text UC

 

Buildings have  been man’s companions

since primeval times. Many art forms have 

developed and perished…. But the human

need for shelter is lasting. Architecture has

never been idle.” (Walter Benjamin).

Person_ Space _ Time

I have daughters, brothers, nephews, work sites and aspirations in various cities. From

the very start I have been working on a residential solution suited to the new requirements

(which are also my own), attempting to conciliate activity and pleasure. By activity, I mean

both my work and bringing up my daughters, meeting the everyday needs of all of us,

reading, going to the theatre. By pleasure I mean understanding, dreaming, planning,

coddling my daughters, baking bread and making cheesecake, going to the bookshop,

listening to music, making love, seeing my friends, and my friends are scattered all over

Europe and beyond.

I have always lived and worked in the same place. This frenetic society of ours, with its

“fury” for living, thinks that by intensifying activities per unit of time it can prolong the

duration. The privilege (or trap) of certain professions is to believe that work and pleasure

coincide   in   a   single   frenzy,   and   also   in   a   single   adrenal   orgasm.   Combining   the

“important” phone call with stirring the sauce and the organisation of work schedules with

slicing the peppers, has always exerted a terrible fascination for me, a delightful sense of

transgression, eluding that call for serious “professionalism” that I’m allergic to. A delirium

of omnipotence chains me to multiple desires, to an incapacity to relinquish roles; duties

and the objective limitations of space and time have led me to draft a project, whereas

what I actually had, was a dream with profound roots.

Art & Architecture in contemporary culture

In   western   cultures,   procreation   is   no   longer   synonymous   with   strength,   power   and

prestige;   the   sexes   clash,   the   future   is   no   longer   our   children   but   we   ourselves…

 

Technology makes possible what is impossible for nature: artificial insemination, embryo 

freezing, organ transplants, sex changes, stem cel s that can recreate tissues, reanimation 

techniques; genetics can predict with a fair degree of accuracy the inevitable emergence

of disease, up to the point that deprives men of the unpredictability of their own death.”

(Umberto Galimberti). Which of us does not, more or less consciously, cherish the hope

that science may make this last little step before our own death? In the sphere of art and

architecture   this   has   had,   and   continues   to   have,   an   importance   of   the   utmost

significance.  Brunel eschi built for ever, we do not.

Today the average age of a building in Tokyo is 35-40 years. No Renzo Piano, Jean

Nouvel, Rem Koolhaas or Frank O. Ghery can delude himself that his works may survive

him. No masters any more, but stars. Trust to technology the universal knowledge of their

architecture, its memory for posterity .. and their fame all over the planet.

From Piero Manzoni’s “Artist’s crap” to Body Art, works of art have, like architecture,

ceased to represent us for the future, to represent our need for eternity.

In the age of technology, of massification and  globalisation, the web, democracy, the true

and most significant  characteristic of the contemporary work of art lies in the

irrelevance of its durability.   While  the technical reproducibility of the work of art

permits its documentation, memory and duration in time.

Although, if politically correct artists such as Amar Kanwar or Maurizio Cattelan, entrust

their cum_passion and poetics to non-material “perishable” means, such as videos or

wax, we can say that we have entered an epoch in which art and architecture have new

functions in society, despite continuing to represent its hopes, obsessions and raptures.

In contemporary architecture  man has ceased to copy nature, to re-mould it, has

stopped shifting its elements around searching for that harmonious re-composition that

has led to the concentration of poetry embodied in the layered architectures of our old

city centres. The constructions were “for-ever”; the Sienese hil s, for example, spawned

buildings made from their own earth, in a slight mutation of form, but not of flavour, odour

or   material   fabric,   representing   an   extension,   an   “elaboration”   of   the   territory;   thus

creating as in the rest of our country, a harmony of landscape that cannot fail to represent

our sense of “universality”.

 

It is no longer possible to continue to “mould the earth”, opening up huge gaping

wounds against all environmental logic, to satisfy disproportionate markets of stone and

clay. The concept is extraneous to contemporary culture, and hence an imitation and a

fake, right through to the horror of reinforced concrete, which no longer has any poetry

but only a single certainty: the creation of mil ions of cubic metres of debris, wreckage

which – partly because of the swift turnover of functions in face of the “rigidity” of the

constructs, and partly because of the facility and speed of their decomposition – are

destroying and eating away acres and acres of territory of the world heritage of nature,

culture and beauty, without achieving the sense of “immortality”.

