The City of Being, the City of Doing and the City of Becoming

Fragment of Per Krohg, Byen og dens Oppland (The City and its Environs), Oslo City Hall, Oslo, 1940–1949. © Per Krohg / BONO 2018.

(…) Before modernity we lived in what could be referred to as the City of Being and Belonging, which amongst other things was also the crucible of culture, creativity, and consciousness. This is the compact, traditional city whose buildings line, define, and animate the public realm of streets, squares, and green spaces that are shaped in response to who we are so we feel that we belong and are at home. These elements of the public realm together form a coherent gestalt that is not mere residual space but is articulated to constitute the multiple stages of the theater of daily life. Within the contiguous fabric of spaces and framing buildings of such a city, we were the same persons wherever we were, known in all our aspects by all those around—an essential condition for acquiring self-knowledge and maturity. Most importantly, such cities served all of who we then were as humans, their experiential and symbolic richness nurturing the subjective self. The traditional City of Being started to fragment with the impact of polluting and noisy industry, and as mechanical public transport allowed the better off to move to the suburbs. This and the impact of modern planning—initially a set of defensive measures to protect against insalubrious industry and over-crowded housing conditions—led to the dispersal and loosening of the tight contiguities of the traditional city. This has resulted in the fragmented modern City of Doing—and of Dispersal, Disconnect, and Denial. In this City, free-standing buildings are distributed in a conceptual void in which you play out different roles in different parts of the city: parent at home, employee at the office, and passive consumer in many other parts. The emphasis on distributed specific functions (Doing) results in a machine for avoiding the chance encounters, complexities, and contradictions that lead to self-knowledge and psychological maturation. It also disrupts the continuities of the ever-present, ever-experiencing self that is the subject of the City of Being (…) To move beyond modernity, we need to recover the sense of community and belonging of the City of Being (…) we need to retain some of the dynamism of the City of Doing (…) This answer will be the City of Becoming, informed by an emerging and expanded sense of what it is to be fully human. This City will offer multiple ways to explore its richly diverse fabric and facilities and so discover ever more potentials in ourselves. The architecture of the City of Becoming will further expand and elaborate this role as it weaves a web of relationships in a way that encourages one to be aware and engaged, stretching you to all one could become. Instead of modernity’s isolated objects in a conceptual void, un-treasured and tarted up with smears of landscaping, the result would be a richly woven tapestry of relationships.

Peter Buchanan, Reweaving Webs of Relationships

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