Hace unos años me crucé en Internet con la gente de URBZ, un colectivo dedicado a facilitar la producción y difusión de información, conocimiento, ideas y prácticas para constituir mejores ciudades para todos. Tuve la chance de conversar con ellos en Mumbai en 2010 y encontré a un grupo de gente valiente y comprometida, explorando y reflexionando sobre el potencial de los ignorados por el sistema.
Airoots es un blog en el que se discuten estas cuestiones y que mantiene un vínculo que no termino de identificar con los URBZ. En un artículo de principios de este año compartieron un ensayo que me conmovió por su claridad y contundencia. Copio algunos párrafos que abren nuevas perspectivas para pensar las ciudades y los cruces que éstas proponen:
The deeper we go, the closer we come to aligning with artists who share the same starting points – an attraction and empathy for worlds that fall outside dominant and mainstream urban ideologies. We can confidently say that the so-called slums, favelas, suburban ghettoes, street corners, urban villages and inner cities are breeding grounds for artists not simply because they are marginal or exotic spaces, but because they embody critiques and counterpoints through their very existence. One has to only look at the musical productions coming out of the ghettos of Baltimore, the favelas of Rio or the suburbs of Paris. Some of the most powerful forms of expression are emerging far from the centre. As architectural theorist and philosopher Yehuda Safran says, “The future is in the periphery.” Of course, artistic and cultural productions coming from the periphery are rarely treated with the respect they deserve. But when they are, what emerges is something we find truly significant as urban practitioners.
Plans and designs as finished products is a limited and limiting idea. Development projects that do not involve the people who will inhabit them often end up alienating them in one way or another. Super-developed urban infrastructure that provides for everything – art galleries, performance spaces, parks – can still produce, within a short span of time, bored and alienated youngsters. Similarly, habitats that are pre-fabricated ultimately come to life only when their inhabitants start to work on them by living in and transforming spaces through their needs. Our engagement with urban worlds has convinced us that at no point of time can one design a finished city – a promise that has been proven unrealistic and false, a countless number of times. What we can do is ensure processes of engagement and participation that are constantly active.
Our generation of urban practitioners sees the city as an animate subject. Not as a dead corpse or mechanical ensemble, nor as a monstrosity in various stages of organic decay – visions that have, for long, populated the imaginations of urban thinkers and artists. The city we see emerging and are working towards is high-tech and rooted at the same time. What moves it are the millions of people, who day after day, make it their own by walking on the roads, running shops, standing and chatting at street corners, painting walls, making and repairing houses and getting involved in local affairs.
This vision, once ironically called the Global Village, convinces us more than ever that the choices for us in terms of habitats are not as unbounded as we once thought. Cities, for better or worse, are really the contexts in which we live and where humanity will probably perish, whenever that happens. For all those anguished souls, us included, who remain dissatisfied with the state of the world – this realisation forces us to look at the city afresh. If only because it is not simply that dazzling confluence of modernity and emancipation but simply, all that there is for us to work with, whether we like it or not. The questions, therefore, change from “Do we want to live in cities?” or even “What kind of cities do we want?” to “How do we cope with this urban reality?” and “How do we improve it?” The context rather than the ideology becomes the starting point for all creative processes.