The architect can no longer “model” the territory: he is transformed from a builder to a

designer (creator), he designs, invents shapes, uses the materials he produces. He does

not seek to leave eternal signs on the terrain, except by inventing it (islands, bridges etc.),

he seeks forms that can be built and rearranged and reconverted so that he can entrust to

them mutable and temporary functions for his long and re-inventable existence, through

to the quest for a constant mobility and reconversion.

City_ Time _ Space

Continuous   mobility   is   the   characteristic   trait   of   the   post   modern   era.

Movement   is   no   longer   sporadic,   but   it   accelerates   in   step   with   economic   growth.

Technology has made man free to be stable and nomad at the same time. Our society

can no longer be defined as exclusively residential and stable.  This is surely the

beginning of a new era. But this new era has an uncertain future.  Since 23 May 2007, the

urban population of the world is more numerous than the rural. This trend is continuously

increasing and by 2030, 63 per cent of the world population wil  be urbanised. Urban

areas (directly and indirectly through the use of energy) are the principal source of the

gas responsible for the ‘greenhouse effect’.

Countries   such   as   China,   India   and   Korea   are   experiencing   a   phenomenal   rate   of

urbanisation. Cities such as Paris, Mexico City, Tokyo, Seoul and Shanghai demonstrate

the crisis of cities conceived for a stable residential society, while the rest of the

territory (rural areas and small or medium-sized towns) are emptied and impoverished. It

is necessary to reverse this thread. Only the decentralisation of all services can release us

from this magnetic pul  that generates mass migration towards the urban centres and the

resultant desolation of the suburbs, satellite towns and slums.

 

But is decentralisation through the multiplication of metropolitan functions

feasible?

Industrial development has separated work time from “living” time.                               

Time has become the unit of measure of exchange, the regulator of social relationships, and the

constant  object of our thoughts. Instead of living moments, instants, we  count them,

terrified of their passing. Time has ceased to be the “liquid” that contains life, and has

become the object of our obsession. Time has become our recurrent fixation. We are

obsessed by it both in daily life and in terms of the phases of life. Age has become an

existential and social discriminator.

Time is the most vital thing there is, it is life itself; but when we perceive it we see it as 

dead time. And at bottom we’re happy to see time die. What we’re interested in is there: at 

the point of arrival, in the place of the goal to be reached etc. And the fact that such a 

place does not exist, or is just an il usion, or is empty, only increases our impatience with

time as time, that is with the time lived.

This   whole   affair   has   deeply   entrenched   roots.   It’s   no   coincidence   that   modernity   is 

defined by a philosophy of history that “spatialises” time to the point of eliminating it, or at 

least tending to that. Effectively, occurrences, that is the totality of events, large and small

and their repercussions on everyday life, are  placed within a frame  of reference that

explains them, that gives them a meaning, an ultimate and insurmountable meaning. In 

short, they are set within a space that takes them in like pieces of a mosaic, which offers 

itself to a gaze that is panoptic, atemporal, or in any case out of time. Thus it is in Hegel’s

“Phenomenology   of   Spirit”,   which   celebrates   the   triumph   of   self-consciousness   that

embraces all time within a single vision, but it was also already thus in the “Apocalypse” 

which not incidentally closes with the statement that “time is no more”.

Therefore the problem is: how can we get back the lost time? And not just the time we’ve 

lost that one day we possessed, but the time that we have lost because we were deprived

of   the possibility   of possessing it, of possessing it as a living thing and a thing to be

lived. The idea that dead time, that is purely instrumental time, the time used for moving 

around etc, can be restored to us and lived to the  full responds to a need that has

become pressing and imperative. (Sergio Givone)

The movement of ideas, information and people has become an integral part of

 

our existence.  Technological development  has  focused on speed.  Travel ing has

ceased to contain life, and has become Dead Time, spent on squalid motorways or on

trains. In a culture that aims to prolong human life through medicine and genetics on the

one side, and fil  time units with activities on the other, this is a paradox.  To depart Seoul

for   Busan   (or   Milan   for   Rome)   and   to   be   thrown   into   apnea   for   4   or   5   hours   is

unacceptable. Shortening distances has physical limits which cannot be overcome by

technology. But if it becomes living time, the travel time, dead time, becomes zero.

