Through which gets a place its meaning, is it becoming more than the sum of the facts? It has everything to do with the way we are related to this place. In that sense the place of birth is the centre of the world and depending from country, history and circumstances, a place of security and freedom.
What a pain it causes when a place of birth is destroyed by a war, so many people on the run are speaking about this, it’s a serious attack on their identity. Writers are reflecting on this in their novels. It’s not just the destruction of buildings, it’s the devastation of the cradle of memories, of shared experiences, of the first protected model of the world, of the confidence in culture. How to reconstruct or rebuild these fine-tuned cities after the destruction? Dresden, Warsaw, Yper, Rotterdam, Le Havre, Hiroshima, Aleppo…
Based on pictures, films and interviews totally destroyed cities have been rebuild, like Yper and Warsaw, precise but global, in their original structure. The irregular, disordered, the improbable as connection is hardly to be reconstructed. Or they are replaced by a new city, a model city.
These model cities are a phenomenon in themselves. The Dutch artists Elian Somers has made special photographic studies on these model cities, like Cité Modèle in Bruxelles, Brasilia and others.
(Her sublime book Border Theories is still available ISBN 978-94-90119-19-5, design Hans Gremmen, publisher: www.fw-photography.nl).
About Cité Modèle she wrote:
Cité Modèle is an utopian landscape, designed by Renaar Braem in 1956.
Cité Modèle is monumental… considered according ‘the motive of the straight corner’ a new rational order, directing to the liberation of men…
Cité Modèle is empty… people inhabitant the emptiness… in a Centre de Contact a single one drinks Jupiler… the planned centre for citizens didn’t appear… ‘the nonument at the straight corner’ has never been placed… Cité Modèle has been considered as a failure… most of the time…but often not by its inhabitants…
Renaat Braem, Le Corbusier, Lucio Costa, Hugh Wilson, Rem Koolhaas, they are the architects with big pretentions: utopia’s, the ‘new human being’, ‘the city of the future’.
What do we have to imagine on these megalomaniac designs? One has to do a lot to let people believe in uniform massive drawing-table cities. It’s the opposite of ecological grown cities in Calvino’s imagination, based on so many cities we know, grown little by little, in a stream of details, reactions, needs, adaptations, improvements, nuances, fitting in the geography of the place.
It’s not for nothing that so called model cities are a model for the opposite of their representations: poverty, cheap mass constructions, technocratic topics, profit models…. project developers, corruption, exploded budgets.
How fast these model cities become problem cities, arrears neigborhoods, ready for demolition. Based on authoritative, often dictatorial models, representing fascistoid signs of uniformity, large scale approach, representation of power.