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1. Theory and history of the city - Preamble on the 'green' city Print E-mail
Green Cities
ekl1-81The concept of the city derives its origin from the biotope and the seat of man, but also generally from the seat and biotope of the species, both collectively and individually.

For man the particularity is that property, institutions, and land are conceived in a contractual sense. He conceives, that is, of a new dynamic, in parallel with that dynamic which develops in the ecosystems.

At the same time, his alienation and detachment from nature, with its positive and negative impacts, has shaped the basis for a ghettoisation, for an exiling of nature - a divisive approach. This divisive approach goes back into the depths of history, beginning from the great cities of Sumeria and of other regions with, in the end, a shallow historical depth in Western and Northern Europe, where the interdependence of man and nature has been much more marked.

It is obvious that climatic zones, climatic conditions, and water systems played a definitive role in the evolution of the city. Another factor which has played a role in the structuring and the dynamic of the city has been the instrumental and political stages of civilisation. Thus we have ecological, technological, political, and also, in a broad sense, cultural factors which contribute to the phenomenon of the city.  

The phenomenon of the city reflects the on-going process of the relation between individuality and wholeness within the ecological frontiers. The problem is located in how symbiotic this inner integration of human society is with its ecological and spiritual integration. The primary relation which impinges on the formation of the model of the city is the relation and the idea which we have as regards space and how we can approach it - that is, space as an entity, as a distance and as utilisation and a field of living. Throughout the history of civilisation, different approaches have been formed as to these three aspects.

Sometimes space is approached as a protective or hostile distance, as a living-space, with the domination of its images. The images of the living-space can dominate within the framework of the home and in its interior structuring, or within that of a neighbourhood, a city, and a country.

At other times space is approached as an entity and as the principal field in which the openness in order now has value. Space as openness in order is comprehensive and refracts Being. The idea of space as an entity has passed through many different stages and is linked with the general idea of Being and existence, with the idea of the intangible, with the comprehensiveness which the intangible can have and with the idea of the existence of successive dimensions. Space is the basic field through which the allotropism (differentiation) of beings and forms is brought out, from the field of the microcosm to the field of our societies and, even more broadly, on the scale of the universe.

To examine space in itself is a desideratum. Of interest are the intermediate approaches to space, such as that of Comte, who postulates it as the Great Fetish in the framework of a positive religion, and of Kant, who sees it in the familiar conceptual context.

Others approach space as a fundamental qualitative daemon. For them, the fact that space seems to undergo all beings, not to have its own scope for action in relation to us, is important.

In order to perceive space as an entity, you must have the discerning sensibility not to define being as the apparent in action or action apparent. This is a matter of perspective, of ontological, and cosmological approach, over which the Eastern and the Western idea of things is divided: the intuitive and the insightful from that dominated by sense perception. This can be seen both in the religious and the philosophical and cosmological differences between them.

If, then, we see space as a field and being without life, automatically a gradation of that lifelessness begins to form, and we see the world as a stone, not a Living Rock, but as a dead stone. Philosophical approaches made by some scientists – which we do not believe have developed by chance in scientific thought - matches this view of the world as an entity. Thus scientists such as Leon Brillouin have wondered how far we could see the laws of nature as a sub-case of biological laws. Norbert Wiener, the originator of Cybernetics, also observed the false dividing-line between the lifeless and the living.

Thus, in treating space as 'being', we undoubtedly begin to develop a completely different discernment. On the other hand, if we approach it as a distance between us, that is, as a field of otherness, in this case space becomes a frontier and facilitates this idolising of identity as a field of separateness.

And so the two ways of looking at space are that of entity and that of distance.

How far the third approach which we have made, that is, the functional approach to the field, to space as a field of phenomena of living and as utilisation, as a field of resources, will count depends upon the prevailing view.

By the superseding of the Newtonian by the relativist approach to space, space took on, in any event, an ontological hypostasis. The same happened with time, where further limits were put upon this mechanistic and linear approach through the theory of complexity.

