On 4, 5 and 6 March this year the Palacio de Cibeles in Madrid hosted ““Juntarse/ToGather, Architecture, Urban Development and Landscaping to Create Communities”1, a seminar organized by Madrid City Council as part of the Soledades Urbanas programme. The event’s objective was to explore in detail Madrid’s status as “city of cities” and “world capital in the fight against loneliness”.
Its intense themed sessions served as a platform for the presentation of a wide spectrum of ideas and experiences detailing solutions to the problem of individual loneliness and fomentinga “caring culture” at different levels. Aspects addressed ranged from details of urban, architectural and programmatic design to city governance. Those of us who had the pleasure of attending enjoyed presentations by numerous managers, designers and thinkers, including Myriam Heredia, Enric Batlle, Richard Sennett, Saskia Sassen, José María Ezquiaga, Teresa Gali-Izard, Asger H Christensen from Snøhetta, Kjetil Thorsen, Álvaro Ardura, Carmen Espegel, Atxu Amann, Claudia Thiesen, Carles Baiges from Lacol, Iñaki Alonso from sAtt, Katharina Bayer from Einszueing Architektur, Ana Fernández from Cohousing_LAB, Rogelio Ruiz from eCohousing and David Gianotten from OMA.
The subject of debate in the round table in which I had the honour to participate (along with Francisco López Barquero, Gaspar Mayor Pascual, Jaime Moreno and Daniel Fábregas) was a compelling one: “Sharing for a Better Life”. It was an idea that, in the days preceding the event, planted a recurring question in my head:
Who exactly are we referring to when we talk about “coming together”?
As Saskia Sassen argues, building a sustainable future involves strengthening citizenry at local level, to offset the predominance of the global city2.
The architecture and the cities of the 21st century require spaces with a twofold capacity: to accommodate people’s most intimate individual needs – as so brilliantly defended by Atxu Amann and Carmen Espegel, and, at the same time, to provide an opportunity to coexist, interrelate and expand by facilitating the creation of relational bonds that make us less manipulatable and, therefore, stronger as a society.
In the forum we were able to hear about a stunning variety of experiences encompassing housing, urban design, neighbourhood rehabilitation and regeneration, urban naturalisation, housing cooperatives and cohousing in Switzerland, Sweden, Holland, France, Madrid and Barcelona.
If there’s one thing all those experiences have in common, it’s the emergence of architecture as a solution to the challenge of constructing a new “Us”.
But is this “Us” truly inclusive, or is there a risk of social closure? Are we placing the emphasis exclusively on acknowledging otherness through peer contemplation, or are we prepared to go further, to allow greater relational, and thus spatial, richness?
At Laboratorio de Espacios Intergeneracionales (EiG_lab), we defend the thesis that when we enrich that “Us”, when a project is designed and programmed to help give people of different age groups and at different stages in their lives the chance to meet, live together, find common spaces and generate synergy, it’s then that the concept of “caring city” stops being eminently aid-focussed and another crucial dimension is activated: that of intergenerationality.
As Richard Sennett said in his presentation, “complexity, in the sense of having many possibilities, is the essence of the city”. Let’s concentrate on architectural solutions that take into account the full complexity of people and cities.
- Luis Llopis i Eva Chacón -
@luisbonsai, arquitecto ETSAM 1992: Tengo varios másteres y bla, bla. Me apasiona la arquitectura de Fallingwater, viajar tomando apuntes en mi cuaderno de dibujo, y desconectar sumergiéndome en el mundo submarino.
@evabonsai, arquitecta ETSAG, 2006: Yo también tengo másteres, doctorado, etc. Soy curiosa por naturaleza, amante de la 'cocina' arquitectónica y la buena música. Si no me encuentras, búscame subida a alguna cubierta, árbol o montaña con buenas vistas.
Nos vemos en las redes y en www.bonsaiarquitectos.es
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