Metropolis or Technopolis?

We live in an era in which networks and technologies are determinants of development, as serial production was for the industrial revolution. The companies before leaders in manufacturing and production of tangible objects, turn towards the production of artifacts for the intangible: the great power of the social network.

Nowadays it is impossible to think about not having a Smartphone near us, not being connected with different parts of the world and not consulting anything that we need on the internet. These forms of communication are produced by companies that are leaders in the market and, therefore, are also those that move the world.

One of the central themes of urbanism since the end of the last century is the growth of cities and where this is going. Koolhaas in his book Delirium in New York talks about the great metropolises that contain those huge skyscrapers that house 6000 souls, where he says that a building can be a city that is inside another, the great metropolis. These skyscrapers belonged to corporations, and tended to devour cities, displacing the poorest to the periphery.

This reflection of Koolhaas 30 years ago: Did it change due to new technologies? Towards what model of city are we going? Is it possible that new ways of living and new corporations change the paradigm of cities and metropolises?


These issues are intended to be a trigger to start thinking about the new metropolises that are being generated right now, such as the case of Sillicon Valey, an area where the companies that move the world have set their eyes and are building their little ones worlds These have changed the way their employees work: they work by deadlines and not by hours, they have all the services and activities within the company so that each one can choose what time to work, eat, sleep, exercise, play, etc. ..

There is an explicit resemblance to the industrial city, when the companies built their factories in the periphery, while the workers’ houses, to ensure their proximity to the manufacturing environment, saving the distances in terms of technological evolution, health, independence or quality of life. If we consider as the beginning of our era industrialization (and, therefore, capitalism), do we tend towards a city commanded entirely by companies? Is it possible for companies to begin to found independent city-states?

Just as Koolhaas talks about the great buildings of Manhattan, today we could talk about new cities commanded by corporations, which do not need a state, because they have their own management of economic and human capital.
What will be the role of the architect when designing a city for a company?


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Test of the city: “Paradigmatic alterations” 

If we have to think about a city, it is probably easy for us to generate an image in our mind, because our subconscious mind, loaded with preconceptions, takes refuge in the known to conceive the imaginary. But if to this image, forceful in the volatile, we must give it a meaning, its development vanishes in the difficulty to achieve it. That is why, to specify the city in which we are understood and which direction directs my vision of architecture, it is necessary to conceptualize the city as a series of waves in time, where each architectural element is a curvature in space which oscillates between past, present and future of it.

Los Angeles, United States. © Pawel Nolbert.

Suppose a string of finite size where its ends are controllable. The word “city” will represent random movements. To the X and Z axes we will call them “society” and the tension forces in the Y axis will be called “state”, while the word “field”, understood as absence of city, will be subject to a point or static points in the space.

Ciudad conceptual – Oscilaciones. © Nicolas Giordano.

To begin, we designate the ends of the string as “field”. The result obtained will be a static rope without oscillations and homogeneous character without the presence of a city.
Now suppose a constant “state”, without movements in the Y axis, with movements in the “society” in the X and Z axes, producing a rotation. We will obtain different monotonous cities and without frequency that differ by their amplitude according to the tension of the “state”.
If we propose an absence of changes in the “society” and a “state” that varies its tensions, it will produce constant oscillations with maximum and minimum predictable and repetitive peaks.

Ciudad conceptual – Oscilaciones. © Nicolas Giordano.

In most contemporary cities we see simultaneous variations of all the factors mentioned above, changes in the “state” and in the “society”. As a result, we will obtain discontinuous oscillations that are counteracted between one end and the other, with critical stress points capable of producing breaks in the rope. In this case, there is no homogeneity, but there is no control of events.

Ultimately, let’s call an extreme “field” and the rest will be defined by the “city” oscillations. The event launched will be an oscillation of the string with variations of intensity along its entire length, increasing in its limit tending to “city” and decreasing in its limit tending to “field”. The oscillations can be observed with greater precision and controlled more easily in one of its extremes (field).

Ciudad conceptual – Oscilaciones. © Nicolas Giordano.

If we name “field” to the ends and other points of the rope and assign between each pair of these points “city” oscillations, being all different from each other the events that affect each “city”, we can determine their oscillations and their limits of a controlled and non-homogeneous way. The greater the intensity of the events, the smaller the distance between the “field” points and vice versa.

Ciudad conceptual – Oscilaciones. © Juan Verdaguer Aguerrebehere.

The proposed model makes our current situation evident. This is reflected in the event “city” – “city”, asserting that the positioning in favor of the fragmentation of cities should not fall into the homogeneity of the constant systematic in which a plan can be incurred to carry it out .
Why not think a plan that takes into account all these oscillations without opposing them trying to eliminate the fixed points, without trying to take the “city” to the “field”, or the “field” to the “city”, but merge them generating a whole? Why not break the limits set by cities and think of a more porous, more open city, where you stop thinking about peripheries?

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Some cities of the world are going through processes of transformation in their urban life, partly due to the loss of public spaces after operations developed by the municipal states. The restriction of uses derived from it leads to a loss of belonging and empowerment on the part of citizens.

If we take as a starting point that public spaces are the space where social relations are established and developed, depending on how they are configured and linked with the other elements of the city, the incorporation of closure and control elements on them can significantly alter them. and modify the ways of understanding the urban landscape and its relationships.

The simple fact of closing a public space through a gate can be used as a sign by the state, seeking to transmit a false message of security and control. This act deprives those places of their primordial condition of free use and daily appropriation, by intervening directly on their openness and availability to the community, on the flow through the streets, and the lack of definition of their limits. Thus, they become anonymous spaces, managed by an invisible entity that opens or closes the doors, imposing notions of spatial limitation and letting us see what is happening, at the same time that establishes us to be inside and to be outside clearly differentiated.

