25 Januari 1999
In architecture’s role of defining and materialising the spaces for social interaction, designing the relationship between the physical and digital public domain is becoming more and more of a challenge: investigating the relation and interconnection between the “soft” city with its finite material counterpart, the living environment, speculating about interfaces between the “virtual” and the material (urban) world and designing hybrid (analog-digital) communicational spaces.
Soft Urbanism deals with information/communication processes in public space, the soft aspects overlying and modifying the urban sprawl: the invisible networks acting as attractors, transforming the traditional urban structure, interweaving, ripping open and cutting through the urban tissue, demanding interfaces.
Soft Urbanism not only intervenes in the realm of infrastructures, but also adopts their concept and follows their paradigm. It brings an inherently flexible approach by expanding the field of social interaction and opening new paths of urban development. Soft Urbanism conceives the city as an organic entity, as “proteinic chains of networks”. Soft Urbanism is therefore not about shaping, inscribing or determining places, but about creating frameworks which allow and enhance a variety of unpredictable developments.
Urbanism today is caught up in the dilemma of either trying to realise the dream of the omnipotence of planning or accepting powerlessness in the face of the forces of the property market: on the one hand, the modernist belief in scientific methods of determination and control of the urban phenomena violating entire cities, on the other hand, the neoliberal positions giving in to the interests of privatisation and declaring the dynamics of the market to be the only legitimate determinants of urban developments. Facing up to the consequences of both positions today, Soft Urbanism develops an alternative strategy of intervention to reintroduce programmatic speculations about the public domain in urbanism.
The interventions will not be about control and determination, but about expanding infrastructures, frameworks for processes of self-organisation. Exploring the possibilities of digital technology will contribute to developing tools to process urban design and to generate architectural and urban programmatic process-spaces: dynamic, rhizomatic spaces, externalised brains with fluctuating synapses. To develop design environments “arranged or disposed [so] as to permit the greatest power for unforeseen relations”. To develop the tools to process the Virtual.
“Soft” strategies will be “bottom-up” strategies: rather than first defining the global result of the interaction and then determining the necessary relation between the elements in order to produce that interaction (which would be a “top-down” approach), simple rules for a set of independent elements will be developed and that which emerges from the interaction of these elements is aleatory. According to biological models, these fields of interaction of plural forces will serve as a reservoir for the selection processes needed for urban transformations.
A method for extrapolating existing reality to unfold its possibilities and force creative accelerations will release spores and create paths as yet unknown. (Speed, acceleration, but not control of direction.) The spores will infect different environments by adapting, mutating and transforming them.
Under the pavement (piercing the beaches) run fiberglass cables.