4, 2 (2022)
Strategies of dwelling
Technology, oikos, polis
What comes into play with dwelling? What sort of decisions are implied in the fact that human beings dwell zoologically, technologically, and culturally? Indeed, they become part of the territory and build a safe space for themselves. In the second volume of Gesture and Speech, Leroi-Gourhan points out that the arrangement of the lived space is comparable to the language since both enable social groups to take over time and space symbolically. Therefore, human beings’ settlement, far from being mere facilitation of survival, is called upon to answer three needs: crafting a favourable environment, supplying the framework for the social system and organising the surrounding world starting from a given point.
In the fourth issue of Mechane, we aim to develop these stances to ponder over decisive aspects of inhabited spaces and the city planning of the 20th and 21st centuries. In our opinion, the contemporary dwelling reveals two trends that impact the whole context in seemingly opposite directions. In the first place, we observed a paradigmatic change regarding the domestic space. While the 19th century was the century of cities, as well as the century of urbanization, the 20th century shifted the focus from the form of the urban space to that of the house, from the planning of squares and streets to that of the abodes. In other words, architecture now deals with something for which human beings had traditionally and autonomously taken care of: building their place. It is neither king’s nor minister’s residence but that of a commoner: it is the people’s house. Reinforced by industrial capitalism and the development of technologies, this new trend in architecture reshapes the house paradigm, once meant to be the place of “domestic peace”. Indeed, it amounts to the space of “residential comfort”.
Beyond the 20th century, the pandemic with its lockdowns has pushed the house to englobe the urban space. Following some adjustments, abodes become, depending on each person but in a generally functional manner, the place for fun, sociality, and work. The confinement due to the pandemics thus exhibits the twofold dimension underpinning the present domestic experience. On the one hand, the house is the delimiting event through which space becomes inhabitable; on the other hand, we observe that such a lived space is permeable to the insertion of ICTs, that is, to the risk of annihilating the “private” character of the houses and the former distinction between oikos and polis. Indeed, ICT have brought situations, relations, and external interests to our domestic walls. Heuristically, we can call this trend “the publicization of the private space”.
Alongside this turn, we can disclose another trend which, as we have said, seemingly moves in the opposite direction. Recently, the European Urban Agenda and other international organizations have drawn local and national policy makers’ attention to the urgency of reshaping urban spaces according to leading criteria such as energy efficiency, environmental sustainability, digitalization and territorial competitiveness. This process, which brought into vogue the concept of a “smart city” and seduced the public imaginary, also led to empowering private companies (particularly hi-tech corporations) in comparison with public administration, formerly responsible for the same functions. That has raised both great enthusiasm and deep perplexity. In this respect, one does not uniquely perceive the unrealistic vision under these projects and the growth of surveillance in public spaces. Indeed, one can also complain about the turn of city planning towards a noticeably business-oriented and financial framework. The latter, allowing the insertion of private stakeholders in the public space, is responsible for the transformation of the city into a businesslike agent. Such a trend mirrors the former; accordingly, we can call this second aspect of dwelling “the privatization of public space”.
Last but not least, we aim to broaden our perspective on ecology as the result of the intersection between “the space of the house” and “the external environment”. In this respect, we should ask whether it is possible to conceive the urban dimension in ecological terms and explain the relationship between the domesticated spaces and the public spaces. Furthermore, we should ask whether we can recognise, in this scenario, “spots”, “hallways”, and “transition and competition spaces”.
That being said, we invite all of you to submit a contribution to the fourth issue of Mechane. More in detail, we propose the following macro-topics:
- Anthropological perspectives on dwelling as symbolic and material domestication of time and space;
- Historical-critical and analytic-reconstructive enquiries on the dynamics of the “publicization of the private space” and the “privatization of public space”;
- Papers on the relationship between city planning, architecture, science, and technology in different historical epochs;
- Political, sociological, and economic surveys of the different trends in city planning from antiquity to contemporary developments;
- Papers on the theoretical and practical overlaps between ecology and city planning;
- Papers on new scenarios implied by the interaction between ICTs, companies, governments, and citizens, also concerning the emerging challenges to the environment and democracy;
- Papers that deal with the relation between the concept of power, architecture and the control of the urban space.
We welcome submissions in English, Italian, German, French, and Spanish. All interested people are pleased to submit a short abstract (up to 500 words) to the e-mail address: email@example.com. Potential authors have also to declare for which section they are presenting their paper. The deadline for the presentation of the abstracts is May 15, 2022. Final submissions should not overcome 40 000 characters (including spaces) and must be received by October 01, 2022. Manuscripts undergo a double-blind peer-review.