“Sо they had begun to walk about in a fabulous Paris, letting themselves be guided by the night-time signs, following routes born of a clochard phrase, of an attic lit up in the darkness of a street’s end, stopping in little confidential squares to kiss on the benches or look at the hopscotch game, those childish rites of a pebble and a hop on one leg to get into Heaven […]” Julio Cortazar, Hopscotch. Avon Books, 1984.
The square is the place of your shared emotions. The square, the street, the park… these public spaces are the settings for countless activities and all of them have at least two things in common: people and emotions. Emotions are there in everything you do, even though you may not realise it. Every time there’s any kind of movement, there’s an emotion behind it.
But what I want to talk about here are those emotions you share, those emotions you feel with other people and in the company of other people: the ones that let you feel part of a group, make you feel as if you belong to something bigger than you or your family. The emotions you share with society. Your shared emotions.
And the settings par excellence for those shared emotions are public spaces, where feelings can be displayed in demonstrations, celebrations, games and meetings. Think of Puerta del Sol in Madrid on the day of the train bombings in 2004, or local feast day evenings in your town or city. The setting is always a public place, and the emotions experienced there – whether they be indignation about the political situation, anger about some violent event, the joy of dancing at a concert or the laughter of playing children – are common to the whole group. They’re all shared emotions, emotions that make us belong to a social group.
But this collective effect is not limited to unusual or everyday shared events. The affective image you develop of your neighbourhood, your town or your city is a shared affective image. All the people in your neighbourhood see the same streets, squares and parks. They’ve had, and will continue to have, experiences in them and the affection they feel for the neighbourhood will be similar to yours. You all share emotions and affective images. And although you may be unaware of it, your connection with those people is something special. Haven’t you ever found yourself talking to a stranger, either about business or personal matters, and suddenly, during the course of the conversation, you find out you both grew up in the same city or neighbourhood? When that happens, the relationship immediately changes, because in that split second an emotional link has been established. It’s a link that only exists thanks to the experiences you’ve both had in the same place, but it now forms an affective bond. You both belong to the same group.
Public places are a source of shared emotions and bind us together as a society. Over and above their own uses or significance, they are essential for social cohesion and for your sense of belonging, for your identity.
What places do you share with others?
Cortazar, Julio, Hopscotch. Pantheon, 1966.
Norberg-Shulz, Christian, Existence Space and Architecture. Praeger Publishing, 1974.
Pardo, José Luís, Las Formas de la Exterioridad, Pre-Textos, 1992.
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Doctorando en el departamento de Proyectos Arquitectónicos en la ETSAM, Master en Proyectos Arquitectónicos Avanzados por la ETSAM, 2013, Arquitecto por la Universidad Alfonso X El Sabio, 2006.
Socio fundador de Estudio Perpendicular.
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