uncomfortable or harmful.

Modern day big cities constantly resemble less what they once were in the past. The medieval major cities made up of narrow and decaying streets were the perfect allies of fearsome pandemics such as the Black Plague, which devastated Europe and a good part of Asia in the 14th century. In that era the health conditions were very precarious. Cities were impregnated with terrible smells which came from the sewage, the brickyard, the butchers, the markets, or even the cemeteries which were often situated in the city center.

The Industrial Revolution introduced new problems: it included a considerable demographic increase for the metropolis and also, a significant increase in pollution. A paradigmatic case is that of London in the Victorian era. Especially during the winter months, smoke from homes and from the numerous factories converted the air into a dense and unbreathable mass. Moreover, the population who had recently arrived to work in the industry, totally immersed in the most rabid poverty, didn’t have any other options besides trying to survive in dangerous peripheral neighborhoods such as Whitechapel, sadly famous for being home to macabre occurrences.

The vision of the city as a hostile or savage environment was recurring again in the 20th century. Federico García Lorca traveled to New York in 1929 and there he ended up finding a cold, unsupportive, and dehumanized city: “I, the poet without arms, lost amongst the vomiting masses.1” Under the superficial veil of the giant metropolis it’s true reality was found, very different from that imagined by tourists, just as Jim Jarmusch2 set out to show, decades later in Permanent Vacation, a raw and disturbing portrait of Manhattan in the seventies and eighties. Again, the city served as a symbol of disenchantment and of helpless solitude, where life in the slums was accustomed to not being easy.

 

Even though, over time, progress has slowly improved living conditions and fortunately, great successes have been achieved. Cities have started to lose some of their aggressiveness, entering into a new phase where they can be thought of as safe spaces, enjoyable, and even inclusive.

Currently, the firm commitment of major cities to improve air quality entails another great advancement. More and more countries are starting to employ similar strategies which favor new mobility that is healthier and more ecological. Without the shadow of a doubt, it is well received news to hear that measures are being taken against the threat imposed by high levels of pollution even in countries such as China where the problem is already present.

However, it is worth noting that on the opposite end, there is also the start of the creation of an ideal city that is excessively hedonistic and self-absorbed. A place that is prepared exclusively for leisure and consumerism, where citizens live completely cut off from reality and the true problems that take place. Without going too much into detail, the so called smart cities, which promise to offer inhabitants levels of comfort like never seen before thanks to the use of new technologies, also run the risk of converting urbanites into authentic idiots completely distracted by their own insignificant preoccupations. Making sure that this does not happen and encouraging an active and conscious citizenship is one of the main challenges in the future. Finding mechanisms to advance in the appropriate direction is the responsibility of everyone.


Text translated by: Kaitlyn P. Delaney
Notas de página
1

García Lorca, F. (2016). Poeta en Nueva York. Madrid: Ediciones Cátedra

2

Jarmusch, J. (director). (1980). Permanent Vacation. Estados Unidos: Cinesthesia Productions

3
Autor:
(Girona, 1991) Arquitecto por la Universitat de Girona. Como estudiante realiza prácticas en el estudio de Álvaro Siza en Oporto. Posteriormente ha desarrollado labores en el campo de la práctica arquitectónica y la docencia.

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