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Tema - Arte urbano
Tema - Critical Thinking
1

STAVRIDES, S. (2016)  Hacia la ciudad de umbrales, Madrid: Akal.

2

Simões AELBRETCH, P. (2016) “Fourth places’: the contemporary public settings for informal social interaction among strangers” in Journal of Urban Design, vol. 21, nº 1, pp. 124-152.

3

Bauman, Z. (2000) Modernidad líquida, Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

4

Carlos Santamarina-Macho: Miradas periféricas. Sobre la reflexión artística de las periferias y los vacíos urbanos published in the Blog Fundación Arquia (accessed on 14-10-2018).

5

See interventions in Tetuán-Paisaje-Ciudadanía (accessed on 8-7-2018).

Thresholds and the insurgent city of the 21st century

The work of Greek architect and activist Stavros Stavrides about thresholds of the contemporary city helps us understand the strong link between urban means as a physical space of relation and the social insurgency which took place at the beginning of this century. In Towards the City of Thresholds (2016)1 , Stavrides treats the metropolis as a system of specialties whose potential does not reside solely in its physical structure or in the users that move through it and enjoy it, rather in the situations of fractal character that play out in these spaces. For that he employs the concept of a threshold through its meaning within societal rituals, as place – passage or without favorable liminal borders for the development of alterity. By doing this, the social use of urban thresholds promotes a liberating spatial quality or social insurgency which encourages an open identity through actions of social negotiation and encounters with alterity. Therefore they are converted into spaces for human resilience, for the exchange of identities, and for the development of solidarity as a creative force.

Even though Stavrides exemplified his writings through great public scenes of social mobilization in the 21st century – La Puerta del Sol in Madrid, the Syntagma Plaza in Athens, or the Taksim Plaza in Istambul – threshold spaces also generate themselves in more modest places of our day to day urban lives.  It’s worth noting that many uban spaces do not become significant solely because of their cultural-historical values or an ad hoc design that guides the rules of social interaction. In many cases, the active role of urban atmospheres has to do with its personal relationship with a social network of people and with the ‘unclassifiable’ urban typology of its character, which are typical in the thresholds referred to by Stavrides.

La Huerta de Tetuán (2018). Image © Carolina Castañeda

Following this reflection, an urban emptiness constitutes the opposite of the environments which are granted significance in current public space, and they could be considered as part of the “fourth space” which Patricia  Simões talks about in her research. The characterization of this type of space arises as a result of the interactions that verge on informality and inbetweenness in its hybrid character and in transit towards a new state2. In relation to these spaces of emptiness or non-spaces, Zygmunt Bauman points out in his work that “the emptiness of a space is in the eye of who contemplates it and in the legs of the inhabitant […] empty are the spaces in which we do not enter and in those where we feel lost and vulnerable, surprised, alarmed, and a little bit afraid before the eyes of other human beings.”3

Many of these non-spaces are formed by the residual spaces that are in process of being redefined4 which opens doors to citizen reflections and to social participation in the role of being a scene for spontaneous social interactions.

As an example of thresholds of an everyday nature, it is worth pointing out the Madrid case of the Distrito de Tetuán. As an urban area in the process of transformation, the complex reality that integrates the urban and social network of the neighborhood – cultural diversity, building and construction, programmed approaches, etc.- acquires an interesting interpretation in the experiential and community use of residual spaces by its own inhabitants.

In this sense, the popular character of Tetuán allows a certain anchor point to its roots while facing reutilization and new functions of determined spaces5. It addresses an active process which shows the resilient capacity of the emptiness of the consolidated urban network, converting these residual public spaces into spaces of dialogue, community performativity, and also into a space for the development of alterity.

These threshold spaces allow for the cultural membrane which surrounds us to be broken, enriching the urban experience through an exchange with another and through the enjoyment of the means to explore. Definitively, an  urban environment without hierarchies or preconditions, that measures the pulse of a very real society, its concerns and cultural manifestations.

Is the city of thresholds in the field of contemporary urban studies or is it a reality that has been present throughout history yet we have only been turned onto it in our times?

Notas de página
1

STAVRIDES, S. (2016)  Hacia la ciudad de umbrales, Madrid: Akal.

2

Simões AELBRETCH, P. (2016) “Fourth places’: the contemporary public settings for informal social interaction among strangers” in Journal of Urban Design, vol. 21, nº 1, pp. 124-152.

3

Bauman, Z. (2000) Modernidad líquida, Buenos Aires: Fondo de Cultura Económica.

4

Carlos Santamarina-Macho: Miradas periféricas. Sobre la reflexión artística de las periferias y los vacíos urbanos published in the Blog Fundación Arquia (accessed on 14-10-2018).

5

See interventions in Tetuán-Paisaje-Ciudadanía (accessed on 8-7-2018).

Autor:
(Gijón, 1984) Doctora Arquitecta formada en la Universidad Politécnica de Madrid, la Universidade da Coruña y la Università degli Studi di Ferrara, desarrolla su actividad como investigadora en la ETSAM-UPM en el ámbito del patrimonio cultural. Colaboradora habitual y miembro de INCUNA y TICCIH-España, su actividad más relevante se centra en el estudio y difusión del patrimonio industrial arquitectónico.

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