The idea of space as distance and as utilisation and a field of living regards distance as predominant in its way of looking at things. This setting up of frontiers is very meagre in terms of experience, transcendence, and consciousness, but at the same time it has considerable strength technically and institutionally. It is from this that the division of space begins, the arbitrary theory of beings as a field of mechanisms and tools in which the idols of productivity hold sway and where relations with space are transaction and saturation. We should recall here the broadening of areas undertaken by Gima every time that they reached a point of saturation, while the model of production clearly led every time to saturation. The solution supplied by Gima in the Zend Avesta, the Iranian sacred scriptures, as represented by Zoroaster, was constant expansion - let's create new spaces so that there  is room for everything that is multiplying.

We see, then, here how functional our way of looking at things is, our relation with ideas, the framework of concepts in relation to models, and the expression of those models in materialised form. As the model of space is, therefore, so will the model of the city, the relation of the city with the ecosystem, our relations in the city, and our relation with ourselves take shape. Depending on this, the whole of our relation with roofed and open space, with the natural and the man-made environment will become apparent. The behaviour of the city not only towards the ecosystem but towards other cities and towards war, towards whether it will structure an amphictyonic community with other cities, whether it will develop a dynamic of symbioticism or competitiveness is also dependent on this.

We take our stand on this theoretical foundation for the approach to the concept, idea, and meaning of space because our inner, intellectual, and experiential relation with it determines and shapes our relations with the environment. On our idea of space will depend whether models and scales of power, dominance, and property will exist and predominate, or whether the logic of the public, open, free or shared space will prevail.

If the logic of private space dominates, how do we apprehend nature and otherness? How do we apprehend the world through our touch and through our vision? All these things are dependent upon our fundamental perception of space. If we do not work on this fundamental perception of space, we may arrive at the ecological organisation of an anti-ecologism or at the cultural organisation of an anti-spirituality. We may, that is, reach the point of shaping a long-term negative course of action, incorporating into it powers of controlling reason in which the powers of civilisation conceal a barbarism which will one day explode. We must, therefore, work at a deep level. We must re-conceive and re-apprehend the world not only for reasons of functional need, because we have reached a crisis and it is now required that we should take some measures to deal with it. We must take up an intuitive and forward-looking stance. We must approach our cultural evolutionary process in relation to nature, the environment, and othernesses as entities on the basis of the relation of cause and effect.

Otherwise, the crisis will recur as pandemonium through a much stronger and more depressing dimension. We must, from this very moment, deal differently with living organisms and space in a depth of apprehension and a depth of consciousness. We must work on consciousness and not simply manage the consequences of a violent mechanicalism and a savage exploitatory futurism. We must rise above these habits in our way of apprehending and way of thinking, habits in the models of action which shape the models of action.

This is why it is our belief that there is a need for a new ontological and cosmological theory and biomatic of space, so that a different culture of management of the environment will spontaneously arise through the consciousness. We do not need a theory from a technocracy which repeats or recycles, in the last analysis, an earlier technocracy without changing the way of thinking, for the sole reason that we are faced with impasses of management. It is the same, finally, as the need for us to be brought to a transcendence of desires, instead of simply altering them by consuming products whose production and residuality respect the environment, but in a way which is quantitatively uncontrolled.

This is an issue which is both quantitative and moral, and it seems that in nature, in the end, the moral comes very close to the substantive / technical. A typical instance is that of ecological organisations and many agencies which in a strange way conceal the fact that meat-eating (which connotes another nutritional ethos) has a much larger environmental footprint than vegetarianism, as it aggravates the phenomenon of climate change and the water balance. We conceal this because we do not wish to be faced with inner, moral or cultural issues, standards, and options - options, that is, which have a cost for desire, habit, and dependence. For this reason, we should turn towards a more clear-cut approach to the issue of the sustainable city, and this starts out from the idea which we have of space, of beings within space, and space as an entity and a field of entity.

Ioannis Zisis, Writer

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