Today, transport is principally conducted on tyres.   Highways are a continuous line of

voyaging   merchandise,   people   and   services,   that   move   with   great   inefficiency:     one

engine, one driver, often the only passenger, are an enormous waste of energy.   But,

despite being partial and ineffective, this is connective tissue, indispensable to territories.

Western   technological   development   has   to   hook   up   with   eastern   culture,   replacing

“SPEED”  with  “LIFE”,   starting   from   the   basis   and   from   what   first   stimulated   the

development of the territory and is stil  a potent symbol of it: the RAILWAY.

AN   ALTERNATIVE   PROPOSAL:   the   mobile   city,   the city of services

Alternative above all in terms of method. There is no way out of the paroxysm of speed,

that concertinas space and makes distances odious (Cacciari). We have to conceive a

new order in which movement is ousted from the unilateral dimension of increasing speed

and instead becomes the mode for a new spatial order in which the territory, like time,

becomes   a   container   for   life,   diffuse,   democratic   life,   instead   of   being   fracture,   the

dichotomy of the Ful  and the Empty.

A network of “urban services”: no longer the users moving towards the metropolis,

but the city services that move, going to meet the users of the cities, towns, vil ages

and agricultural centres.  A modern, central “network”  that is accessible to all, and

renders the territory democratic.

A mobile city, on wheels, organised in railway loops that create a connective tissue:

government   departments,   administrative   functions,   offices,   shopping   malls,   hotels,

residences, gyms, medical facilities…etc., at the  service of the entire territory.

Unlike the traditional cities, this is a city made up predominantly of services, which are

characterised by a transitory user pool originating from all over the territory. The request

 

for fixed residence wil  instead be a niche demand, and hence the basic services and

facilities wil  be limited.

Since   it   travels   throughout   the   entire   territory,   it   facilitates   exchange   and   fosters   the

specialisation of functions, stimulating the competition, development and enhancement of

the local identities, making it possible to perform a number of functions in a delimited

space, and at the same time to move from one place to another. The proposed system

also facilitates synergy between the public and private sectors.

At a lower level, a light metro creates a fast connection along the same direction that the

city moves. For connections to the opposite direction, it is enough to exit, wait until the “

desired zone” arrives and then re-board.

The moving town never stops;  the exchange with the territory happens through light

vehicles or shuttles. The shuttle hooks to the town when it reaches the same speed and

then the exchange takes place: the transfer of goods and people. The Hook System wil 

also   allow   the   transfer   between   the   different   loops.   Tapis   roulant   wil   provide   fast

pedestrian   connection.     City   parks   wil   create   rhythmic   open   public   spaces   which

constitute the necessary dampers  to guarantee safety.

The organism is composed of   quasi mile-long “modules” divided in various sectors;

given   the   possibility   of   substituting   modules   and   varying   the   types   and   functions   of

operations, this is much simpler and more efficient than demolishing and reconstructing buildings.

Besides   a   refined   technology,   the   mobile   city   would   use   lightweight   and   resistant

materials,   constructed   to   principles   of   aeronautic   and   naval   engineering.   The   macro

structuring would permit   the realization of efficient form and be self sustainable with

alternative energies.

The  placement  of  this  city  is  even  more  powerful : the actual highways.

The choice to progressively use, according to strategic phases, highway thoroughfares,

categorically   guarantees  every  feasibility.    The  loads  carried  by  ‘the  moving   city’  are

compatible with the tension values permissible for highway stretches. Only the crossings,

the   bridges,   wil   have   to   be   integrated   into   the   structure   or   modified   tunnels   for   the

extension of the load, but not for its intensity. There is no impact on the territory as long

as changing knots are used on all of the lines already developed.

Vehicular traffic is progressively confined and thus reduced. In an intermediate

phase an obligatory step wil  be the accelerated development of train services, beginning

with the transfer of commercial transport on wheels.  Further more, on a reduced scale

commercial, cultural, and service activities can be introduced on the actual railway stock.

The road network would be restricted to short-distance traffic and, in the proximity of the

stations, col ectively managed electric cars/scooters.