Teatro Argentino, Ciudad de La Plata – Juan Pablo Millan

From the outside, the succession of the bars that make up the grid quickly become a wall that prevents us from participating, at least with a glance, of what happens in that confused, leaving as the only alternative to walk; a tension forward without the opportunity to find a place to pause, just keep going in the same direction. If we stop, we will see large areas of anonymous and desert space on the other side, which supposedly pretends to invite us to pass through some hidden door.

By finding any of those doors if it is open, we can enter that great static, content and controlled scenario, limited and stagnant by a barrier that prevents it from merging with the rest of the city; the public place loses its personality, falling into an anonymity due to its forced new introverted character. From there, we only have to contemplate the coming and going of hundreds of people, in both directions.

Teatro Argentino, Ciudad de La Plata – Juan Pablo Millan

Cities, and citizens, must recover their public spaces suitable for participation and recreation at its maximum expression: free, open and accessible to the whole community; mixed, hybrids, places of exchange, that are not governed by distrust but by inclusion, retaking their central value in the construction of urban development.

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What is it that leads us to think that we can live better if we are locked up?
What kind of ironic utopia is to aspire to inhabit a prison for the rich?
Where is the richness of social and cultural interrelations?
At what point was the concept of human value lost?

A prostituted, commercial architecture emerges giving rights or permits to create communities locked in themselves, regardless of the environment, nor having any concern about the residual spaces left around them.

What leads us to make hasty and selfish decisions? Insecurity, social catalogs, fashion? How do we go back in time when we realize that the vaccine against the ills of society results in an enhancement of them?

Everything inside the wall pretends to be better: tranquility and well-being are the main premise. It poses a micro-city capable of supplying itself. There are schools, restaurants, sports parks, shopping centers, and other services for the sustenance of the inhabitants, which do not need to go outside to function. Private security operates 24 hours, ensuring the healthy development of daily activities that are carried out. To inhabit this micro-city is a whole utopia come true.


Outside the wall, there are remains of what was once “the field” of the generation that precedes us, where activities are carried out in the open air, leaving their memory imprinted to this day. Now this space is reduced to nothing, limited to being the place “behind”. The families in the place of the streets, the bases, the remains of construction works, and the space to build a precarious house. Without services and with a housing deficit, they add to the pollution of a place that has been used both to live and to throw garbage. A complete dystopia made reality.


This remaining space suffers a double pathology. In the first place, the condition of rest that limits in terms of the possibilities of transformation and growth, and, secondly, a contrast that threatens imposing a comparison between the inhabitants of the new community and the inhabitants of “behind the wall”.

Then the question arises: does this new enclosed community isolate itself from the world or isolate the world from the community?

For those outside, the wall is landscape and environment, as cold as it sounds. How to counteract this “landscape wall” effect? For insiders, that limit invalidates its protective function. Paradoxically, the wall functions as a luminous sign, transforming these private neighborhoods into a real focus of attention so that those who look for other people’s belongings know where to go.


It is necessary to reflect on different issues. How to reverse or nullify the effect of the hasty decisions that led to this pseudo-urbanization? How to deal with this pathology of the city? How to work in a space with high potential for the growth of the city, not only because it is located, generally, in the periphery, but also because of the value of the space itself? How to act considering the possibilities of social reactivation in a site of such vulnerability? Where are the cultural proposals, housing, education or recreation, and many other possible responses to the problems suffered by the city?

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Society has always been accompanied by some form of artistic expression. Since man is man, he has tried to express his perceptions, his feelings and his environment, communicating it in different ways.

The world of the 21st century is saturated with “artifacts”, objects that aspire to the status of art. Until the middle of the 20th century, those works were considered art with the ability to communicate something without the need to explain it. From this point, the need to create something new marked a tendency to produce works that were not able to express something by themselves without the need for rhetoric.

Paradoxically, different currents, those outside the academy, sought to fight against this tendency by creating more objects, which could not be cataloged either as a technique or as an art, but as a revolution of the existing.

Analogously, architecture seeks to change the pre-established, generating new possibilities. If we observe from this perspective, in the same way that these currents sought to change the vision we had about what art is, architecture seeks to change the idea of ​​what the city is; making us think if what we have now and where we are going, is the right option.


While walking through La Plata city, which was completely planned from the beginning, with a perfectly reticulated structure, of blocks designed and executed almost without variations, I asked myself: Why are all the same resolved? Why do you tend to think that extreme regularity, that 120 x 120, makes them correct?

There is nothing in nature that is organized in such a definite way, but we trying to have control have created a rectilinear city made for the automobile, not for people.
Is it the best solution to accept the pre-established rules as definitely the right thing to solve buildings, transport and communication? And for those of us who are going to live in the city?


If we analyze other cities outside of Western logic, we see examples like Tokyo, which generate the city from a system of cells independent of each other, capable of rethinking themselves. An example of hyperdensity, capable of adjusting to the requirements of contemporary cities, in a more organic way.

Another issue within the pre-established focus on how blocks are organized. Imagine the city from the air. The buildings are thrown over the streets as if they were high walls in a prison, while leaving behind them green courtyard centers, huge marginalized spaces, without use or humanity. Will these buildings be those “trees that do not let you see the forest”?

Just as there are other ways of organizing the city, think about our blocks openly, break the walls that limit us, redefine the public space, move the green courtyard centers to the outside and define a city that is designed primarily for people and not for vehicles.


This is Architecture, technique, science, the art of placing stones and defining spaces. Spaces that are capable of transforming buildings, buildings capable of transforming blocks, blocks capable of transforming cities, and that, architecture is nothing more than stones that transform.

So now, how are we going to break the pre-established and transform the city?

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