Prologue / Prólogo / Prolog / Proloog
The following writing is the first of a series of nine nonlinear vignettes investigating the cities of Barcelona, Berlin, and Amsterdam created after a two month trip through Europe studying architecture and urban design. This matrix of nine narratives contain three short stories from each city, and one of each thematically organized under Banlieuescapes, Morphoscapes, and Timescapes.The Banlieuescapes stem etymologically from its original description of the French suburbs for housing complexes. However, these vignettes recontextualize that term to describe the physical and conceptual conjunction between nature and urbanism at any scale. The Morphoscapes analyze the physical city fabric by recalling Nolli’s labyrinthine solid and void dichotomy that exposes Kevin Lynch’s or Doug Allen’s conception of the city. These morphoscapes explore the movement through the city, via public and private transit, including below, on, and above ground transportation. The Timescapes explore the conjunction of Rowe’s immediate future, Banham’s immediate past, and Till’s immediate present to propose a narrative for that city contingent upon history, sociology, and utopias. These timescapes also provide an opportunity to discuss the political and economical factors at work in each city.
Vignettes / Viñetas / Vignettes / Vignets
Edges, boundaries, conjunctions; C. had always been fascinated with the weaving, pleating, and co-mingling of districts within the urban morphology. The center of the Eixample, the heart of the Barri Gòtic, the summit of Montjuïc: they could not captivate his attention to nearly the same extent. The particular manner in which the Rambla ended and circulation skirted around the Plaça Catalunya, only to continue Barcelona northwards to Gràcia via the Passeig constituted pure poetry for him. In a city like this one, C. could imagine no better way to travel than by foot, as long as he never had to go beyond the mountains Tibidabo and Montjuïc or the rivers Besos and Llobregat. However, even these boundary conditions excited much interest in him. Like he did today, C. continually found himself standing at the entrance to the Metro, debating the ethics of underground transport. Speed and physical ease, yes, but at what cost? The smell of the Mediterranean wafting through the lush, summer trees, the blooming jacarandas, the squawking lone monk parakeet fighting with the palomas would have to be missed if he descended into the human-sized superhighways of moles. Enough: walking wins today. Chevron upon chevron upon chevron; the endless zigzagging through the Eixample streets
frustrated many of C.’s friends but he loved it. As usual, he cut over to the Ronda de San Antonio, and passed across Cerda’s [or is it Sixtus V's] Avinguda del Paral•lel. From there, he waded through several streets he had not been down in years, and finally arrived at the Olympic and militaristic acropolis of Barcelona: Montjuïc.
At the top of the Castell, C. could look down upon the city morphology. He could spend hours studying how outline of the harbor hops and jumps and eventually reveals the Barcelonetta. This district remained his favorite package of sardine blocks, thin, elongated, and prepackaged with homogenous apartment complexes. The general dovetailed into the specific, as his gaze narrowed from the harbor to the individual block. In the waning afternoon light, the various Freudian towers of Nouvel and Bofill stood out from the rest of the cityscape like Priapus among other normative frescoed Romans. However, it was the debate of the gridiron city plan that he continued to run over in his mind. While influential modernists like Le Corbusier argued that grids facilitated ease of transportation and way-finding in a new or familiar city as part of a mechanically and technologically advanced society, those like Krauss argued that it exists in direct contrast to nature, a solely human rationalization as an apotheosis of the abstract and a championing of solely Cartesian coordinate systems. Koolhaas augments this latter argument by explaining the nullification of difference by the proclamation of each cell as identical, discarding the unique and the center as illusionary utopianism. To Krauss and Koolhaas, Cerda seemed like another pawn in the game of city-shaping, one of many advocators of the modernist abstraction that disregard the Romanticism of nature. With the sun setting behind the castle, the debate hardly seemed to matter in the end; 5th Avenue and 42nd Street were here to stay; the crossing of the Gran Via de les Corts Catalans and the Passeig de San Joan would remain linked as part of the Constitutional Frame as long as man remains on this planet.
[ architecture, barcelona, europe, narrative, urban design, vignette ]