Ubi-City can also be used to move as a normal train, in which people can read, sleep,

telephone,   work   on   computers,   but   also   do   all   that   is   possible   in   a   traditional   city,

equipped with the most advanced technologies: go to government departments, take

training courses, enjoy shows, visit a museum, shop, have a massage, or use any other

type of service a city normally provides.  You can stay on the city-train just for the time

necessary to do what you want to do, or you can linger to experience the “metropolis”. 

Living on the city-train could be a choice because of work or, for those more nomadic, a

choice   for   pleasure,   inhabiting   a   structure   that   offers   at   every   glance,   a   different

landscape, a different encounter.

Ubi-city becomes a network of services, functional to the activities of the towns and of the

entire territory. Cities freed from services and auto-traffic, revitalized by immediate and

continuing access to the most advanced services, wil  all be  ‘Centres’, of urban quality,

“the place where everything happens”.

Novelty and revolution of such radical nature can come from the youth and energy of

those countries which have the numbers, the need, and the means to look to the future

with freedom.

Imagine it in Korea. Let us assume a quarter of the actual highway thoroughfares, a

ring   of   800   Km,   reconverted   to   a   city   train   which   runs   at   an   average   speed   of   100

km/hour. The proposed route could, at a later stage, be changed. For example, into two

rings that would intersect around Daejon, thus also reducing the traveling speed and

increasing the territory served. If the speed is 100 Km per hour and the circuit 800 km

long , every single section would pass once every 8 hours, three times a day, through all

the Korean cities along the ring and all of the territory in between. Therefore, it would be

possible to work in the mobile city and live in Seoul, Incheon, Ansan, Son-tan and vice

versa. Every city could acquire that covered liveability and freely develop all activities

without being burdened by the need for services.

 

ECONOMIC CONSIDERATIONS

Within a preliminary analysis, a time series of statistical data would allow to conjecture 

which choices the Korean workers might make if asked to decide how to allocate the “life-

time” saved – because of a significant decrease in their commuting time – between more 

income  and more  leisure  time. Following  the  postulates of the  neo-classical  orthodox

economics, we may approximately estimate the value of leisure time on the basis of the

current average wage in Korea.

In Korea each worker, as an average, works 47 hours per week and 2447 hours per year.

That is considerably more than in any other of the OECD countries and also more than 

their contractual  “reference  time-table” (40 hours), but much less (56 hours)  than the

maximum allowed by the law.

The amount of worked hours – high enough, but below the maximum – suggests that firms 

enjoy their optimal mix of “costs – output” and the same occurs to hired workers as for 

“income – labour time”.  But an economy, such as the Korean one, with very (upwards)

flexible time-tables, may lead to erroneous conclusions. Hired workers may be forced, as a

point of fact, to accept a labour time / leisure time mix, overbalanced on the labour time 

side. This may be due to a number of reasons, such as moral pressures, a very strong

salary difference between those who go up the ladder and those who do not, rather low 

hourly wage, etc. The fact that in the last three years the number of hours actually worked 

decreased by more than a 3%, together with increasing wages, shows that as productivity 

rises, the Korean hired workers, by means of tough struggles, have achieved that a) these 

increases in productivity have  been acknowledged and b) Korean workers show they

prefer less working hour in presence of raising hourly wages, contrary to the orthodox 

theory   (the daily pay of a Korean blue-collar has grown in six years from 11,880 up to 

20,080 won). The present structure of Korean time-tables and these recent trends (that, we 

should   imagine,   reflect   workers’   preferences)   suggests   that   the   time   liberated   by   a 

reduction of the commuting time would probably be split in more leisure and more labour 

time. As a point of fact, two factors, both present in the Korean economy and in the Korean 

society, would act in opposite directions: on one hand the desire of more leisure time, that

would allow an alignment (or at least a smaller asymmetry) with the average figures of the 

other OECD countries and, on the other hand, the will, both of individuals and of political 

authorities (the latter explicitly declared), to catch up with the per-capita income of the 

most developed countries. Under a merely statistical aspect, probably the second one 

would show up more clearly: if the time saved from commuting were equally split between

labour and leisure time (or even if the latter prevailed), that would turn out as an increase 

in labour time and a decrease in leisure time. This shows how statistics need a careful 

 

reading. Actually “real” leisure time would increase and the “way of life” of Korean people

would definitely improve.

