Prof. Arch Stefano Boeri: Urbanism / Urban Design
Integration: Arch. Michele Brunello: Architectural Design
Towards a non-anthropocentric urban ethic
1. The subject
We are pushed today towards thinking about the world in terms of the survival of humanity, thanks to an ongoing environmental crisis, unstoppable population expansion, the widespread urbanisation of the planet and the destruction of our natural resources (in terms of animals and nature) - in other words thanks to a kindof species suicide. It is no longer enough simply to look after the principles, values and the needs of our species, we also need to locate these within a wider vision of the future of the planet. This kind of world-view, while keeping mankind and its needs at its centre, begins with a desire to protect and help other species and the natural world of plants. A vision of this type allows energies to be pushed towards re-forestation and the re-naturalisation of parts of anthropised territory (territory which is subject to human-impact): the urban re-colonisation by animal species which have been expelled from these areas, the regeneration of the flora and fauna in the oceans and in the other great liquid continents present in our planet.
A non-anthropised and ethical approach, is stillinterested in the survival of mankind, but places this desire within a wider scenario of limits and possibilities. The point is that only within a wider world-view it is possible to plan the future of our planet.
The urban condition is -without doubt - the first testing groundfor this new ethics. The contemporary metropolis is in fact the most important site for the intensified negative power of those kind of dynamics – demographic, environmental, economic - which are moving us towards a collective species suicide. But the metropolis is also the place where the inequalities, and injustices linked to the human race are to be found in their most extreme form.
The support for a non-anthropocentric (human-centred) ethical outlook implies the application of a new idea of urbanity, seen as humanity located within a spatial context where a co-habitation with the kaleidoscope of life is sought rather than accepting a pre-ordained hegemony of power.
This implies an equal distribution of the conditions linked to social mobility, the experimentation of the co-habitation of different species, and the rebuilding of a different kind of relationship with the components of the natural world.
We need to think about an urban politics based around inclusion, which protects principles and values, which affect the future of the whole planet and its ecosystems.
This transformation in urban politics, thanks to the adoption of a non-anthropocentric ethical outlook, is therefore a radical one. This is already clear in terms of those political ideas which propose the freeing up of energies within a “global planet”(in the words of the landscaper Gilles Clément) and which apply a parallel set of policies: based around on the one hand self-limitation and on the other an idea of grafting onto what is already there.
The former implies a kind of suspension of activity –building, occupation and so on - while the latter is a sophisticated strategy for understanding the key zones within the anthropocentric territory in the city, and inserting at these points elements of reversibility which are able to enrich the environment and (re)create greater bio-diversity.
We can indicate three areas of action here. The first relate, to the re-naturalisation of urban spaces. A non-anthropocentric outlook overturns the way we understand the world.
The idea is to view urban space - the dense clots and its folds of cement and asphalt -from the outside, by beginning with the great plains and the non-anthropocentric landscapes which -although decreasingly- surround them. The idea is to restore parts of the city to a state of natural bio-diversity through a series of policies, which run across and connect up over the entire area occupied by lived space.
For example, the forestation of peripheral areas and urban corridors, the transformation of ex-agricultural areas into protected natural zones, the creation of green corridors which can occupy empty spaces in the urban fabric, the gradual de-mineralization of fronts and roofs of the city through the use of cover-material which can host different kinds of plants.
A second set of anti-anthropocentric action, relate to the bio-diversity of the animal world and the possibility ofco-habitation of various species. This is a difficult and little researched area, -however- can no longer be overlooked.
At least in the sensethat outside of the barriers, which are linked to the growth and the culture of the animal world, there is an urgent need to re-think and create within urban spaces some protected areas for the free circulation of species which are compatible with urban eco-systems. These can be parks and oases sheltered from the anthropocentric world where urbanity is controlled by the laws of the animal kingdom and where biro-diversity becomes a way for these animal species to observe us while we remain within our artificial barriers.
It is also important that the retaking ex-anthropocentric spaces by animals and mammals is supported, and in this way new forms of exchange and new relationships can be created (as with the populations of wild boars which have returned to large areas of the Apennines) or the movement and mobility of species across landscapes which are anthropocentric can be encouraged (for example through special stopping areas for migrating birds in urban areas).
There are 3 ex cathedra courses, each including a series of lectures.
The 2 courses by prof. Stefano Boeri (Urbanism and Urban Design) will focus on the definition of a non-anthropocentric urban ethic and its application for the understanding of the nexus between contemporary architecture and the construction of the city.
In parallel to the critical reading of significant texts regarding biodiversity and the non-anthropised ethical approach, a series of case studies will be shown in order to understand different ways to articulate the relationship between work and context, between architecture and the city.
The course by Arch. Michele Brunello (Architectural Design) will explore some case studies in which specific and innovative urban dynamics coexist with urban spaces characterized by resilience phenomena.
It would explore agricultural periurban territories that become part of the city, and spaces characterized by social and economic innovation, evolving the consolidated meaning of agricultural and production spaces. The course would explore cases and projects of urban interventions that are able to understand the contemporary transition of the city to a post-petroleum economy in which concepts as consume, saving, power production and the exchange value between the public and private sphere are changing.
The course would explore the relational and spatial dynamics of new aggregated communities supported by the digital world's possibilities. Communities that organize new working spaces, living spaces, production spaces, relational and idle spaces and also political uprising or occupation of areas thanks to the instant communication and the contemporary mobility.
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F. Farinelli, Geografia, Bologna, 2003.
C. Waldheim, The Landscape Urbanism Reader, New York, 2006.
N. Lockyer, The dawn of astronomy, London, 1894
F. L. Olmsted, Civilizing American Cities: A Selection of Frederick Law Olmsted's Writings on City, Cambridge, 1971.
K. Lynch, The image of the city, Harvard, 1960.
R. Banham, Los Angeles: The Architecture of Four Ecologies, London,1971.
M. Twain, Mark Twain's Letters from Hawaii, Sacramento, 1866.