Network City


On the subject of “mobility: immobility”, a number of international architects and representatives from the political and business sectors were invited to attend the conference at Swissbau.
The symposium was intended to expand the traditionally rich architectural lectures in Basel through a new thematic focus: the links between architecture and urban development with information and communication technologies.

Susanne Schumacher

ETH Zurich 
29 January 2002

The motto was divided into two main themes: on the first day the organizers tried to put the question of the changed movement in the city and space under the keyword “The networked city”, while the second day saw the search for “architecture theory and new practice through mobility and intelligent environments “. In the course of the lectures, however, it became apparent that both the title of the entire symposium and, above all, the hangers of the second day were not suitable operational terms, nor were the speakers have worked through them. If the term “mobility” were to be applied to the “mechanical mobility of the industrial age” and as a comparison model to the “mobility of information in the 21st century”, it was neglected to draw the historical parallel or to ask whether the concept of mobility / Immobility can be applied to the phenomenon of medial presence in different places and the changing urban and architectural forms and concepts.

The contributions were well coordinated: starting with a general “setting the scene” by William Mitchell, who was gratefully entitled under the title “E-topia. Cities in an Wireless World “were the forms and functions of cities in the digital age, the contributions from architects’ reports on the latest research activities of institutes to visionary future perspectives or critical inquiries by theorists.

The use of the computer for the reorganization of planning, design and construction of architecture has been shown in two very different forms. On the one hand, the star architects, who use the computer as a design tool and astonishingly end up with a “Blob architecture” language (Marcos Novak, Hani Rashid, Lars Spuybroek, among others), and architects and developers, Reorganization of buildings (Norbert Streitz) or information spaces (Gerhard Schmitt, Maia Engeli, Elizabeth Sikiaridi, Frans Vogelaar). Urban development, transport and landscape planning projects or studies were presented by Peter Trummer and Peter Haimerl.
As representatives of the theory of theory, William Mitchell, Jean Attali, Derick de Kerkhove, and Andrew Benjamin emerged, whose investigations tended to contextualise and reconcile the present social and architectural movements rather than give new impulses.

To be heard and seen in Basel were the established stars in a well-coordinated selection; New projects and “marginal” groups such as women were underrepresented.
This event once again marked the present lack of architectural theory and / or architectural criticism. Rather, the habit of architects was to predominate, to develop designs by self-made theories, or to derive designs superficially from biology, philosophy, mathematics, or sociology, without being precise or scientific. Although the discussions were lively during the event, the exchange between the practical and the theoretical camp could not be described as fruitful. On the part of the theorists, the investigations were either too general for the concrete questioning or too abstract for the architects themselves. Only a wise moderation such as Andreas Ruby, for example, was successful, could help guide the discussion along the intended theme.