This would be true both for hired workers – who are almost 15 millions, i.e. more or less

2/3 of al  employed Koreans (22.27 mil ions) – and for the self-employed (more than 7 

millions). But, out of strictly orthodox models, the hired workers would have to cope with 

the “real” mechanisms of the labour market, whereas the self-employed could freely chose 

the preferred extra labour – leisure time mix, with the only constraint of aggregate demand.

Current Korean GNP equals more or less 1,000 billion US Dollars (which makes Korea n° 

14   in   the   world)   and   54.5   billion   hours   are   yearly   worked   in   the   Korean   economy. 

Therefore, each hour produces, as an average, a value added of 18,35 US$. According to

the   neo-classical   economic   theory   –if   we   assume   that   the   marginal   figures   are   not 

significantly different from the average ones – this is also the value that is assigned to each 

hour of leisure time.  According to the data we have, al  together, Koreans commute for 

10,500 mil ions of hours per year. This leads to an average of 470 hours for each Korean 

worker. Therefore, the wellbeing, expressed in monetary terms, that is lost because of

commuting is equal to 193 bil ion dol ars, i.e. nearly 1/5 of the GNP.

The simple equations that follow measure, respectively, the changes in terms of the overall

wellbeing and of the economic growth that would occur reducing the commuting time.

(1)  t.w.L = b

(2)  j.t.w.L = y 

In equation (1) t represents the amount of commuting time saved on average   by each

worker in one year (measured in hours); w represents the average income; L represents

the number of workers involved; and b is the change in the overall wel being.  In equation 

(2) j represent the ratio of the saved time that would be on average dedicated to an 

increase of the labour supply and y represents the change in the GNP. 

For the moment, only hypothetical scenarios and simulations are possible. First of all, it is

necessary to estimate how much time an average Korean worker could save due to the 

realization of this project. Let’s assume (but as we said, this is just a conjecture and the 

following a simulation) that half of the Korean workers would be involved and would save 

half   of   their   commuting   time.).     Then   –   inserting   these   figures   in   equation   1)   –the

increase of the national wellbeing could be valued in 48 billion US$, equal to

4,8% of the GNP,  i.e.   one   year   of   economic   growth  at  the  “Korean   pace”.  If  the

liberated time were split half in labour time and half in leisure time, the per-

capita income would grow by a 2.4%, (see equation 2)) whereas there would be 120 

hours of extra leisure time per-capita a year. Obviously, time saving would regard also the

population that is not part of the labour force, but, as for this, no economic valuation is 

possible.

To be able to shift from pure conjectures and simulations to more reliable scenarios, the 

most appropriate tool would be a couple of chained questionnaires. The first one to be 

distributed to a sample of the Korean population, representative in terms of age, gender, 

geographical  distribution and kind of activity. The questions would regard the present

commuting time and how, due to its reduction (half an hour, one hour, one hour an a half, 

two hours a day, but also 4 or 8 hours once or twice a week, concentrated in one single 

day, etc.), each person thinks s/he would divide the “extra-life time” between extra labour

supply time, due to the will of increasing one’s income, and/or more leisure time, adding 

how they would split it between all the alternative activities (including inactivity), that are 

linked to it. A second questionnaire – based on the outcomes of the first – should be 

distributed to a sample of entrepreneurs, asking if and how they would modify their labour 

demand in presence of a positive shift in labour supply. Entrepreneurs that supply services

linked to leisure time should be asked how they would react in presence of a positive shift

both in labour supply and in the demand of their outputs.

Inserting in the two equations presented above the statistical processing of the answers to 

both   questionnaires,   would   allow   us   to   formulate   some   realistic   hypotheses   on   the 

changes of the aggregate output and of the demand and supply of services linked to

leisure time, due to the decrease of the commuting time. And, all together, on the increase 

of wellbeing for the Korean people.

Inserting in the two equations presented above the statistical processing of the answers to 

both   questionnaires,   would   allow   us   to   formulate   some   realistic   hypotheses   on   the 

changes of the aggregate output and of the demand and supply of services linked to

leisure time, due to the decrease of the commuting time. And, all together, on the increase 

of wellbeing for the Korean people. (Francesco Scacciati)

Just Utopia? Or even folly?   What seems to us foolish, even a crime, is to continue to

cement   the   planet   and   to   keep   constructing   new   cities,   without   history,   based   on   a

concept of life and needs of a stationary man who no longer exists.